Morris and his friend Henry had to make ends meet while they went through dental school, which at that time you could enter straight from high school. They were pretty sure that once they became dentists they could make a living, but in the meantime they were hungry. All the bars in New York back then served a “free lunch.” So Morris and Henry would go to a bar and eat lots of pretzels, salty peanuts, bits of salty cheese and smoked herring—without ordering anything to drink, of course. The bars did not serve water. When Morris and Henry couldn’t stand the saltiness a minute longer, they’d rush out of the bar looking for water.
Then Morris found a job teaching night school for immigrants who were newer than he was. He taught two classes on American history, which he did not really know. But he found at least one student in each class who knew everything, so instead of lecturing he would ask questions, and these students would answer. Morris could then teach these answers to his next class. He would also learn more material from the students in this second class which he could teach when he returned to the first class, and so on. The students were eager to talk and to learn, and Morris was a well-liked teacher.
During this period of his life, he learned other things about how people helped one another, especially relatives. There was the uncle who once lent him a hundred dollars and then claimed he had put Morris through dental school. Morris repaid this uncle as quickly as possible. When Morris finally became a successful dentist, he kept a “revolving fund” for people in need. He said that when one person paid it back, he could lend it to another. But sometimes he would lend it again even if it hadn’t been paid back.
Copyright © Leora Freedman 2016
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