When I was a youngster I was looked upon as a weird sort of creature, because, forsooth, I was a socialist. Reporters from local papers interviewed me, and the interviews, when published, were pathological studies of a strange and abnormal specimen of man. At that time (nine or ten years ago), because I made a stand in my native town for municipal ownership of public utilities, I was branded a “red-shirt,” a “dynamiter,” and an “anarchist”; and really decent fellows, who liked me very well, drew the line at my appearing in public with their sisters. But the times changed. There came a day when I heard, in my native town, a Republican mayor publicly proclaim that “municipal ownership was a fixed American policy.”
And in that day I found myself picking up in the world. No longer did the pathologist study me, while the really decent fellows did not mind in the least the propinquity of myself and their sisters in the public eye. My political and sociological ideas were ascribed to the vagaries of youth, and good-natured elderly men patronized me and told me that I would grow up some day and become an unusually intelligent member of the community. Also they told me that my views were biassed by my empty pockets, and that some day, when I had gathered to me a few dollars, my views would be wholly different,—in short, that my views would be their views. And then came the day when my socialism grew respectable,—still a vagary of youth, it was held, but romantically respectable. Romance, to the bourgeois mind, was respectable because it was not dangerous. As a “red-shirt,” with bombs in all his pockets, I was dangerous. As a youth with nothing more menacing than a few philosophical ideas, Germanic in their origin, I was an interesting and pleasing personality.