|About the Book|
I started hanging out in Chicagos Lincoln Park neighborhood during high school, beginning at age sixteen. That and Hyde Park were, to my knowledge, the happening places in the city after Old Town had become commercialized. Among its attractions were the Guild Bookstore, a place for old commies- Solidarity Bookstore, an anarchist establishment- DePaul University- Chicago Theological Seminary and the international headquarters of the Industrial Workers of the World. I.W.W. HQ was located, as I recall, right off the corner of Lincoln and Fullerton, on Halsted above a soup kitchen. Lincoln Park wasnt fancy back then, not so many blocks from the park and lake.My first visit was with an older friend, Art or Walt or Ed probably, as I only later started venturing so far into the city on my lonesome. There was an old guy in the office, an old guy (probably about the age I am now) and a lot of literature. We picked up some of the materials, chatted amiably. I found my first copy of Trashman comics there, incredibly enough. The old man most likely was Fred.Further visits followed as the union moved from there to another location further west in the neighborhood. Fred became a familiar acquaintance. I considered joining, but didnt, still believing primarily in political action then, not union building, especially not quixotic union building. Occasionally Id volunteer at the nearby Solidarity Bookstore, a congenial spot for Wobblies, just south on Armitage off Halsted, where I probably first met Franklin Rosemont.I had no idea until I was in college that both these men were figures of some importance on the left and that Id come back some day to Chicago to work with them on various projects.When I returned to Chicago after college and seminary I got active again in the Socialist Party and got reacquainted on slightly more equal terms with the author of the IWWs official history, Fred Thompson. He too was a member of the party and, with Franklin, one of the people who had recently saved Charles Kerr Publishing from extinction.Shortly thereafter I was asked to stand for election to the SP, less an honor than an obligation to work a lot without pay. The USA under Reagans administration was busy trying to topple popular governments in Central America and to shore up dictatorships, so our hands were filled and the partys activities, even its membership, grew.Fred, in his late seventies and early eighties then, contributed by running informal classes, mostly on economic theory, for the party. I attended a few, impressed with his ease at communicating with a wide variety of students. I hadnt known then that hed been teaching for decades.Indeed, most of what I know, beyond personal interaction, about Fred Thompson I just learned from reading Dave Roedigers effort to piece together a biography from such meagre information as Fred had supplied over the years. Reading Freds words have left me remembering the man, missing him and wishing Id spent more time with him during his lifetime. The authorial voice, like the man, is authentic and thoroughly charming.