Home > Personal History, Uncategorized > My Commie Pinko Past

My Commie Pinko Past

December 5th, 2011

When I was a senior in high school (1959), as a good little politico (I was raised  a Republican) I wanted to know more about the political action of the day.  So I subscribed, through free offers found in the back of  The Saturday Review of Literature ( the “New York Review of Books of its day), to four publications, two ultra-liberal, and two ultra-conservative.

The two conservative were the newsletter of the John Birch Society, American Opinion, and the National Review, just started up by William F. Buckley.

The two liberal were I.F. Stone’s Weekly, and The Weekly People, an organ of the Socialist Workers Party.

After my sophomore year in college, I applied for the U.S. Navy’s “NavCad” program–I wanted to be a fly-boy (years before Top Gun–no, I didn’t just want to get into a cockpit with Tom Cruise). Despite a morbid fear of heights, I wanted to serve my country.

I went through all the aptitude tests, and intelligence tests, and was waiting for the results of the physical, when I had a visit at my home from two FBI agents.

The blue-suited, white-shirted agents came into my parents’ living room, and started questioning me.  Why was I getting all this commie socialist literature?

They were very insistent.  I explained about how I was curious about the political extremes. I pointed out that I had subscribed to right-wing, as well as liberal, publications; but that fazed them not at all.  They hadn’t even known about the John Birch Society connection, or Buckley’s rag–they were just out to get us commies!

I’d re-enrolled in college before the Navy accepted me, so in the end I declined to sign up. But I’ll not forget my FBI caper.

As a side note, this was not the first run-in with the FBI for my family.  Back in 1947, after my father left the Navy (he was a navigator in the Pacific), he applied for a job working in Human Resources at the Army Supply Depot in Chicago. Before he got the job, the FBI came by to check out my mother, Phyllis O. Bentley.

Phyllis E. Bentley was a British novelist, accused, during those anti-commie years, of being left-wing.  My mother, who was twenty years younger than that author, was a Bentley only by marriage.  Yet intrepid FBI had to check her out, just in case.

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