It was 1932 and we were in the depths of the depression. If you were lucky enough to find a job, it was usually through a friend, and that was how I got my first fulltime job in a Brooklyn factory that made frames for upholstered furniture. I was fifteen years old and lived in the Bronx, traveling on the subway for an hour and fifteen minutes each way, every day, six days a week for twelve dollars, I considered myself to be the luckiest boy in the world to get that job. When Mr. Miller the owner of the Miller Parlor Frame Company, interviewed me and agreed to hire me, he made it quite clear that he was doing a favor for a mutual friend and did not really care much about giving me a job.
Like most small factory offices, Mr. Miller's was cluttered with catalogs, samples of materials, some small tools, a roll top desk with a large blotter pad worn through the comers. The whole place was in a sawdust fog with a persistent cover of dust over everything. Mr. Miller was a short fat man who chewed cigars and sort of drooled as lie talked to me. He sat on the edge of his big oak swivel chair. I had a feeling He might slip off anytime. He never looked at me as we spoke. He made it clear that he was annoyed at people asking favors, saying that he did not like people who were "always trying to get something out of me."
The sour smell of the oak sawdust comes back to fill my nose as I recall the furniture factory, It is a smell I always welcomed until I had to live in it eight hours a day. There were days, especially when it was damp or raining, when the wood smell was so strong you could not eat your lunch. Next to the smell I…