Chapter Nineteen

When his street work was running smoothly, he rented an empty store building on Los Angeles Street and converted it into a Mission by putting a platform in the center from which he could conduct his weekly Bible study classes, held for his street converts. The partition wall behind this bore this large inscription:

…this we command you,

That if any would not work,

Neither should he eat.

Among ourselves, we children made up our own verse: "No workie, no eatie."

Behind the mission partition was a kitchen to provide food for the older men who could not find work or who were not able to work.

Now William was ready to organize a Sunday School for poor boys of the street who needed to be fed as well as taught the Bible verses. I smiled, recalling it. The English church ladies at the Newcastle Workhouse he had attended, in hopes, as Papa so thought at least, of persisting in converting the young Catholic children to their Church of England, would have them memorize certain Bible verses when they made their regular church visits once a week to the Workhouse children. If they quoted the selected verse verbatim and gave the chapter and verse of the book where it was found, they were rewarded with a coin, a ha'penny, tuppence or whatever.

On the particular Sunday morning when William was to begin his bootblack Sunday School, he went to the Plaza and engaged the services of a young Russian shoe-shine boy. The little square was filled as usual, with many ragged little Mexican or Russian children selling newspapers or shining shoes. There was a large colony of Russians who lived just off the Plaza. In another section was the large Mexican population that characterized Los Angeles as the second largest Spanish-speaking city in the world, second only to Mexico City at that time. Not too far removed were Chinese and Japanese neighborhoods so William had a racial mixture on which he could draw for his interracial Sunday School.

"Would you like an ice cream cone?" he asked the little Russian lad who was polishing his shoes.

The shoe-shine boy eyed the nearby push cart vendor. "What's the catch?" he wanted to know.

"Oh, I just remembered how much I like ice cream cones and thought if you would have one I could…"

"Oh, sure! Sure."

As the two ate, other boys gathered around. "Here, here now, we can't just enjoy this ice cream all by ourselves," he good naturedly said. "Cones for all," he nodded to the vendor.

Then more boys gathered around, and he began telling stories about horses and cowboys.

"Were you ever a cowboy?" one asked.

"Oh, sure."

And when he had quite a little handful of street urchins about him he announced, "I have a hall down the street a ways, and if you would like to follow me, I could tell you more stories and we could have dinner together."

"What you after, mister?" one insisted. "You sure after something."

"Yes, I am," he said. "I was once a poor boy working on the street and a man came along and saw me and invited me to go to Sunday School." He preached on the street and in late spring and summer, in the evening, too. And twice a week he taught the Bible at the Mission to whomever straggled in - usually men who were hungry. Volunteer workers usually were the cooks.

The school grew until there was a hundred or more, mostly Russian and Mexican boys in ragged clothes with shoe shine boxes slung over their young and burdened shoulders, attending this strange Sunday School.

In 1911, President Taft came to Los Angeles and a lavish banquet was tendered by some of the business men of the city. Eddie Maier, of the Brewery, was among those present, and when William called at his business office the next day to take his order for stock food, he told him about it.

"Oh, I'm not interested in your telling me about how all you overfed men banqueted with the President," William said. "When you have a banquet like that for the poor boys of the city, I will sit up and take notice."

Mr. Maier surprised him by saying, "I'll tell you what I'll do. You duplicate the banquet. Get Chef Christopher to put it on the same way he put it on at the Shrine Auditorium for the President. I'll supply the turkeys from my ranch, and foot the bill, only I don't want anyone to know who's doing it, so you make all the arrangements."

When Christopher was contacted by Mr. Maier and William, he agreed to have everything the same as when President Taft had been honored by the Los Angeles citizens.

"I want the boys to eat with the same silver, using the same linen, and from the same dishes," William said.

"But isn't that apt to be pretty risky? These are boys form the street."

"I'll guarantee that you won't miss a knife or fork. Mark my word."

He knew that Dr. Torrey was now teaching at the Bible Institute and so he contacted him and arranged to have the Fishermen's Club composed of young men and the Girl's Lyceum Club of the Institute serve. He had the Caledonian orchestra, composed entirely of bagpipes, entertain the boys.

Before the doors were opened on the Christmas evening, one thousand eighty-four boys lined up in front of the old department store at Franklin and Spring Street, and the strain of so many leaning against the plate glass window proved too much, and the window broke through with a crash that called out two emergency squads from the Central Police Station to come and fix it without interrupting the celebration. It was a miracle that not a single boy was so much as scratched by the shattered pane.

Mr. Maier picked up the tab - two thousand dollars - and promised to repeat it every year. By the standards of 1911, it was some banquet. By any standards it was! Not a sterling knife or fork was missing and oh, how they applauded when William told them that a boy present was eating with the same silver the President of the United States had used when he was recently here.

But what did disappear as was reported in the LOS ANGELES TIMES were one hundred turkeys, eight hundred pounds of mashed potatoes, fifty gallons of coffee, thirty gallons of milk, one hundred loaves of bread, six gallons of cranberry sauce, fifty bunches of celery, six gallons of green peas, six gallons of gravy, three hundred pounds of dressing, twenty-five pounds of butter, one hundred mince pies, and one thousand oranges.

Significantly, there was an orange for ever boy to have, to hold in his hand and to take home, for the orange was always the symboy of plenty to William. He remembered he had never tasted one until the generous hearted Lottie gave him one from the bowl on the kitchen table of Clayton's Washington house.

When the dinner was over, a little boy was seen standing in the corner of the hall crying out his heart.

"Does you stomach hurt?" William asked tenderly, feeling he had only eaten too much.

"No," he sobbed without being able to answer.

"Then why are you crying?"

When the sobs subsided enough so he could answer, he burst out, "My sister didn't get none."

The next Christmas, Eddie Maier told William to invite a thousand boys of the street to a second annual Christmas dinner.

"I guess we'll have to invite their sisters this time," said William, and told him the story of the sobbing boy who couldn't enjoy it because his "sister didn't get none."

The head of the Los Angeles Brewery replied, "Well, tell them to bring their sisters along, the more the merrier."

The little Kuzman lad smiled widely when he heard the announcement at Sunday School that their sisters were also welcome. When the dinner hour finally arrived, he was first in line with his sister by his side and accompanied by their father. William said nothing to the bearded, heavy-set Russian, but watched him take a seat in the balcony to watch over his son and daughter with sharp, diligent eyes.

Some of the boys were a little better dressed with girls present than they had been the previous year, but many came in street clothes and barefoot, probably because they had no other clothes to wear.

The children were assembled and bowed their heads reverently while William prayed fervently, joyfully with a heart full and running over for this unique opportunity to fill the stomachs and hearts of so many poor children

Then the hosts at each table, Bible students who had volunteered to serve, began to carve the big, brown turkeys.

William could not pass up any opportunity to carve a big turkey and was presiding at the table where the two Kuzman children were seated. He was still curious about the father sitting in the balcony, watching over his children, no movement escaping his attention.

Little Mary Kuzman's eyes bounced with excitement as she watched William carve the beautiful bronze turkey. "I can hardly wait. I have never tasted turkey. Do you think Papa will let us eat it?" she asked her brother.

"Yep, I ate it last year."

"But Papa wasn't here then. If he should say 'no,' I think I would die."

"Be still. He is coming now."

The stern Russian father left the gallery and went directly to William. All the children except his two were eating their dinners with ravenous delight.

"Is the turkey cooked with pig?" their father inquired of William.

He was evidently a member of a religious sect that forbade the use of lard in their cooking. "Dunkabors?" the Russian father inquired of William.

So intent with carving, William nodded negatively.

"No?" the bearded parent wanted to be sure.

"I understand. No, the turkey is cooked with butter," Papa said. "There is no sausage in the dressing. Everything is cooked in butter."

A smile covered the face of the immigrant father. "Iss goot," then pointing to his children, he shouted, "Can eat. No pig."
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