Bradley T. Van Deusen

Bradley T. Van Deusen

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Roberts Weathered the Storm
American Boy, Mar 1936, p.27
By E van Deusen

If hard times catch you, put yourself in a position to laugh at them!

That's what John G. Roberts, 20 years old, student and star athlete at the University of Chicago, did. He had no cash for college and there were no jobs in Chicago. Instead of being downhearted, he arranged to go into the North Woods of Wisconsin with a truck driver acquaintance, paying his way by helping to load and unload.

With less than five dollars in his pocket he rented a small cabin for five dollars a month and faced the task of supporting himself through the winter and continuing his college work by correspondence.

He had two prospects to begin with. He had arranged to sell stories of his experiences to the Chicago Daily News, and he had an order to carve a set of delicate orangewood tools for a group of sculptors.

When deer season rolled around he landed a job as cook for a deer camp. With those jobs as a basis he earned $149 up to the middle of March. Here's his income itemized:

Carpenter work, $12; articles in the News, $55; oil painting, $10; sculptors' tools, $14; wood sawing, $8; cooking at the deer camp, $5; credit for odd jobs at the village store, $30.

He managed to keep his expenses down to $15 a month - $5 for rent and $10 for food, stamps, and incidentals.

To save money he built his own sled and hauled his own firewood. It took lots of chopping, hauling, sawing and splitting to feed the little stove that stood between him and freezing!

For meat he had venison presented by the deer camp, to which he added rabbit, beaver, and fish. A typical dinner menu would read: venison, potatoes, canned peas, bread, and stewed prunes. For breakfast, stewed dried fruit, oatmeal and canned milk, salt pork, pancakes, and coffee.

He lived for six months on $90 and spent $34 for his correspondence course from the University of Chicago. And as spring approaches he can add to the cash assets in his pocket, abundant health, a winter of skating, skiing, hunting, and ice fishing, and a feeling of having weathered the storm.

Historical Notes


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