Tony Ardizzone reads from and discusses his book "In the Name of the Father"
BROADCAST: Feb. 9, 1979 | DURATION: 00:24:40
Content Warning: This conversation includes racially and/or culturally derogatory language and/or negative depictions of Black and Indigenous people of color, women, and LGBTQI+ individuals. Rather than remove this content, we present it in the context of twentieth-century social history to acknowledge and learn from its impact and to inspire awareness and discussion. Tony Ardizzone's book, "In the Name of the Father," takes place on the north side of Chicago. It's the story of Tonto Schwartz, whose mother is Italian and whose father is Jewish. Ardizzone explained when writing the book, he wanted it to be about a boy growing up in Chicago. The novel also covers Tonto's search to learn about his father and why his father named him Tonto.
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Studs Terkel Tony Ardizzone, a young Chicago novelist, has written a work about the life of a young Italian American living in the city. It's a moving book. It's called, perhaps it's [more realistic?] when I ask him. It's called "In the Name of the Father". Doubleday are the publishers. And in a moment, readings from the book, perhaps Tony's reflections, and the book itself after this message. [pause in recording.]
Tony Ardizzone Her name was Sister Mary Justine. She too wrote her name for all to see upon the blackboard of her first floor classroom each morning after she led the children back from mass and through the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag. An old woman, perhaps in her late 60s, she wore thick glasses and had a large mole on the right side of her nose and a gold front tooth. She tapped her foot nervously on the wooden platform as she too called out each of the letters' names. Tonto stared dreamily out the window, a bad window. There were never any buses. It showed him the sides of things, never their tops or backs. People, however, were easier to see and think about. It was snowing. Sister Mary Justine was rapping her wooden ruler on her desk. "Children!" she called out. "Children! Who made us?" This one was easy. Tonto sat up straight in his fifth row desk. "God made us!" the children sing-songed. "And who is God?" Tonto pictured the blue cover of his Baltimore Catechism. Sitting in a chair near the front windows, he would try to keep his eyes on the letters in the book and away from the buses in the streets. Sometimes Aunt Jenny would help him, would pretend she was Sister Mary Justine and ask him the questions. When he was finished with his homework and when he had thoroughly dusted the front room and the dining room, he could look out the windows and play. "God is the supreme being!" the children were reciting. "Who was infinitely perfect and who made all things and keeps them in existence." Tonto remembered suddenly that he was in school and blushed.
Tony Ardizzone Yes it is. The book is set on the North Side, specifically near Fullerton and Southport, and it begins in 1951 when Tonto enters the first grade. Tonto's the son of Abraham Schwarz, a Jewish World War II veteran who returned from the war with a head injury and told his wife, Mary McCarthy, an Irish Catholic, to name their newborn son "Tonto". And then Abe died. Now Mary went along with Abe's wish and as the book opens, Mary and her older sister, Jenny, Tonto's Aunt Jenny, are discussing whether or not they should allow Tonto to go out into the world so to speak, to go to school with a name like "Tonto". And they, of course, go along with this, so along with the other problems of growing up, Tonto also has a name to deal with.
Studs Terkel And then Tonto himself has the daydreams of the Cubs, he follows the Cubs and even here in class, in the school with a Sister teaching his mind goes elsewhere. She talks of God and sin and punishment [unintelligible].
Tony Ardizzone Tonto, I think, makes a common mistake. He merges things that he learns on the outside city experience, life experience, with school experience. And in the book, there's one section where he comes home with a religion test and he had inadvertently got his martyrs and his Cubs confused and had written down the names Hank Sauer and Ernie Banks and Dee Fondy for some of the tests where the baseball players were called for. I think what I was playing with here is, in a sense, as a realistic Cubs fan, maybe even at that tender age, he realized that the Cubs were a kind of martyr [Studs laughing]--martyr figures, and he makes up an All Star list which has the three
Studs Terkel Also, I think it has to do with the effect of popular entertainment and sports in our lives. You do this very well, by the way. We'll come back to testament and baseball. There's a song and I think you'll like--
Tony Ardizzone Alright.
Studs Terkel But before that, the Catholic school, you know, Chicago probably is the largest Catholic city in the country. And I remember, you know, John Powers is a local writer and he writes from an Irish kid's point of view.
Tony Ardizzone Yes.
Tony Ardizzone Yes.
Tony Ardizzone Yes. It's allowed--I tried to allow it to be ultimately a search for identity. Tonto's surrounded by ethnicity, as I think anyone who lives in Chicago is. He worships Ernie Banks and comes to grip, I think, with the Cubs and I think is aware that Banks is a Black ballplayer. And his closest friends are an Italian named Vito Scaparelli, a German named Willie Burger, and a Polish fellow named Eddie Demkowicz.
Studs Terkel I'm thinking also being caught in a trap. Tonto is pretty bright and has other dreams and he's doing now manual work for a long time, work around, and he has troubles because he has other dreams. Vito, his friend, gets killed in Vietnam. We'll come to that. And Willie, [unintelligible] studying medicine. So somewhere along the line, Tonto is trying to achieve something he doesn't quite get.
Tony Ardizzone He searches, I think, he needs to resolve his own--his self, I think, and he needs to come to grips with his father, with his name as well, with his identity, unlike Vito. Vito enlists because he knows he'll be drafted. And I think that his story is really one of the tragic parts of the book. Willie is more upwardly mobile and is able to leave Chicago and goes to Minnesota to study medicine. But now Tonto stays in the city and I think he's caught somewhere between those two ends. He's able to avoid the draft because he's the sole surviving son of a veteran and his mother depends upon him, in part, for her support.
Studs Terkel You also got his ruminations, you know, his thoughts, but also to make a living, you know, money and he has difficulty at home and then he's working jewelry stores and he's working with the guys who are kind of looking to him a certain way because he comes in long hair one day, something like that. And with somebody--is it brother Leo?
Tony Ardizzone Yes, yes, and he does do some reading. He gets into trouble in one instance because he's reading a book called "Invisible Man" by Ralph Ellison and the people at the company take some objection to his reading a book by a Black author. It has a picture of a Black on the cover and he gets into a fight with an individual who calls him a "Nigger lover" and then spits into the book. And, of course, Tonto then bears the brunt of this because the manager of the company says, "Look, fella, you're the one who caused the fight. I don't care what he called you, but you're a student here. You're not really a worker." He needs, I think, to find his niche or his place. And by the end of the book, I think he finds it. He comes to grips with himself and with his father.
Studs Terkel We hear--there's a sequence here since the impact is pretty good, the impact of popular entertainment, in this case, baseball, on the life of the kid while he's going to Parochial school. You might read that and then we'll hit Chet Roble's song.
Tony Ardizzone Alright.
Tony Ardizzone He had just come out and shown his mother his cigar box, which contained his baseball cards and his Holy cards and had mixed the two, and his--this was his All Star list which hung on his bedroom wall behind his glow-in-the-dark crucifix. The All Stars. One, God the Father, first person, first base. Two, God the Son, second person, second base. Three, God the Holy Ghost, the third person, third base. Four, Ernie Banks. I don't care if he's chocolate, shortstop. Five, Hank Sauer, right field, a holy martyr Cub. Six, Ralph Kiner, left field, a holy martyr Cub. Seven, Saint Tarcisius, catcher, but he doesn't have to play if he don't want to. Eight, Frank Baumholtz, center field, another holy martyr Cub. And [Betty?] ninth, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, the pitcher, because of her big good arms.
Tony Ardizzone Yes.
Studs Terkel It fits what you put down there. We're still talking about Tonto Schwartz and his growth and development. This is also--is this reminiscent in a way, does this reflect your own growth and development?
Tony Ardizzone Like most writers, I borrowed heavily from my own life. But I found actually, after a while, that Tonto began to take on his own direction and I then put, I think, a little bit of me in all of the characters, in Vito and Willie and Eddie and Tonto, as well. And so it's not it's not purely autobiographical or even closely autobiographical, but there are parts of me in all of the characters.
Studs Terkel Then you would know, once upon a time I was asking Fellini during the making of--in Italy, during the making of Fellini "8 1/2" which is an autobiographical film about a director. I says, "Are all your works?--" He says, "This obviously is autobiographical here." He says, "Well if I did a movie about a fish, it would be autobiographical [Tony laughing] because whatever the person's experience is reflected somewhere in there." But we're talking about you, and did you go to parochial schools?
Tony Ardizzone Yes I did. I grew up here in Chicago and attended St. Joseph School and later St. Gregory's Grammar School, both on the North Side, went to a Catholic high school, didn't leave the city until I went down to the University of Illinois in Champaign.
Tony Ardizzone Yes.
Studs Terkel Now we come to the growth of Tonto and developing. While [unintelligible] came, he worked with the guys who were kind of anti-Black and Tonto was reading a lot of things now. And he's reading about the ghetto--I think this chapter is worth reading for you.
Tony Ardizzone Alright.
Studs Terkel I'm thinking about what kind of teacher that Tonto encountered--you know, unfortunately there are many teachers like Golding. [pages turning] And also about his own beginning of awareness, but problems that have faced Tonto's--now this is in class, right?
Tony Ardizzone Tonto's first speech had been about ghettos and had mostly been off the top of his head. He had sat upon a desk instead of standing, and a quarter of the way through had put down his notecards. He began with the story of his father coming over to America from Eastern Europe in the early 1930s. He told the class that when his father came to Chicago, he had lived inside a ghetto. And then he said that instead of talking about this, the neighborhood rowhouse city type of ghetto like most of them were used to reading about in their college textbooks, he was going to discuss a much more frightening type of ghetto, the kind that people build inside their minds. He told them that they didn't have to be poor to live inside one of these ghettos and that they didn't have to be Jewish or Irish or any special nationality or religion. All they had to do was to stay with their own kind, mentally picking their friends from among the type of people they've always known and would always know, never venturing out and trying on anything new, never talking to a stranger, letting their own fears of others enclose them forever inside their tight little minds. He said that he believed that the university was the one real chance they had to meet all different kinds of people and to try on different ideas and that instead of worrying about their grades, they should try to go out and find something new and different every day. Then he said that everyone lived inside this kind of ghetto, including himself, and because of it, everyone's mind was starving just like the stomachs of the poor and that starvation of the mind was much worse than starvation of the body. He ended by saying that his speech was one of his attempts to break out of his own mental ghetto and that he hoped he could try to understand exactly what it was that he was saying. When he finished, he was shaking. He sat back at his desk and Mr. Golding got up in front of the class and began talking about Tonto's use of colloquialisms, and a bearded boy commented that he believed Tonto's reliance upon them detracted from his overall effectiveness. Golding mentioned that Tonto should not have sat upon the desk as these were formal presentations, and that he should not have fidgeted so with his pencil while he spoke. And then a girl raised her hand and said the Tonto's "th"s were pronounced like "d"s. Golding agreed and thanked the girl for bringing up the point. Then he recommended to Tonto that he spend some time in the speech laboratory. Ann said nothing, since Tonto had asked her not to. The next afternoon, Tonto spoke to Golding in his office. "So the general idea is that we're not here to learn what to say, but how to say it?" Mr. Golding smiled. "Exactly," he said. "You see, Tonto, that is why I'm the best teacher for a course of this kind. My background in theater gives me the perspective of an impartial observer, an actor you realize never speaks his own lines. The important trait in communication is the ability to deliver in an effective manner." "But when will I learn enough? When will I learn if my ideas are good enough to deliver?" Golding shrugged. He ran his hands through his red hair. "You really don't need to concern yourself with that," he said, "at least not while you're here at the university. We're not here to teach you values. We teach procedures. It's like I can teach you, say, how to breathe." He laughed. "But I'll be damned if I'm here to teach you what to do with that breath once you take it in and expel it." He stood and offered his hand. Tonto shook his head and said he was beginning to understand now.
Studs Terkel I think you're touching upon something terribly important in this particular sequence in that there are. We know more and more technique and we know this among scientists is happening. Some teachers are marvelous, we know. But there are some unfortunately like Golding.
Studs Terkel We're talking about a certain guy, a certain kid in a book, Tonto Schwartz out of Chicago, and his friends. Later on, this one kid, did Tonto have a question when his friend Vito was killed in the war and you've got the services, [Father Malone is there?] and his mother is grief stricken and throws herself as she would upon the grave. Something's cooking about Tonto has a girl, someone from the upper class. That ends and he meets someone else, but the discussion of Vito going to Vietnam comes into it a peripheral way, doesn't it?
Tony Ardizzone Yes it does. And ironically Tonto's girlfriend at the time is also involved with another boy who was in the Air Force and her views on the war are very--well she seems to believe in the war and Tonto's just struck by the fact that his friend died and can't really get beyond that point.
Tony Ardizzone Now later on in the book, the book uses a realistic backdrop, as you know, and later on he's going to find himself with a different girl at the 1968 Democratic Convention. And there he's going to have to decide how to react when he's in that crowd and when the police begin to move in and, as you know, I think that's one of the scenes that helps to shape him. Specifically he runs into a little problem in that scene with a couple of policemen.
Studs Terkel You know, I think we're just beginning to become aware because many of us were so much in it, you know there, covering it and observing it. Kids I know, of course, in it physically, that we're not aware really now and in different parts of the country now, and to talk, colleges, the effect, the impact of the 1968 Convention on the lives and psyches of so many of the young, it's overwhelming.
Studs Terkel No matter where, because we're here in the city at the time and here's Tonto, it had nothing to do with his political thoughts, just physically he got involved without meaning to. And then something happened.
Tony Ardizzone Yes.
Tony Ardizzone Well, he saw some people being beaten and came to their defense and then was caught in the crunch. He finally escaped, but without trying to give too much of the book away, he loses some of his teeth. He's clubbed in the mouth. And what I was intending to do there, ironically, is to show that while he loses some teeth, he gains some teeth. He gains a little punch. He gains a little control over his life. I think he's a little stronger after that experience.
Studs Terkel Yes.
Tony Ardizzone At the factory, there are some comic figures, three Irishmen specifically, Hallahan, Curly, and O'Rourke. But then he meets an old Wobbly, an old member of the Industrial Workers of the World named Friedman, who helps Tonto, I think, by talking with him. And at one point, Friedman rolls up his shirt and shows Tonto his arm where he had gotten--where he had been stabbed by a bayonet in one of the early Wobbly strikes in the earlier part of the century. And again now Tonto works, I think, learns from this individual.
Studs Terkel What happens here, what I like about it is that it's not a doctrinaire thing. It's Tonto himself, awareness slowly in a peripheral way coming to him. And yet there he is, stuck in this work that--knowing there's something else he's dreaming of doing. Does he ever get to that other shore?
Tony Ardizzone Well again, without giving away the final end of the book, he is injured and I think the injury allows him to then relate to his father's injury and then finally come to terms with some of the--perhaps some of the motivations that were in his father's mind when he had given him his name. Now Tonto needs to discover the Lone Ranger myth. And at one point he goes to the old public library, which is now the cultural center. Back when it was a library, he travels there and looks up the-- listens to the "Lone Ranger" tapes in an attempt to try to investigate the meaning of the word "Tonto" and to see if there was some kind of clue or some kind of message perhaps. His other possibility is to think that his father was crazy. I think he needs to not accept that. He needs to build his own--I think
Tony Ardizzone Right.
Studs Terkel At the same time, Tonto wants to find out his name. He wants to know--the Arthur Miller play, as you know, what's my name? Who am I? And I want my name. And so perhaps at the very end as Tonto is trying to find out what it's about, a certain sense of place in the world, perhaps the last paragraph itself. I'm reading this. [flipping through pages] I'm talking to Tony Ardizzone. And the book, his first novel published by Doubleday, "In the Name of the Father". It's quite moving and it's about the city too, Chicago. Perhaps the last passage--
Tony Ardizzone Alright I'll read this. In the kitchen he poured last night's--in the kitchen he put last night's plate and fork into the sink. Then he poured himself a cup of coffee. He sipped the coffee. It tasted good to him. He sat at the wood table. The chair was cool against his legs. Pressing his paper down with the palm of his right hand, he grasped the pencil with his left. Then he began to write his name.
Studs Terkel That's it. Then he began to write his name. And so this is the story of a young guy in a city, anonymous, yet seeking a name. Tony Ardizzone. Any thoughts you have before we say goodbye for now about the book?
Tony Ardizzone Well the title, as you know, "In the Name of the Father", suggests both the Catholic backdrop as well as, I think, upon the basic situation the Tonto lives in the name of his father, in the name given to him by his father. The book, as you know, is set on the North Side of Chicago. It's Fullerton and Southport, and takes place in the 50s and the 60s. And I think that--what I really tried to do was to try to write about, if I could, the Chicago experience, and to use realistic characters and Ernie Banks, his presence in the book and a number of the Cubs. Back when Boudreau and Scheffing were manager. The book moves from 1951 to 1969.