Unbelievable as it seems today, there was a time when such people as doctors and lawyers did not necessarily live apart from the dirt front yards and Saturday night domestic scraps of the laboring class. The doctor who delivered me in 1946, the most prosperous in town by all accounts, lived just a few short blocks from the rundown Kent Street "white trash and nigger street" my parents called home. His fee for dragging my screaming ass into the light was an exorbitant $100 -- and for a caesarian birth at that -- because the US Army was writing the check. The good doctor lived close enough that my old man could walk a five-dollar payment over to his house on payday, close enough that I could see his rooftop from my upstairs bedroom window. As a kid, knowing such an educated, prosperous man lived so near was somehow comforting. And at least it gave an example of what one might possibly aspire to, given the education.
Not that the working people then generally aspired to an education. In those days most folks could make a living without being very educated, or even very bright. A high school education was adequate for the jobs available in East Coast agriculture and manufacturing based town like Winchester. As for the professions, our medical and legal needs were meet by a handful of physicians and semi-savory lawyers ground out by the University of Virginia, "men of tradition" who made much of graduating from "Mistah Jeffah-sun's University," then went about their business of real estate theft and keeping the bubbas out of jail. As for teachers, nearby Shepherdstown State Teachers College provided the class in between the bubbas ("Yore Honor I never meant to kill that guy with my truck, I was only trying to take out his mailbox …") and the country club lawyers. But overall, life required little education. Nobody was yet writing computer programs to put multibillion dollar cybernetic nuclear dildos in outer space. It was just plain American life in a plain American town. I know I'm sounding like one more cranky fart lamenting the good old days, but hang on, it takes me a few licks to get good and wound up.