San Francisco Fifty Years Ago

(Kenneth Rexroth’s complete columns from the San Francisco Examiner)



April 1964

Improvements for Golden Gate Park?
Blissful Indifference
Poverty in San Francisco
In Quest of New Opera
Examples of Local Poverty
A Scatterbrained Column
Another Poverty Scenario
The Enigma of Shakespeare
Divorce: Another Factor of Poverty




Improvements for Golden Gate Park?

Quite a bit of mail has now accumulated in answer to my request for suggestions to improve Golden Gate Park. The bulk of it is in the strongest possible opposition to the proposed Panhandle Freeway.

Many people would like to see a refreshment stand with a pleasant outdoor terrace with tables, like the one at the zoo, only larger. Others would like a first-class restaurant, either above one of the meadows or at the beach.

Some would like to see the sunken garden restored in the band concourse, others would like it paved, because it is too dusty.

I have some very complicated letters concerted with the scheduling of lectures at the De Young and planetarium to make it more convenient to get from one to the other. The only trouble is, they are mutually contradictory. Other people find difficulty in transferring from one autobus to the other. Others find the stables difficult to deal with and too expensive. Others would like to see the horses banned and the bridle paths turned into bike paths.

Many complain about the congestion on weekends, and especially the parking problem when Kezar Stadium is in use.

There is certainly no doubt but what people love their park. Many families seem to use it every fair weekend. It is especially popular with those of foreign birth and Negroes, who seem to get more out of it than so-called typical Americans.

Sometimes, listening to the snatches of foreign accents and watching the Oriental and Latin American faces, I wonder — where are all the 100-percent natives? Watching television, I guess. However, last Sunday, the very modest exhibition of American Indian art at the De Young brought out all sorts of American Indians, so at least the oldest natives do use the place.

Reviewing the whole correspondence, I think the outstanding needs are few but pressing. First, something must be done to relieve the weekend automobile congestion. Since we seem to be digging up everything, why not a parking facility under Kezar Stadium? When this place was built, we were assured that it would be used primarily for high school games. It is now largely a commercial operation and its audience has no special claim on the park roads which were not designed to be used as parking lots.

Weekends, I think there should be frequent bus service circling the entire park, like the downtown shuttle. Certainly a refreshment stand and terrace would be welcome, but only if it did not use up desirable open space. As for a first-class restaurant, nobody has been willing, for over a generation, to take up such a concession. The old building is still there at the beach, and now gets very little use.

Bicycling is certainly becoming dangerous; I suppose the only solution is a whole new set of paths — but don’t forget, every square inch of new gravel, pavement or building is just so much less park.

[April 1, 1964]



Blissful Indifference

The Sunday after Easter is popularly known as Low Sunday, I suppose because it is the end of the week-long feast but of less importance in contrast to Easter.

The period has always seems to me to be one of calm and recollection, a week in which content and security follow fulfillment and vision. Baron Von Hügel, perhaps the greatest of modern Catholic thinkers, loved to repeat that, in the trial at which the Vatican decides if a dead person merits reverence as a saint, one of the essential signs of sanctity is a certain all-pervading good humor, that accompanying the individual all through life.

Eastertide to me has always been a kind of embodiment of that very good humor, a profoundly realized confidence and pleasure in life, objectified in the forty days after Easter, made sensible in time itself. Of course, you don’t have to be religious about it. I suppose the birds and animals feel the same way as the promise of summer slowly suffuses their bodies, all during the warm lengthening days.

So, I don’t feel in the least controversial as I sit down to write. I read over the daily paper and the various newsweeklies, and wonder — what should I tell ’em this week? All over the world, everybody is at everybody’s throat.

It is apparent that wholesale and most controversial changes are pending in American policy, both foreign and domestic. At least the penders think they are pending. Certain people are trying to reorganize the Democratic Party in California, root and branch, lock, stock and barrel. Revolution has occurred in Brazil and one of the largest countries on earth is suddenly taking a “great leap forward” in its accelerating rush towards the abyss. De Gaulle continues to play with fire, to the gaping admiration of the yokels. San Francisco battles over the freeways. Alaska digs itself out of the ruins. Murders. Catastrophes. Quarrels.

It all seems like a troubled dream that somebody else is dreaming. I believe passionately in what Jean-Paul Sartre calls being engaged, and the Quakers call being concerned. I believe that a truly moral man should assume a kind of unlimited liability for all that happens in the world around him. Yet, today, out for a walk in the bright spring weather, I think, “What has all this got to do with me?” I just can’t get riled up. Maybe I am smug. Today I can’t be bothered. I just want to lean back into the invisible arms of a great, world-enveloping peace that seems to be all about me.

Religious people would say that this feeling of good humor and good will was the final fruit of prayer and penance, the dark night of Lent and Good Friday. Maybe. But I for one haven’t done anything to earn it. It is just a free grace which tumbles down out of the sky and hits me on the head.

Every once in a while life seems to straighten itself out in my mind. I accept it and understand it without being able to verbalize this wisdom at all. It remains a secret, certainly, for I couldn’t tell it to anyone, no matter how much I might want to.

It is just the weather, but I do feel so above the battle. While I have been writing this, I’ve been talking on the phone to both sides in the strike at KPFA. It all sounds like sad and dangerous nonsense to me. Here is a group of people engaged in an enterprise dedicated to ideals of freedom, individual responsibility, anti-authoritarianism, and after 15 years of practice in the exercise of such sterling virtues, they end up acting like any other employer and any other trade union on strike.

I am the oldest program participant on the station and was in at the founding, and now, listening to all this obdurate contentiousness, I wonder, what were all those years of propagandizing for true magnanimity in human relationships for? What good did it all do if we never learned from our own teaching? I find myself utterly unable to work up any interest, much less involvement, in the quarrel.

It must be the weather. But I do wish I could communicate my mood to others and make it stick. If I could just get all the leaders of men and heads of state in this room right now and infect them with my sense of blissful indifference, the world would suddenly become a much less melodramatic, but a far more comfortable place to live.

[April 5, 1964] 



Poverty in San Francisco

For a good many years now I have been writing bits about America’s hidden poor. I am glad to see that awareness of these people has finally reached the White House and the television shows.

A while back there was a book by M. Harrington, The Other America, which came close to being a best seller, and is now in paperback. Coming up is In the Midst of Plenty by B.H. Bagdikian, to be published by Beacon Press. I strongly urge you, if you want to know what is happening around you, to get these books. As for what to do about it, I’d like to recommend Robert Theobald, Challenge to Abundance, and Gunnar Myrdal, Challenge to Affluence.

Sunday there was a big spread in The Examiner of the Hearst Headline panel’s interview with Sargent Shriver, our new anti-poverty czar. The panel was polite and Shriver was very optimistic.

I wonder myself just how much good the program now before the House will do. Twenty percent of the population of the USA, 36 million individuals, have incomes of less than $1000 a year, 20 percent of all families have less than $3000 a year. An unknown proportion of this is functional unemployment, built into our present system of production and distribution. An even larger percentage consists of the unemployable, the sick, the aged, alcoholics, the displaced and redundant — workers who are no longer needed, or who are unprepared for any sort of employment.

In San Francisco we tend to think of this problem as something off on the other side of the country. The West Virginia miners are living on welfare, the Southern sharecroppers have an average gross income of $2500 a year and passels of kids to support on it, the Puerto Rican on Manhattan’s West Side live ten to a room, but there’s nothing like that here.

San Francisco is a curious place. Marshall’s discovery at Sutter’s Mill seems to have affected our brains permanently. Even in the depths of the Great Depression we never lost our boom town psychology. The fact is that this city, like Chicago or St. Louis, has a mature economy.

Of course many people consider those places what is politely called “post-mature.” Nobody but southern Californians call us that, but it’s a long time since this place has boomed, and we have plenty of poor. If we investigated, we might discover that our quota was close to the national average.

Of course they are invisible, at least to the affluent — but so are they in North Carolina, if not in West Virginia or Harlem.

I think I will do a few pieces, seriatim, on typical representatives of our own indigent and unemployed — the aged, unskilled youth, migratory field workers who live in the city between crops, the middle aged pushed out by automation, or just by improved machines, semi-skilled workers with ten children, Skid Row with it seasonal workers in many fields besides agriculture, and its unemployable alcoholics, and so on and on. It’s about time we got acquainted.

Incidentally, I’d welcome correspondence on this subject.

[April 8, 1964]



In Quest of New Opera

Last week we went up to the San Francisco College for Women to hear a new opera in their new auditorium — Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by the young San Francisco musician and composer Richard Felciano. It was a noble effort, and the nuns are to be commended for encouraging local talent, but I fear that it was not the answer to the seemingly hopeless quest for a contemporary opera.

Maybe the day has passed. Maybe opera is a form that lasted from the late Renaissance to the end of the nineteenth century and then withered away never to be resurrected. Even the last of the old masters, Stravinsky, is not at his best in opera, although he is better than anybody else. Britten is thin stuff and after Britten, what? Menotti? But this is hardly music. If anybody except Bartok had written Bluebeard’s Castle it would have been the purest corn, and as it is it is far from being music drama, it is a sort of chanted symbolist poem with gestures and spooky decor, Dracula for the highbrows.

So Richard Felciano can console himself — he didn’t lay a much worse egg, qua egg, than Bartok, who was one of the greatest musicians who ever lived. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight was inert, the music lacked dramatic meaning, and although the theoretical connections of voice and orchestra were obvious enough, they fell apart completely, as though they had been written by different people. Most serious, neither words nor music impelled to action — which of course is the essential secret of operatic writing.

It’s the nuns who deserve the greatest praise. They took a chance. If we are going to have American opera, if we are going to encourage local talent, we’ve got to start somewhere. After all, more people live in the Bay Area than lived in the Athens of Pericles, the Rome of Augustus, the Florence of the Medicis or even in Paris in 1850. Quantity isn’t quality, I know, but if we just keep trying, something ought to turn up. If not, we tried. If opera is gone forever like the Gothic Cathedral, at least we’ll know.

Maybe music itself is gone. The concerts, “David Tudor Presents” at the Tape Music Center, were a characteristic mixture of self-conscious mockery and academic sterility — like almost all modern art in any medium.

Except for the Japanese. I have remarked how, in any big international art show, the pictures that appeal to me, without fail, turn out to be by Japanese. I think this is due to a phenomenon common in the history of civilizations. As one culture runs down into decadence and incompetence, the newly emerging culture takes over and transforms this very decadence into a new, young, healthy expression. Out of the fumbling early Christian paintings in the catacombs, painted in the style of a Roman age which had lost all competence, emerged the style of the great Byzantine mosaics.

So it is today. I agree with Khrushchev, or even Zhdanov — Western civilization is, if its art is any indication, long past the end of its tether. The only trouble is, Russian art is Western art too — they just don’t know any better. Since about 1830 almost all artistic expression of any significance in Europe, and since 1900 in America, has been a vote of no confidence in the civilization that produced it.

Somebody has got to take up where we left off, back there somewhere. Maybe the Japanese will. Certainly nobody is going to in Russia or China. Something stopped on our track a long time ago. I have a sneaking suspicion it may have started up over there on theirs with a different gauge and a different destination. As Thomas Hardy said of his lonely thrush, singing in the drab winter twilight —

So little cause for carolings
   Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
   Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
   His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
   And I was unaware.

[April 12, 1964]



Examples of Local Poverty

As might be expected, a good deal of my correspondence on poverty has been running in distinctly moral channels. This is true both of the poor, who are often demoralized, outraged and guilty about their own predicament, and a few representatives of the stalwart middle class, who are doing all right and who seem to believe that poverty is a sin and its own richly deserved punishment.

The issue is not a moral one today, although the injunction to love and cherish one’s neighbor still holds, and the cry, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” is still itself the mark of Cain.

Today the problem is structural. We can no longer afford poverty. We are entering a new kind of society. Social wealth is less and less based on profits made on the exploitation of labor power. We no longer need a reservoir of unemployed to keep down the price of labor. In fact, poverty and unemployment today act as a sump at the bottom of the economy through which wealth drains away from production. It is a hole in the boot out of which life blood flows into the ground and so weakens the entire body politic.

First, I would like to quote from the letters that have come in a few examples of the kind of poverty that can be eliminated by what in the long run amount to reforms in administration and bookkeeping.

Harry: Born in Savannah. High school education. Five years in Coast Guard in World War II. Shot down three times. Medals, etc. Well-trained radio technician. Married 1936. Divorced 1950. Announcer. Station engineer. Chief technician. Railroad Wire Chief. Quit a good job to take a better. Failed medical exam. Discovered he had bad heart. Had first heart attack. Worked as TV repairman. Slipped disc handling heavy set. First of several operations, none of which helped. Has difficulty walking. Fell and broke out front teeth the day he called me. No history of alcoholism. Has paid a small fortune in union insurance, retirement, Social Security and so refuses to go on welfare. His landlady gives him credit for his room and he eats on less than $1 a day.

Mary: Retired welfare worker. S.F. city retirement pays, after health service, $101.24. Social Security, $40. Part-time work, less than $100. Now 71, “can’t go on forever, what happens when I can no longer work? Something should be done about the horrible places we are forced to live in. I finally found a good one, but it is one of the very, very few. I know of no others. I have read the books you mention and recommend them to everyone.”

San Francisco has an undistributed pension fund of about $300 million. People like the woman are discriminated against by their very seniority — inflation, as they say, has caught up with them.

So, you see, “work hard and save” is not always the answer. They did.

[April 15, 1964]



A Scatterbrained Column

Remember when I went up to Anchorage to perform at the Alaska Festival of Music? I came back and wrote a rave column. I’d had the time of my life, met the most hospitable and enthusiastic people, lectured, read poems, appeared on TV, found the immortal Stanley Willis, once piano man for Jimbo, playing in a local roll and bump pub, had dates with beautiful women, and brought home a wolverine rug to put beside my bed.

Now, of course, they are in a bit of a fix [following a large earthquake in March], but they are going to have a festival this year, regardless. Even though many of the leaders have had to evacuate their homes, the show is going to go on.

Obviously, they cannot ask the local business people for financial support. Since the budget is very modest compared to most such affairs, any little bit will help, and any great bit will help a lot. Write to Doris E. Walkowski, Executive Director, Box 325, Anchorage, Alaska.

I for one have had a lot of fun the past week. The San Francisco Ballet was in fine shape for its opening. The Seven Deadly Sins was an authentic revival of Berlin 1930. It was a rough night on the Alexanderplatz. Just a few years ago Cynthia Gregory was on the cover of Dance Magazine with the baby ballerina picture of the ages. Now she is soloist in a raffish spectacle out of my own youth. She was just as innocent and cunning as she was at five, but meanwhile she has sure learned to dance.

They’ve beefed up the beefcake line at the Ballet and now have as good a group of boys as they’ve had since the days of Mike Smuin. In Terry Orr they have what is known as a priceless property. True, he often does not believe in overworking himself, but he certainly has great style. One of the new fellows can’t stop rolling his eyes. He is a good dancer, but eyewise, as they say, he seems to think he is Pauline Frederick in the world premiere of Madame X.

Went to State College to see Shakespeare’s Tempest. This was fun indeed. Everybody on all sides of the footlights had an absolute ball. Apparently Tom Tyrrell, the director, sized up the mechanical equipment for which the State College theater is famous and said, “Well, the taxpayers paid for it, didn’t they? Shoot the works. Let’s give it to them all at once.” Ariel flew through the air, lightning lightninged, thunder thundered, trapdoors opened hither and yon, the scenery came and went on rollers, and a busy time was had. There was even a ballet with cute little mermaids in green hair and black tights. All it needed was a 20-foot American flag to drop from the flies and flutter in the breeze, a projected picture of Shakespeare and a five-hundred-candle birthday cake. Not least of the attractions, Richard Rekow is back from the wars and turned in a splendid Caliban. This boy is the best young actor in Northern California, bar none.

Leo Smit’s piece with the Symphony was a decided pleasure after the bubble and squeak show the week before at the Tape Music Center. How strange that we have come to a time when music like Leo’s, dry, light, clear, and ingenious, would be called reactionary. Okay, so I’m a reactionary.

I am so reactionary that I always go to the Annual of the Society of Western Artists full of expectations. Every year I hope to turn up at least a few good bad paintings. I can’t understand why people can’t paint nakeds and babies and flowers and boats and do it better than the lads who paint their canvases plain blue all over. The trouble is, they just don’t seem to be able to. Still, I am all for the Society of Western Artists and I was very sorry to see their museum space cut in half this year. I think, once a year, the De Young could break down and give the people what they want.

There is a little scheme of mine I’ve wanted to mention for a long time, and had no space. Since this is such a scatterbrained column, this is a good place to put it in. We need a tape documentary of the past 60 years in Northern California and we need it badly.

Nobody lives forever and the people who remember the days before the Fire are leaving the scene. One of our local foundations (NOT the Fords!) should put up a little money for interviews with the leaders of politics, business, the arts and professions while we can still get them back to the beginning of the century. All it would need is the price of the equipment and one person’s salary. I could set up such a project in 20 minutes with one phone call if somebody would offer to foot the bill.

[April 19, 1964]



Another Poverty Scenario

To continue with the questions of poverty in an affluent society — we seldom stop to think that our economy and our social relations are organized around the “typical American family” of four or five members. Once a family acquires about five children it begins to crowd the standard of living of its particular spot on the social ladder. Even bankers with 14 kids have economic problems unknown to bankers with one, two, or none.

For example, John and Jane Doe are in their late 30s. They live in a rented house in the southeast corner of town, for which they pay $125 a month. Although built since the war, it is badly deteriorated. However, John has fixed it up and Jane is very house proud. The place is spotless. John is a skilled mechanic. He is in the most seasonable of all the building trades, and averages about $400 a month year-round take-home pay. They have 14 children.

John and Jane are self-reliant people and had never appealed to any agency for any kind of aid. Almost all the budget after rent goes for food. The slightest disturbance of the month’s expenses — minor sickness, a spoiled dress, a pair of shoes that wore out too soon — is a grave problem. Serious sickness has miraculously never struck the family. It would be a total disaster.

Their diet is heavy on carbohydrates, flour, rice, paste, potatoes. Jane does her own baking. The babies get milk, but not the children over four. Protein is mostly in the form of beans. Meat is offal, pig tails, chitlings and maws, milt, three pounds for a dollar hamburger, which is also largely scraps and offal, especially heart. Once in a while, on payday, they will have a shoulder roast.

They have no car and the problem of transporting groceries from a cheap market, which is over a mile away, is a serious one. Often four women in the neighborhood club together for a cab to bring them home from Saturday shopping. Most cabbies hate this kind of load, but some are very sympathetic.

The only flexible part of the budget is food, and as the family increased and a number of emergencies came up, the food declined. The school nurse turned up the problem when the children dropped from A’s and B’s to “not passing,” visited Jane, and after considerable persuasion got her to go to “the Welfare” for supplementary aid. Without that aid she would have been trapped in a slowly losing battle. Her children would have lost the high scholastic standing which they now all enjoy. Actual hunger would have demoralized the family, and a demoralized family of 16 is a lot of demoralization.

What is the answer? Lower rent. If birds spent a third of their time building their nests, they would have long since become extinct. Surplus food distribution, which we do not have at present in San Francisco. Available birth control information. John and Jane are not Catholics, and have a right to know how to control their family growth if they wish to, just as other people have a right to have as many children as they want.

[April 22, 1964]



The Enigma of Shakespeare

Shakespeare’s birthday — or at any rate his baptismal day. He was probably born two or three days before, but on April 26, 1564, he was baptized in the noble church of Holy Trinity, above the long green river meadows of the Avon. If you go to Stratford you can see the very same font, and in the chancel he lies buried, surrounded by his wife and family.

It has been said often that we know almost nothing of Shakespeare’s life, and upon this lack of data ingenious speculators have raised some extraordinary fantasies, the mildest of which is the common heresy that his plays were written by Francis Bacon. As a matter of fact, we know more than we do about most of his contemporaries. Today, 400 years later, it is precisely the character of our bits of information that is important.

Contrast the sparse Shakespeare record with what we know of his fellow playwright, Christopher Marlowe. Marlowe was accused of atheism, and was probably some sort of strange occultist. He was a secret agent of the Elizabethan FBI. He was a homosexual, and flaunted it. He was a habitual brawler and was killed while in the company of petty crooks and stool pigeons in a tavern that seems to have been a rendezvous for the best connected and most unsavory underworld of the day.

Marlowe was a type that has become the rule today in literature. He was an alienated literary adventurer, at war with his society, and yet an embodiment of its typical evils. At the bottom, he can be found in any bar in the East Side Village, Old Town, North Beach, in Tokyo and Rome, in Moscow, and, I suspect, in Peking — do what they will.

Shakespeare’s record is that of an eminently normal man. Alas, as far as we know, he was a square, a Babbitt, a scissorbill. He handled his literary and dramatic career as a business. When he had made his pile, he retired, just as though he had been selling groceries rather than writing plays, and, as far as anybody knows, never wrote another line.

It is not that he “sold out.” Quite the contrary, he seems to have been at cross purposes with the dominant faction at court — the followers of Essex. He had scant respect for the Queen, and was identified with the partisans of James. Yet when Essex fell and Shakespeare’s friends were top dogs, and James was King of England as well as Scotland, he turned away.

Not only that, he was contemptuous of fools, a fatal flaw in a glad handler. He went through long periods of bitterness and disillusionment, and wrote plays that in their gloomy cynicism were far from what today are called hot commodities. Worst of all — from the point of view of Broadway and Madison Avenue — he loathed dogs and never had a good word to say for one.

Yet he never lost the confidence of his community, nor did he ever quite lose confidence in it. He sprinkled his plays with bawdy comedy and spectacular machinery and bloody murder. “Sex, candy, and bloodshed,” as the old formula goes. Yet, curiously, his clowns speak not only to the vulgar — some of his deepest insights are wrapped up in slapstick. It is the oldest commonplace of criticism that Shakespeare spoke to and for all levels of society.

Four hundred years later such a relationship is almost inconceivable. The leading writers, artists, and musicians of our time are not just at cross purposes with their society. Long after they have become wealthy and famous, they assume the postures of hunted criminals, and vie with each other to find new values commonly accepted by the common man to denounce.

I am neither for nor against this state of affairs, I simply remark it as an historical fact. Arnold Toynbee called it “schism in the soul.” Neither do I want to sound like Polonius or good old Gonsalvo, but I wonder where it will all end.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Kenneth Rexroth was named yesterday as one of the winners of the annual awards granted by the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the National Institute of Arts and Letters. The award, which carries with it a $2500 prize, will be presented in New York on May 20. (For complete details, see main news section of today’s Examiner.)

[April 26, 1964]



Divorce: Another Factor of Poverty

Readers of British novels are familiar with the widow of the Indian Army colonel, existing meanly in a bed and breakfast rooming house on a pension that has been reduced to a pittance by inflation. It is amazing how much of my correspondence has been from widows or the aged, caught on fixed incomes in a spiraling inflation.

Single old-age pensioners are, by and large, able to trim their needs to fit their incomes, although at the cost of drastic narrowing of their lives. Many widows are not so fortunate. Not only are their incomes fixed, but they are so overextended in rigid, inflexible ways that they cannot readjust to changed circumstances without junking the whole plan of life for themselves and their children.

Take, for example, Lucie. Age 64; widow of an army officer; $181 pension; $60 Social Security. Has been operated on for cancer. Son in college. Home half paid for. Payments $159.40 a month. Insurance, taxes, etc., in addition. Son earns $20 a week part time. She now has got herself involved in tax difficulties so complicated I cannot understand them, but it is perfectly obvious that she is operating in reverse, economically speaking, and stands to lose her home.

Then what? She must become a far greater charge on the community than if it were possible at this point to wipe the slate clean and start over. At least now she is under shelter, which the state is not paying for directly.

If these are the circumstances of a widow by death, think of the thousands of grass widows and widowers. It has been said of California divorce laws that they are written by criminal lawyers for movie actresses, where criminal is a simply adjective qualifying lawyer.

Certainly divorce is for the rich, but it is in fact a disease of poverty. There are proportionately, it may amaze you to hear, more enduring marriages in Beverly Hills than in the slums or even in the middle-class suburbs. Twenty-five percent of the occupants of the plaster villas of perambulator towns are divorced women and their children. They are lucky if they get more than $75 a month child support for each child and more than $150 a month alimony for themselves if their former spouse makes less than $500-$600 a month.

As for the man, where is he? Living somewhere in a cheap room on $200 a month or less, paying everybody’s taxes, often keeping up the payments on the home that was once his, and all the medical expenses.

Everybody has been impoverished, except the lawyers. I mean really impoverished, and from what was before what they call a modest competence.

What happens then is that the man takes to drink, becomes unemployable, the whole thing falls to pieces. The mortgage is foreclosed or the house sold at a loss. The mother goes to work. The children are left alone after school to their own devices. These devices are known as delinquency and the principal cause of delinquency is precisely this neglect.

[April 29, 1964]


“San Francisco Fifty Years Ago” is an ongoing project of posting all of Kenneth Rexroth’s columns for the San Francisco Examiner (1960-1967). Each of the columns is being posted on the 50th anniversary of its original appearance. Copyright 1960-1967 Kenneth Rexroth. Reproduced here by permission of the Kenneth Rexroth Trust.

Previous Month   Next Month

Index of the Columns

Rexroth Archive