West Side Stories | Essay | Chicago Reader

Aunt Maggie came to live with us in 1924. Now, she was a very intelligent woman, but she couldn't read or write. My father would read the newspaper to her, all the special articles. The next day you'd hear her telling somebody about some important thing that happened yesterday. "It was in the Daily News, you know." And she couldn't read a word. But nobody knew that except the family. That was a secret.

We weren't allowed to read the newspaper when we were little. My father always ranted and raved about the Herald and Examiner. The Daily News was his paper, but we kids couldn't read it.

So in class, in fifth grade, I was to do current events. I wasn't allowed to read the newspapers, but I grabbed one and got the fastest thing I could find. And when it was my turn I stood up and said, "A woman is suing her husband for divorce because he's bald."

The sister said, "Now wait a minute. That is not a current event." She said, "We'll give you another chance next week."

So next Wednesday I'd been able to grab a look at the paper again, and I stood up and said, "Jackie Coogan went to visit the pope."

One of my classmates jumped up and said, "Oh, you're always talking about movie stars and things like that--and that's not current events."

The sister said, "I beg to differ. That's a very good current event, that Jackie Coogan went to visit the pope."

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