Friday, February 3, 2012

From Bee and Shep [Lucille and Charles Shepherd], Chicago, 1948 and 1949

Dear Rosa and Murray:
We still haven’t gotten used to the idea of being home again, at work, instead of having the business of slicing brains on my mind, I keep seeing the evergreens, the lakes and streams and the beautiful white fog of Port Ludlow. (sigh) It was a wonderful vacation, believe me!
Bee at Port Ludlow
Surprisingly enough, I passed the Civil Service exam for the job I’m now holding with a grade of 87.3 which when added to my 14 months of service and previous experience gave me position of fourth place on the regular appointment list. You can imagine how much my ego was inflated. However, I’m resigning as soon as I can be replaced. I could no longer take the “cracking whip” of my immediate supervisor (Mildred, who’s nuts about State Capitols) along with her 150% Americanism. I imagine she’ll feel a lot safer with me gone, fearing that I might contaminate her with what she thinks are positively radical notions. She recently very sweetly asked, “Lucille, would you like living in Russia?” which to me indicated that she thought I had communistic tendencies. She went down fighting when I told her of my intended resignation, “Well, I hate to see you go, but that’s the wonderful thing about America, we still have the right to make own decisions about where we work.”
I found that I could gain admission to Roosevelt College (which is a wonderful school) even with my two years of high school. I’ll be entered (provided I pass the IQ test) as an unclassified student for one year after which, if I’ve made an average grade of C or better, will be reclassified as a regular student. I’ve decided I’d like to know more about people and less (if possible) abut specimens, so I’m going to study the social sciences. …
We came home with the desire to really become a working part of the Progressive Campaign, not realizing at the time how hampered we were, in that we were both civil servants. We attended our first ward meeting of the IPP the following week after we were home and were definitely convinced that just a vote in November isn’t all the party needs. They are in desperate need of works and funds. The third ward (which is our ward) just recently rented a headquarters which is a very poorly ventilated, sorry-looking place in a building directly under the elevated tracks. When the “el” goes by a speaker must stop until it passes in order to be heard (I assure the els pass much more frequently than one imagines when one is  waiting to get to work) but it is still wonderful with what they have to work with, we’re enjoying immensely just being a part of it all. …
The “Youth for Wallace” here in this city is just wonderful, as they must be all over the country. Last Saturday I went to the downtown headquarters to get some of the campaign literature … that is issued by the Party because the people we talk to who aren’t already for the Progressives challenge one to a degree that you can’t depend on vague news and sentiment, you’ve got to know what you’re talking about if you’re going to talk at all. The literature has been wonderfully helpful, along with a book, “Foreign Policy Begins at Home” by James. P. Warburg [….] But as I started out to say, the “Youth for Wallace” is wonderful. I met quite a number of them on my visit to IPP headquarters in The Loop and was told about their mass picketing of city hall on the housing problem and of a dance that the City-wide youth organization was holding at the community center a few blocks from our house. We attended and enjoyed it thoroughly. They’re hard workers and a very serious group but still at the peak of gaiety. How anyone could watch a group such as this, as intermixed as a bowl of chop suey and having the wonderful time they had without a thought of the other fellow’s race, nationality, or background, could possibly say it’s wrong, is just—well, I don’t know what.
Lucille and Charles

From Shep, 12 March 1949
…We looked at the little pile of clippings that would be included in a letter to you two; they were all stale. Stuff from October 1948! Locally, the current news follows the national pattern. The State Legislature voted to investigate U of C and Roosevelt College. The City Council voted down an amendment to the proposed public housing act that would prohibit segregation in this new housing. Quite a fight on the council floor. Our new liberal (?) Democratic Mayor Kennelly gave his active support to the opponents of the amendment. The Chicago Sun, that backed Kennelly’s candidacy, is now giving him hell for this reversal of policy. This is all tied up with a slum clearance and relocation program involving public and private funds. The Mayor’s contention is that New York Life and Metropolitan Life would not be willing to back financially this deal if the non-segregatory ordinance were passed. Why wouldn’t they? Ask him, not me. I suppose it’s the same old line about Negroes ruining new property by “putting coal in the bath tubs and cooling their feet in the refrigerator,” or something. …

From Bee, 12 March 1949
Hi Kids,
There is little for me to add, unless you would like to hear about my schooling—there is nothing I’d rather talk about. To begin with, I didn’t quit my job as I so firmly intended doing. I thought that was a kind of stupid move to make since I did pass the exam and what with our venture into buying a home, and with jobs getting scarcer and scarcer—I am still hanging on to it. I must say the situation is much improved, although I am still working like a dog. My colleague, Mildred, is beginning to see things my way politically and socially. 
"She is no longer afraid of being hauled off to Alcatraz for thinking that National Health is a good thing for the nation ."
For example, she is no longer afraid of being hauled off to Alcatraz for thinking that National Health is a good thing for the nation, and that because five students out of 6,000 at Roosevelt belong to a communist club does not necessarily mean that the school receives daily memos from Stalin on how to run the school. So you see, she really is improving.
We were more than sorry to hear of the outcome of the fight for the professors at W.U. (University of Washington). Our papers have been carrying quite a bit of the news, and with the help of NR, we have some kind of picture of what’s going on there.  We have seen several items in NR that we were sure must have been yours on the subject.
This business of investigating U of C and Roosevelt College that Charles mentioned was bought about because of a bill introduced to the state Senate called the Broyles Bill, which in actuality is another “little Mundt-Nixon Bill.” 
"Broyles said that one could tell that these students were Communists because they didn’t have that 'wholesome, healthy look of American youth.'"
2,000 students, 200 of which were from Roosevelt and a similar number from U of C, went to Springfield to protest the bill. No mention was made of the other schools which were represented at the protest gathering but RC and U of C, so now these two schools are to be investigated. You can guess why. Broyles said that one could tell that these students were Communists because they didn’t have that “wholesome, healthy look of American youth.” …
We won’t make any rash promises but we shall certainly try to write a little more frequently. Thanks again for your loyal correspondence, love to you both.
Bee and C

No comments:

Post a Comment