The Clare Spark Blog

October 11, 2009

Veteran’s housing (post world war two), Elmhurst, Queens

veterans housing project, postwarThis is where I lived for about five years after the second world war, in which my father had served as a pathologist in the medical corps. There was a Kiwanis Club contest for oratory, and I gave a talk “Why Veteran’s Housing Is Unsatisfactory, ” regaling the club with stories of paraplegics and other enlisted men living in tiny huts with kerosene stoves that sometimes exploded, injuring or killing (?) the occupants. I lost the contest to a girl who spoke about “Prejudice,” but I still got a Demosthenes medal that I  treasure. One of the judges was a Democratic city councilman who had supported this ghastly project as a suitable reward for veterans and their families.

I remember my classmates who were with me at P.S. 13: they had names that were Irish, Polish and Italian; i.e., their parents were probably very recent immigrants, like the Eastern Jews who terrified the WASP elite, who then passed the Immigration Act of 1924, closing the golden door to all but a few.

My memories of this project were happy, mostly because my family was reunited, and my father’s medical practice was next door to our tiny place. But it pains me to think of how enlisted men were treated, and it was obviously a class issue. The memory of this place still haunts my dreams, and perhaps that is why I place such emphasis on the development of military psychiatry. See the index to my blogs here: The original photo was published in the Queens Post, and the red line shows where it was cropped. My late mother, Betty Spark wrote a weekly column for them, and her interest in people and her ability to write about almost anything of concern to the unfamous was passed on to me.

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