Writer Louis Adamic

. . . [W]bile we were at breakfast, the doorbell rang. Thinking it was the postman, I did not press the button which would open the outside door, but, as usual, went out to get the mail.

Instead of the postman, however, I was confronted by two children: a girl, as we learned afterward, of ten and a boy of eight. Not very adequate for the season and weather, their clothing was patched but clean. They carried school books.

"Excuse me, Mister," said the girl in a voice that sounded older than she looked, "but we have no eats in our house and my mother she said I should take my brother before we go to school and ring a doorbell in some house" she swallowed heavily and took a deep breath "and ask you to give us something to eat."…

The children were given food. The girl ate slowly; the boy quickly, greedily. He looked at no one and made no reply when Stella [Adamic's wife] or her mother asked him if he wanted more. When he got more food, he bolted it down rapidly.

The girl, however, answered every question directly, thoroughly, thoughtfully. Some of the information she volunteered ....

When her brother did not answer, she explained his silence. "He ate a banana yesterday afternoon, but it wasn't ripe enough or somethin', and it made him sick and he didn't eat anything since. He's always like this when he's hungry and we gotta ring doorbells."

. . . I studied the girl. She was tiny for her age, no doubt underweight, but appeared more an adult who had shrunk than a growing child. She was keen and knew more of the immediate world in which she found herself than people four times her age had known of the world they were living in before 1930.

Source: Louis Adamic, My America, 279, 280

Copyright Digital History 2021