De Toledano,









M. Wesley




INT: But it wasn't illegal to belong to the...

FE: (Interrupts) It was not illegal to be a Communist in the State of California. But that was hidden by the propaganda that took over this whole political period. The purse was controlled, politics had turned sharply to the right and even though President Roosevelt was still in office, this was a deliberate plan of the people that opposed the social reforms, the educational reforms, the all kinds of legislative activities that were engaged in to remedy the severe depression. The corporations who backed the committees, they were determined to get rid of anyone that could organise a political opposition to support the programme of the Democratic Party.

INT: OK, can we pause again?

INT: So,, can you tell me, you know, during this whole period of persecution, who could you turn to?

FE: I turned first of all to my fellow teachers. Then I went out into the community and talked to organisations that invited me to house visits, to tell my story. I had to raise funds to pay our teachers' union lawyer, who was taking the case through the courts. I had to raise something like fifteen thousand dollars and the men teachers, who were called at the same time, had to support their families, so they took jobs wherever they could find them. One brilliant teacher became a salesman of washing machines, for example, another a truck driver. But I was up there as the spokesman for those of us who had been summoned and who had finally been fired and had no work and no income. And so I gathered small amounts from many, many people. I kept track of the people at every union halls, the numbers present, and there were more than ten thousand people that I talked to in the course of the time that we took the case to court. And I was very proud that I could be useful and able to pay our way through the court system, which was very expensive. We took our case to Superior Court, but - when I say, we, the teachers' union - but we lost by one vote, the decision was five to four at the state level and so we were dismissed, fired. I'll never forget that day in my whole life. It was frightful. The Board of Education had invited us down there, those teachers that were under question by these legislative committees, and I had taught quite successfully at my new school, Fairfax High School. Many parents and students came. In fact, I was told that the day that I was down at the Board of Education offices, the students declared a strike and didn't go to classes. And when I was told publicly, at the meeting of the Board of Education, that I no longer - after some twenty two years of teaching in the LA system - was not welcome any longer as a teacher in the public schools of California, I went out the hall and some FBI agent grabbed by the shoulder, but a uniformed policeman came and took his arm away. I was in tears, of course, even though I had many friends there. It was a tragedy in my life that I was no longer going to be able to teach, the profession that I loved and that I had lived in for so many years and helped to support my family by being a public school teacher. Happily for me, I found a new career and a very satisfying one. My friends and relatives and people in the neighbourhood sent me their children to tutor when they had difficulties and finally, I must confess, I enjoyed teaching one student at a time very, very much and it was far more lucrative than being a public school teacher!

INT: But there were other people, of course, who were much less stronger than you. You know, I mean, you got up and you spoke and you raised money, you talked about your experiences, but other people...

FE: (Interrupts) But other teachers I regret to say, there were two teachers who committed suicide, one in New York and a Stamford University professor, who had four children. He shot himself. The teacher in New York poured gasoline on herself in front of the Board of Education building. This was a tragedy of stupendous proportions and I'm very happy that this Cold War series is designed to tell the story, so that it will not be forgotten, because if it's forgotten, it might be repeated in this newa of new English, especially in the United States.

INT: But a sort of silence has descended on the whole nation? People caved in, they didn't...

FE: I think that a great many people were intimidated and frightened and certainly teachers were, who were among my friends. And there were some other community leaders that were silenced also. They did not want to go to jail, they did not want to lose their jobs. So there was an effective period when people were afraid to assert their constitutional rights.

INT: One more. I just want to know, were you just fired the once or did it repeat itself...

FE: (Interrupts) No, just fired the once.

INT: Did you have to move... Listen to Kate, talk to me!

FE: , I was only fired once at that session I described at the Board of Education offices and then I was never able to teach in any public school system in the State of California after that.

INT: I think it might also be useful to say, sorry, I was forced to move schools, then after another session, fired, and then I could never teach again. Would you mind just doing that for me?

FE: No. In the course of this Red scare, I was summoned many times. I was transferred from a school where I had taught for more two decades to a neighbourhood school that I chose, predominantly in a Jewish district, where I thought I would have support. And then I was fired from that position and terminated as a public school teacher in the State of California. I never went back to teaching in a public schoolin California.

INT: Great!

FE: My little soapbox!

INT: You've done very well indeed.

(End of tape)