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The GI Bill Boys

A Memior

Stella Suberman

Publication Year: 2012

In her warm and witty new memoir, Stella Suberman charms readers with her personal perspective as she recalls the original 1940s GI Bill. As she writes of the bill and the epic events that spawned it, she manages, in her crisp way, to personalize and humanizes them in order to entertain and to educate. Although her story is in essence that of two Jewish families, it echoes the story of thousands of Americans of that period. Her narrative begins with her Southern family and her future husband’s Northern one – she designates herself and her husband as “Depression kids” – as they struggle through the Great Depression. In her characteristically lively style, she recounts the major happenings of the era: the Bonus March of World War I veterans; the attack on Pearl Harbor; the Roosevelt/New Deal years; the rise of Hitler’s Nazi party and the Holocaust; the second World War; and the post-war period when veterans returned home to a collapsed and jobless economy. She then takes the reader to the moment when the GI Bill appeared, the glorious moment, as she writes, when returning veterans realized they had been given a future. As her husband begins work on his Ph.D., she focuses on the GI men and their wives as college life consumed them. It is the time also of Senator Joseph McCarthy and the “Red Scare,” of the creation of an Israeli state, of the Korean War, and of other important issues, and she discusses them forthrightly. Throughout this section she writes of how the GI’s doggedly studied, engaged in critical thinking (perhaps for the first time), discovered their voices. As she suggests, it was not the 1930’s anymore, and the GI Bill boys were poised to give America an authentic and robust middle class.

Published by: The University of Tennessee Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v

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pp. ix

For those of us who follow presidential political campaigns, 2008 was a wildly exciting election year, and one without precedent. With no vice president awaiting a turn, the presidency was an open seat, and the contest for the Democratic nomination was between—what?—a woman and— what? what?—an African...

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Chapter 1. Moving into the Depression

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pp. 1-6

Before Jack and I met, we had lived in very different circumstances. Even the words we used for our basic biographies were different: Jack was born and bred in New York; I was born and reared in a small town in Tennessee. In addition, Jack came out of the New York Jewish middle-class tradition as the son of a fur importer; I came out of...

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Chapter 2. The Jew Baby

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pp. 7-28

In comparing notes on “how it was,” on how our lives had proceeded before the Depression came, Jack and I gave each other equal time, even if I had first to overcome Jack’s notion that his Biggest City stories were more significant, definitely more interesting...

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Chapter 3. New York, New York, a Wonderful Town?

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pp. 29-40

Will met us at the train station in Manhattan and took us immediately on the subway (!) to my grandparents’ apartment in the Bronx, where we were to stay until we found our own place. My father, however, was not eager to move out. It was the inevitable signing of a lease that bothered him; it seemed to him both an act of unwelcome bonding with New York and an act of disloyalty to...

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Chapter 4. World War I Redux

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pp. 41-46

It was 1932, and we had been in New York just over a year when the veterans of World War I came in great numbers to Washington, D.C., for a big event the newspapers were calling the Bonus March, and whose purpose was to petition for promised bonuses. Though it was true that the bonuses had not been promised for delivery until 1945, these men, out of work like everyone else, desperate...

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Chapter 5. Roosevelt Is in, and So Are the New Deal and Fireside Chats

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pp. 47-52

When, in 1932, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was chosen as the Democratic candidate for president, when at the convention he said, “I pledge you, I pledge myself, to a new deal for the American people,” my father fairly leaped into his corner. And then, with no RomanCatholics to muddy the waters, the South returned...

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Chapter 6. So Long, Sidewalks of New York; Hello, Moon over Miami

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pp. 53-78

From the moment we arrived in New York, my father had begun plotting an escape. After investing in the taxi repair company, he had almost immediately di-vested, and though the venture didn’t lose him any money, it didn’t make him any either. Was Will, I wondered, now going to be a chauffeur? No, he was...

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Chapter 7. The New York Depression Kid

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pp. 79-98

Whenever Jack talked about how it had been with him in those Depression days, he laid the groundwork by telling tales of his life before the Depression as the son of a prosperous businessman. “Until the Depression came,” he would say, in his eyes-wide-open way, “I was spoiled rotten. We all were.” I assumed that the “we...

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Chapter 8. 1939 and 1940

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pp. 99-128

In the summer of 1939, there was bad news and good news. If my mother— and I—had early on voiced concerns that summer business would be hard to come by, we were proven right year after year, and the year 1939 was no exception. Even the winter season had only “huffed and puffed,” as my father would say, but our summer...

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Chapter 9. World War II

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pp. 129-138

Jack and I learned of the Japanese attack on our naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii as we were coming out of the Tallahassee picture show on the late Sunday afternoon of December 7, 1941, and saw a newsboy hawking newspapers. A hawking newsboy was an unusual sight in Tallahassee, and Jack walked over to...

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Chapter 10. Reassignment

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pp. 139-156

The call came on November 27, 1944, as I was padding around barefoot getting Rick’s midmorning snack. After the phone call, after I had put the phone down, ten minutes later Rick was in his grandmother Frieda’s arms, and I was driving the family Ford north out of Miami. I was in a tizzy—so tizzied that as I was driving and looked down, I saw two bare feet. It didn’t matter. The phone call was the...

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Chapter 11. After the War

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pp. 157-176

So now what? Good question. To avoid answering it, we in the Ft. Myers contingent settled on talking about “de-mobbing,” as the discharge from service was generally called, though for officers it was service “separation,” not “discharge.” Jack and I talked about this insistence on different terms for officers and men...

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Chapter 12. The GI Bill

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pp. 177-218

As I read on, if the paper in my hands had said, “Jack Suberman, this is for you and all those other guys who have been sitting on your porch,” I would not have been surprised. What it was telling Jack, what it was shouting to Jack and to those other returning veterans and to whoever else had worn a military uniform...

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Chapter 13. Drinks at the Professor’s

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pp. 219-246

When we got the invitation for “pre-dinner” drinks at the home of one of Jack’s professors (English 412, Nineteenth-Century English Poetry), we knew it was not going to be a “Let’s get a bottle and get drunk in a pile” party, nor its variation, the BYOB, which meant, depending on where in the state you called home...

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Chapter 14. Mission Accomplished

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pp. 247-251

In a ceremony at the University of North Carolina in the spring of 1955, Jack received a diploma that proclaimed he had “fulfilled the requirements” for a doctorate in philosophy. And if it seemed too cool a declaration for so hot an achievement, if the wording seemed too official for all the drama that had gone into it, it was nonetheless imparting something meaningful. It was saying that...

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781572338937
E-ISBN-10: 1572338938
Print-ISBN-13: 9781572338555
Print-ISBN-10: 1572338555

Publication Year: 2012

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • United States -- History -- 1933-1945.
  • United States -- Economic conditions -- 1918-1945
  • Depressions -- 1929 -- United States.
  • New Deal, 1933-1939.
  • United States. Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944.
  • Veterans -- Education -- United States.
  • Suberman, Stella.
  • Suberman, Jack.
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