Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Lower East Side Hero: Howard Zinn

Howard was born in 1922. He was born in Brooklyn on my mother's birthday, August 24th. In the 1930 census, (via ancestry.com) I found him living at 271 Pacific Street. As a young married man he lived in the Lillian Wald projects on the LES. An online interview:"I grew up in the slums of Brooklyn. Not projects. They weren't advanced enough to have projects. I think maybe the first New Deal housing project was in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. But that was too good for us. I grew up in the slums of Brooklyn, a working class family. My parents were European immigrants, factory workers in New York. They met as factory workers. They were Jewish immigrants. My father came from Austria, my mother from Asiatic Russia, Siberia. I remember moving all the time. We were always one step ahead of the landlord. And changing schools all the time. My father struggled, went from job to job, he was unemployed and under WPA. I wanted to get out of the house all the time. Where we lived was never a nice place to be. So I was in the streets a lot. I understand what it's like for kids to live in and prefer the streets. That's how I grew up. When I got to be college age I went to work in a shipyard and became a shipyard worker for three years. My family needed the money. The east side came later, after the war. I volunteered for the Air Force and was a bombardier. I got married before I went overseas. After the war my wife and I first lived in Bedford-Stuyvesant in a rat-infested basement. I"m building up my sordid past, trying to evoke tears. We were so happy when we were accepted into the Lillian Wald housing project, a low-income housing project on the east side of New York. We lived there for seven years while I went to school under the GI bill and to graduate school at Columbia. My wife worked. Our two kids were in nursery school."

No comments: