The Spaces Between Your Fingers

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I interviewed my grandfather, who is in his 90's, about his life experiences, and this story stuck out to me as the origin of his entrepreneurial spirit. As he would continue to do for the rest of his life, he wheeled and dealed his way through any adversity thrown his way.

It was 1933, and the schoolyard was as wild a place as any jungle or savanna. In a time when the nuns at school were just as likely to give you a bruise as a bully, Sam was at the mercy of the ferocious pack of little monsters.

"Sick little Sammy, there he goes! Time to give him a bloody nose!" screeched the group of boys as they ran toward their victim on the schoolyard.

Sam was always sick. He didn’t like to eat, and because of that, was skinnier than the rest of his class.

"Can't you leave me alone?!" Sam pleaded. This only riled up the group of boys more.

"Oh, poor Sammy, what will he do?" one of the boys mocked.

"Get beat up!" cried another.

They descended on Sam, and held him while each boy took a turn punching him in the gut. They grew bored quickly, if only for today, and pushed Sam down.

"Great job Sammy, but you'll do better tomorrow!" he heard from the group as he fell.

Since nobody on the schoolyard cared about his abuse, Sam decided that he had to figure something out, and quick! It's only a matter of time before they knock my teeth out, he thought to himself, and sat in his room that night pondering his plan.

The next day was pretzel-day, and this gave Sam his idea, since he never ate his pretzel anyway. When he got to school, Sam looked for Marty, the tall, chubby kid the other boys would call "big and dumb". Marty was very shy, and usually sat by himself during recess.

Sam approached Marty with an offer he couldn't refuse: Sam would give Marty his pretzel every pretzel-day for the rest of the year if Marty would watch his back during recess.

"Uh, I guess that sounds fair, Sam, but what if they gang up on me?" Marty said softly, perked up at the promise of pretzels. "Cause, I've never been in a fight" he said, looking at the ground.

"Marty, Marty, Marty," Sam grinned, "no one will mess with you, you're a foot taller than any of them!"

“You aren’t offering me pretzels because you think I’m fat, are you?” Marty said, frowning.

“Marty, I never eat my pretzels anyway! I’d rather them go to my new friend”, Sam smiled as he handed Marty his still-warm pretzel.

“OK Sam, I’ll do it”, Marty extended his hand, while he took the pretzel in the other, and they shook on it.

The pretzel protection deal had spread throughout the school like wildfire, and by recess, none of the boys would approach the new duo. They lobbed plenty of insults at Sam, but Marty’s presence made them all too scared to strike. From that day on, Sam had peaceful recesses with his new friend. The two boys enjoyed each other’s company and became the best of friends. One was full of pretzels, and the other full of content.

Pretzel Protection

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The 1933 School Year
Philadelphia, PA

I interviewed my grandfather, who is in his 90's, about his life experiences, and this story stuck out to me as the origin of his entrepreneurial spirit. As he would continue to do for the rest of his life, he wheeled and dealed his way through any adversity thrown his way.

Decade: 1930s
Rating:
Recorded by Victor Niglio on April 27, 2020
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