Background: Chicago

Bill Jr:

What is left out, it seems, is the courage of mother, now 20 or 21, a graduate of St. Margaret’s School in Waterbury, Conn., in a big city with a young daughter and me on the way.  With Dad on the pay-roll truck in the Prohibition era, and later working with developing labor concerns, it took love, power and strength.

So, also, it is interesting that the group-ministry and non-stipendiary concepts dreamed up at Berkeley, under the tutelage of Dean Wm. Ladd, noted liturgist, were just ahead of the times.  Then, the work of Roland Allen in China was unknown.  Since, of course, we have many experiments and practices having been explored, shared and implemented.  The Berkeley-Four were appalled at the collapse of what Barbara Tuchman called ‘The Proud Towers’, they were angry and shocked at the waste and deaths of W.W.I;  they were excited by the works of Fredrick Denison Maurice, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and others; they were put off by the degradation of the sprawling urban culture, particularly with the working groups and, with many other bishops, priests and laity, (often expressed at Church Congress meetings), excited about Christianity’s relationships to industrial society and how to achieve justice.  The idea of Christian Socialism, and perhaps the hope of a successful and progressive state in what became the U.S.S.R., was both envigorating and,  to many, frightening.

Since I was taken to Chicago at the age of two-weeks, having been born in Brooklyn,  my understanding of all this is limited.  I know that I was baptized at the church in Brooklyn where my grandpa was senior warden..It was done quickly because there was fear that I would not live due to bad ears.  In Chicaro, I do remember walking along the shores of Lake Michigan; and being very, very cold in the back seat of our first Model-T car on a trip to Fargo, N.D., where Charles Collett was rector and, above all, having terrible earaches and knowing that a Dr. Buchwalter sat by my bed-side all night after he had lanced an abcess.  Those were the days when doctors would and could do such things.  It is mentionable only because my physical condition at the age of four or so was what brought the folks to move to New Jersey and taking his two jobs with him.  And what were these:

He was ‘interim editor’ of The Witness and, also, executive secretary of the Church League for Industrial Democracy.  He kept the former role until a month before his death in 1972…he kept the latter role until 1946, when for a time I replaced him, before I went to social work school in Detroit.

Also, on March 30, 1921, Master William Benjamin Spofford [Bill Jr] received a letter addressed, care of his father [Bill Sr.], ‘My dear young friend’ and it was signed by A.J. Todd on the letter-head of the Dept. of Industrial Relations of B. Kuppenheimer & Company.  It said:

“I am doubtful whether to congratulate or to commiserate (sic) you upon your arrival in this worst of all possible bad worlds.  On second sober thought, I congratulate you because your father threatens to transform it by the power of the Word into a world of peace and amity.  Since you have insisted upon descending into this wicked world from some far-off fairy BlueBird land (or if you didn’t insist but were just flung into it, as it were, a bit of spindrift from the ceaseless surf of the immortal germ-plasm) I cannot think for the life of me how you could have picked out nicer parents to grow up with; for your dad is a friendly soul, an orator, a preacher of practical righteousness, a diplomat who in spite of it has a sense of humor and tells the truth, and altogether a real Big Brother and a good fellow.  I do not know your mother so well, but I can only imagine she must have rare good sense else she would not have picked out such a good mate for your father.
“I suppose biological necessity will make you a ‘conscientious objector’ for the next few months.  The great President Wilson did not put anything into his league of nations about the War with Teeth, but I will take it upon myself now to give your father and mother a mandate over you to make you as comfortable as possible during that trying campaign.
“If permanent peace is established between you and your little body and you still go on being a C.O. I’ll tell you as I have told my other C.O. friends that the war is over and it is time to lay aside militant methods and get down to real pacifism. Only don’t let them convert you to pacifism by the soft rubber route.  Tell them that the use of  that kind of a pacifier spoils the looks of one’s mouth and tends to make one hanker after sucking a pipe or a cigar or chewing gum in later life.“Now my little friend tell me when it is convenient for me to see you.  Ask your social secretary to send me a word and I will respond gladly and promptly.
“In the meantime remember me kindly to your fond parents and tell them I am still hoping to get a glimpse of them before they pass on ahead of you over the Great Divide.
Sincerely your friend,
(Signature: A.J. Todd)