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Personal Politics

Harry Baron

— In high school? I wasn't an activist, so to speak, but I had definite views. They were liberal. They were FDR right up and down the line. That's where I was.

Myron Kandel

— I would probably describe myself as non-political when I arrived at Brooklyn [College] with, as I say, an FDR bias.

Ann Lane

— I didn't have a political background of anything beyond liberal Democratic as a kid.

Al Lasher

— I must tell you, I was profoundly influenced by my grandparents. My grandfather on my father's side was a union organizer — a labor organizer. My father was a great activist. I didn't understand it at the time but I internalized it. When he got sick, we moved up to Monticello, New York, for six months. I went to school there. His electric bill, it's too high, so he makes phone calls, talks to people, goes around when he was mobile. He went to the State Utility Commission, or whatever they call it. He got a reduction for everybody in the area.

Gene Bluestein

— When I was seventeen I was a member of the Jewish Theater Ensemble, which was an offshoot of the Artef, which was an offshoot of the Moscow Art Theater, and I appeared in several plays in New York. We used to have a theater in the Barbizon Plaza and we had some very famous directors. One play that I was in was called The Avengers. It was a Holocaust play.

Herb Dorfman

— My parents were a very important part of my vision of the world. I did my own thing, but they were very important. I definitely had guidance from them, and if I did anything they didn't like I heard about it, so I kept within the rules. I really felt close to them. My father could explain to me the significance of doing something in a certain way and what somebody meant and what they were saying and why they were a son of a bitch — things like that. And those lessons sank in. And also, I watched my mother very carefully and I could see that she was trying to have a life for herself which didn't get out of hand. You know? And she had a wonderful humor. She could tell jokes on herself and she could break up a whole party, you know, just by telling jokes. I think I learned that from them. And it's something that a lot of my friends did not enjoy. They had terrible tensions in their own families.

Ann Lane

— My brother Mark, who turned out to be a famous lefty, got me involved in the Marcantonio Campaign. And in 1948 — I couldn't vote — we handed out leaflets for Marcantonio and for Wallace. And as I recall, my parents did not approve because they voted Democratic. And we used to have terrible fights over Henry Wallace versus Harry Truman.

Harry Barron

— We grew up in a part of Brooklyn which was right near the Queens border and it was a very interesting melting pot of a neighborhood. There was an Italian shoemaker, and they had a Chinese laundry, all on the same block, an Irish plumber. When I think back, I say gee, what an interesting microcosm of what the city should have been. And it worked well. We all got along fine. And two blocks up on the hill, on Hyland Boulevard, you had very wealthy homeowners. So it was a strange little section.

Gene Bluestein

— A friend’s father got us a job in a Jewish progressive camp called Camp Kinderland and that was a real opening for me. I had never read much, but I ran into a bunch of intellectuals for the first time, kids who had read Dostoyevsky when they were ten. I ran into folk music. Woody [Guthrie] and Pete [Seeger] used to come up to the camp and sing and I started learning to play guitar and banjo. We used to do all kinds of pageants. And Paul Robeson used to come. Irwin Corey used to come. Do you know Irwin Corey? One of the funniest comics in the world.

Bill Taylor

— I was a child of the New Deal in a sense. My mother and my father were great supporters of Franklin Roosevelt, and it was my belief that government could do good things for people.

Mike Lutzker

— I did attend the founding Convention of the Progressive Party that Wallace headed. I thought it was a historic convention, and in some respects it was. Unfortunately, the Communist Party was too influential in the Progressive Party. But there was a lot of enthusiasm at the time.