PORTLAND, Ore. — The morning after I flew here, I telephoned Hank Curl. “He’s not home yet,” said his housemate. “He left at 4:30 this morning to hand out the paper to the longshoremen.”
Hank, 91, is up at dawn distributing the People’s Weekly World. Maybe all those years toiling as a logger, carpenter and seafarer keep him spry.
Later, Sam Webb, national chairman of the Communist Party USA, and I took Hank out to breakfast. Over bacon and eggs, Hank handed me a thick wad of cash, totaling $139. “It took me about six weeks to collect this,” he said. “Some of the longshoremen give me $5 and say, ‘Keep the change.’ Other people give me a dollar. They really love the paper.”
Sam told Hank he was on a national fundraising trip in support of the campaign of the Chelsea Fund and the Workers Education Society, seeking $400,000, to complete the renovation of buildings in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. The buildings will be community centers of education and struggle. “The campaign is now at over 50 percent of its goal,” Sam said.
“I’ll help any way I can,” Hank said.
We drove him back to his house. He wrote out a check and handed it to Sam. Our eyes popped. It was for $30,000! “There will be more,” he said.
Hank’s generosity is contagious. Sam, my sister Susan, and I took another veteran comrade out for lunch. He gave Sam $500. Another friend, a teacher at Portland State University, gave $100. Susan gave $200 and my younger sister, Honey Bee, gave $100.
One evening, Webb spoke to a house party. Actor Nurmi Husa, the spitting image of Karl Marx, stole the show, reading, with a clear German accent, an excerpt from Howard Zinn’s “Marx in Soho.” In it, Marx complains that his wife, Jenny, proofreading Das Kapital, insists that he simplify it “so workers can understand it.” The first sentence, defining a commodity, will put people to sleep, she says.
Later, Susan and I drove up to our homestead on the Olympic Peninsula, to visit family.
I regaled my brother, Steve Vause, and his wife, Carlyn Syvanen, with our fundraising triumph in Portland. He pulled out his checkbook and wrote out a check for $1,000. The view of the snowcapped Olympics out the window that evening was exceptionally beautiful.
For more information about the campaign call Chelsea Fund for Education at (646) 437-5318 or Workers Education Society at (773) 446-9925.