31.Growing Up Without Cultural Advantages

Martin Snapp, a Berkeley freelance writer, was interviewing me and others to write a piece about the forthcoming (April '07) symposium etc. in honor of my 80th birthday. After an interview with me, he wrote:

"P.S. I took the liberty of telling Sarah that in my opinion you are very proud of her. I thought you might be interested in her reply:

"Thank you Martin, that's very sweet of you to tell me. Needless to say, I'm very very proud that he is my father. I haven't gone over to see the show yet, but hope to bring Miranda there soon.

Interesting also that he was born in Fort Bragg, and that his own father was a swimming teacher at the Fort Bragg YMCA. My dad, by contrast, was unathletic and bookish. He came to Berkeley while he was pretty young, went to Berkeley High School and lived in a boarding house on Benvenue, I think. His own aunt used to tell me that when my dad came to visit her, in Sacramento, he'd have a suitcase with him and when he opened it up it had nothing in it but books. So while he made it possible for me to grow up in a life of art and culture and privilege, he didn't have that experience himself. He really created it as he went along, which is all the more admirable.

all the best, Sarah"

I wrote to thank Sarah for this, and added:

"P.S. Martin Snapp, writing to thank me for the interview (which happened yesterday, and went well, I think) sent me a paragraph you'd written him about how you had grown up surrounded by literary and musical things, while i hadn't. You're right--my childhood was pretty much devoid of real cultural stimulation, until several new teachers arrived in Fort Bragg grammar school, sixth grade, who suddenly brought us all that. One was Miss Berg, whom I later managed to find and invite to Berkeley and have lunch with and tell her how much it had meant to me--didn't you play piano with her, Schumann as I remember? And Coo-coo did what she could to help me in that side of my development. A very good English teacher during my year in Santa Cruz encouraged the beginnings of my writing. And of course Berkeley High after that, with Miss Constance Topping teaching English and managing the Manuscript Club. But even with those, essentially you were right. Besides the Fort Bragg Public Library, during my childhood, where I can't remember ever going for anything beyond Bomba the Jungle Boy and the like, Blackie (Blackledge, the insurance broker "head" of the family I lived with, actually dominated terribly by his wife Prim, or Esther) had a set of the Little Leather Library, small booklets covered with greenish imitation leather, with classics that were mostly heavy going for me. But there were a few Kipling and other readable things. And I remember sitting up in trees, in the woods behind our house, comfortable in a crotch and reading one of those.

"Just asking the question sets me back to remembering all this.


"Love, Dad"

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