I was raised in one of the large cities of America. I was reared by my single mom who doted on me and gave me whatever her budget would allow. She was on welfare and food stamps so I never had an example of a working parent. As a result, I turned eighteen and had never looked for work! I would not consider myself stupid by any means! Maybe, just maybe, a little ignorant in some things!
Then came the day that mom told me, “Son, you need to get out and look for a job. I cannot support you any longer!”
Wow! Was I flabbergasted that she would suggest such a thing! I barely made it through High School making the minimum grades to get by. I was sometimes passed along to the next grade simply to get rid of me! I never learned to read properly! I never learned much about math, maybe one and one makes two! My writing is such that only I could tell you what I wrote! Through High School all I did was hang out with so-called friends who taught me the finer points of cheating, stealing, smoking pot and cigarettes, and drinking anything with alcohol in it. I was in the principal’s office more than I was in the classroom. They only kept me in school because of the ADA* my being there afforded them! I was unable to express myself due to the fact that I had no one in my home to teach me correct grammar at an early age. Sure, the teachers attempted to guide me toward a way to communicate, but when I arrived home it was the same old thing! Mom was only able to draw a little pittance on this account as long as I was under eighteen!
After mom told me to look for work or move out, my world tumbled down! I had nowhere else to go. All my so-called friends were essentially in the same boat as me. I did go out a few times looking for work, but usually ended up in some pool hall with acquaintances smoking their leftovers, draining their beers, and doing fetch errands for them. Boy, was I a dope! Actually, who would hire an illiterate who was overweight from eating cheap food, no money for haircuts, dirty old clothes, and a bad attitude! This was all because I was raised the way of the Non-Working Society who would rather beg than to support themselves!
Mom put up with me as long as she could then I went to live with some uncle or aunt who would put up with me for a while then kick me out as a do-nothing kind of guy. I still haunted the places of entertainment accepting handouts as they came along. I was ripe for some guy eager to get rich in a hurry. Sure enough, offers began to come in as I became more and more familiar with the ones who hung out at the places I went. Mom had tried to teach me right from wrong all the while allowing me to do pretty much what I wanted to. When a fellow is caught between a rock and a hard place, he is usually open to just about anything!
My first few “jobs” were as a lookout for the ones doing the actual crime. Most of these first ones were simple burglary types only getting enough money to be able to eat a little and drink a little. As I became more acquainted with the perpetrators, they saw that I was a little more fearless than the average Joe! I was not afraid to take chances even if it meant almost being caught. How I escaped by the skin of my teeth for so long, I am still amazed! There comes a time when a reckoning comes along!
After some pretty hairy escapes, accumulating more and more dough, I was able to have better clothes and a rented room, but still had no automobile. I either took public transportation or hoofed it wherever I wanted to go, or where I was demanded to be. The last job I did was the last straw for me. When I was 20 years of age some fellows and I planned the robbery of a local jewelry store. This was the days when the jewelry was left in the windows at night with some makeshift bars in the windows to only keep out honest folks. We talked about it for weeks and finally the day arrived for the actual carrying out of our plans. One of the guys had a knack for cutting glass as he had worked in a window factory and had learned the finer points of the art. One of the guys owned a hacksaw with which we could cut the flimsy bars after breaking the glass. My job was to go into the window after it was cut and the bars removed, and to scoop up all the rings and bracelets in sight! It seemed easy enough.
Late in the evening of the decided day, we met on the corner adjacent the jewelry store and smoked pot idly as we waited for the owner to leave the premises, which he did after what seemed like hours due to our eagerness. Smoking pot was to give us nerve for the job. After we saw him turn off the lights, we began sidling toward the window of the shop. Cutting of the glass went very well as did the cutting of the bars which was a piece of cake. There was barely room enough for me, being overweight, to squeeze through the opening we had made as the window was divided by iron in between. I got through after quite a bit of exertion, and as soon as I reached down to pick up some of the jewelry, a large alarm sounded, scaring the wits out of me! We had not counted on the place being alarmed! I barely knew what to do, so I just attempted to exit the way I had come in. And there, right in front of me, stood a police officer! The other two guys made their escape as soon as the unaccounted for alarm went off! This left me to hold the bag! But there was no bag to hold!
I was given a year in the county jail for my labors and the other guys got off scot free making them braver to do bigger and better jobs! The county I was in was a no-nonsense kind of place and the head jailer insisted that each inmate attend some kind of class for so many hours a day! This is how I learned the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic as I suddenly became serious about education. Due to a kind person outside the walls helping financially, and the head jailer seeing that I had some capabilities for learning, I have since attended night classes and been able to go on to take college courses. This is how I was able to write this down with some clarity.
As far as the other guys in my neighborhood, and there are many, some ended up dead because of botched ‘jobs’, some are in prison for long terms and some took the road I took in order to be able to overcome the Non-Working Society! Many in the large cities, raised like I was, no matter their ethnic group, will be on some type of assistance year after year, generation after generation. There must be a way that these people can come out of the doldrums they are in, gain a little self-worth, and pull themselves out of the situation. As long as the government keeps aiding and abetting them, they will continue to take the free handouts offered to them. Do they not realize that sooner, or later, someone has to pay for all this?
Yes, I could have ended up being shot or incarcerated for life, but this was not the path intended for me. I just hope that my story will encourage others to try with all their might to step out, pay attention in class, and become all that society will allow! I am sure glad I was able to do this!
*ADA can stand for two things: Average Daily Attendance or Americans with Disabilities Act.
This little story is a compilation of the combined 55 years that my wife and I spent in the School Department.