Page 139 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 35

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BENTON / THE WORLD OF CHARLES ANGOFF
129
cept Saturday, of course) from S to 6 P.M. At ten years of age
he was fluent in Hebrew, Yiddish, and English—and he still knew
some of the Russian he had learned before he came to the United
States. He wrote poetry and stories in Hebrew and at age twelve
he was editing the Hebrew school magazine,
Bikkurim.
He was
really enjoying life.
The family grew. Three more children were born in Boston.
When the father’s salary—he was a pants presser, working twelve
to fourteen hours daily—was raised from $7 to $8 weekly, he
could afford the luxury of moving into a three-room flat. Mrs.
Angoff had no time to think she was overworked. She was a
happy fulfilled woman, and saw to it tha t all the children went
at least through high school; the three boys were graduated
from college. In later life her famous son discussed her early
years in America with her. “I had a whole day off on Shabbes,”
she exclaimed happily.
Charles remembers the thrice-weekly story hour at the local
public library, where his imagination was stirred and his English
improved. Some Sundays they all went to watch parades, or they
went to the Public Gardens, or to picnics. I t was a rich life.
YOUTHFUL INFLUENCES
I dwell on these boyhood experiences because the genesis of
Charles’s writing is in them. Not only is the boy father to the
man, bu t these formative years when the emphasis was on learn­
ing, achieving, and self-expression through writing also repre­
sent an era in American life before the First World War.
In later years, when Charles was a successful author, he was
often queried on his vast knowledge of Zionism and Zionist
personalities, socialism, secularism, vegetarianism, atheism. His
answer was simple: “I encountered them all in my youth, in my
father’s house and in my grandmother’s house.” The marriage of
his parents, to use his own words, “worked astonishingly well.”
Nechame (his mother) was a Zionist, open to new ideas, and
she welcomed new experiences. T he father, Jacob, was rigidly
Orthodox, waiting for the Messiah to deliver the Jews to the
Promised Land in his own good time. He abhorred the nickel­
odeon movies, where the children would see “Way Down East,”
“Orphans of the Storm” and “T he Perils of Pauline” from
10 A.M. to 3 P.M. on Sundays and on school holidays.