This is the first part of an unfinished story I am working on. I apologize if it is too long a segment. I wanted to get to a somewhat proper stopping place. I am still writing and editing the story. Dialog becomes more prevalent in part two and subsequent parts. I will place all the parts in the sidebar under work in progress.
JAKE (a working title)
a work in progress
By Jim Kittelberger
Maplegrove Ohio would be described by a traveler passing through, or one of the legions of salesmen conducting business with one of the many industries that called Maplegrove home, as a pleasant little town. Located in the middle of fertile farmland, the town thrives as the depression still plagues the rest of the country. The smoke and strange smells from the factories give silent testimony that business is good. The factories are in the East End of town, situated near the homes of the European immigrants, who constitute much of the workforce. The factory owners live in the West End, away from the smoke and smells.
Egalitarianism, a fancy word that espouses the belief of equality of all people in economic or social life, was not the way it was in this country or this town, if indeed it could work anywhere. Class mattered in this little part of Ohio, just as it mattered in Europe. Venturing out of ones class was not encouraged or was it done by very many. The immigrants were happy and proud to be in their new land, but most lived and socialized with their own, in clubs that mirrored their homelands. But times would be changing.
The children of the immigrants born in the USA were sent to public schools to learn their ABC's so they would be able to contribute to the free society they were born into. They were taught the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and all the other wonderful documents that were the foundation of our free land. They were taught that if they worked hard, there was no goal they couldn't attain.
But as another high school class neared it's graduation day, one son of one set of immigrant parents, Jacob Miller Jr., discovered to his dismay, that the promises of equal opportunity for all, were empty words. If not empty, then it was a dream, a dream not yet fulfilled.
His father, Jacob Senior, had immigrated to this country and had immediately gone to work in a factory job that he had been trained for in the old country. He fit neatly into a niche that was already carved out for him, and he was happy and proud in that niche. Happiness and pride well earned. He did what hundreds of thousands of other immigrants had done, packed up and left their homes and families, traveling thousands of miles over the sea to a land where the mere fact that people spoke a different language, took courage. Courage that Jake was not certain he would have had. While Jake was growing up, in a family of all girls, excepting him and his father, it was just naturally assumed he would at the proper time follow his Dad into the factory. The prospect was not daunting, the job was respectable and
paid a decent wage and most importantly he would be following in his fathers
footsteps as most European sons did. The future seemed laid out for him, so he was
able to enjoy his childhood. He got into the normal scrapes growing up and teased
his sisters when he could get away with it. But being outnumbered four to one, he
had to be sure he had a clear exit behind him when he started that game. He played
sports, did odd jobs and enjoyed himself with little or no thought of the future. School, which he balked at in the normal ways of youth, seemed boring to him at first, until eventually, as he grew older, he noticed that he usually did better in his tests than the other kids, with no extra effort. The work got more challenging, his interest picked up, and his grades remained excellent. When he had reached his sophomore year, there was no more denying that Jake had an exceptional mind. Jake's teachers were aware of this boy with the brain.
A teacher's life can be tedious and their students are usually of average intellect with few exceptions as the years go by, so naturally they can become bored with the sameness year after year. But when a mind, an exceptional mind, a term Jake would hear many times in his life, comes along they remember the reason they wanted to be a "teacher, a spark is rekindled. Jake was introduced to all the standard subjects at which he excelled. This reinvigorated his teachers to reach back to their college days to remember what course of study or particular professor's method of teaching most inspired them to study harder. What is it that unlocks that recess in your brain, that when opened is unquenchable? That thing which opens up the world of art, literature, the sciences, all the worlds treasures and mysteries for young eager eyes to see. These are milestones in a teacher's life, to have the opportunity to see what they can contribute, to be able to be perhaps that person who truly makes a difference in a child's life.
Jake became a voracious reader who would read late into the night until sleep overtook him, then would wake early to read more before classes. His teachers provided him with books of every discipline in all the sciences, and he would absorb them and return for more. The teachers knew they would probably never again in their teaching career, meet another student with a mind as porous as his. They became guides on his road, leading him to this book or that lecture. He was given access to the classics, including Charles Dickens, whom he devoured with relish. He had never been to England, but he was able to feel the hopelessness of Dickens' characters, unable to rise above their class and felt thankful he was in America where such things couldn't happen.