From the American Scene: My Father and Mr. Preston
All of us were curious and excited when the Prestons came to occupy the flat above ours, for they were not like the tenants we had known before. We lived in the steel-mill section of a mid-west city where everyone seemed to be Polish and poor; it was at the height of the depression, and each family had its own story of bad luck; they held off on the rent, paid it occasionally, and finally moved in with relatives or to cheaper flats. My father agonized daily in search of his own work, finding it for small and irregular periods as a carpenter jobber. But he developed a mad querulousness toward our tenants, believing that they conspired to avoid or delay their rent payments, and that they spent what they had on beer and whiskey, movies, and probably gambling. My father said that to be poor and still spend money on these things was a sin. And we learned in our own lives that money was only for food, necessary clothing, and the defense of our house against the mortgage.
When Mr. Preston introduced himself, we were pleased to find that he wore a business suit and a white shirt, that his name did not end in “ski,” and that he spoke English without an accent. He was a Congregationalist minister from the East who had arrived as a missionary from the better and wealthier world outside to work with a social agency in the district.
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