Klux Klan, the exploitation of farm workers. He worked for a while on a pea farm near Bakersfield to get first-hand information about the conditions stoop laborers faced each day and later wrote in an editorial entitled “These Men Are Americans, Too”: “U.S. Sen. George Murphy . . . wants to exploit chaotic conditions in Mexico and bring braceros back. Senator Murphy apparently isn’t interested in what George Santayana once termed one of the most important raw materials of industry: Man . . . It’s just about time Murphy gave something more than the back of his hand to the American field hand. It’s just about time he went out at four o’clock in the morning and saw the men some growers call “bums” and “derelicts” shiver on street corners waiting for day haulers to carry them out to the fields. It’s just about time he started digging to find out a little about the other side of the story.” Chester was fired from the San Diego Union because of his anti-war sentiments. EL PASO, however, was his home base, and he worked at four different times for the Herald Post writing about street cleaners, 90-year-old peanut vendors, invalid domino parlor operators, blind yodelers. Virginia Turner, present city editor of the Herald-Post, remembers Chester this way: “Chester honestly suffered for the poor people of the world and on one occasion literally gave the shirt off his back to a hobo. He had to go home and get another shirt to wear before he could come to work . He was a gentle person; he never bragged, was never cocky. And he suffered a lot from insomnia. Lots of times he came to work worn out simply from walking the streets at night, unable to sleep.” In checking through Chester’s memorabilia I found out that early in his career he published stories under his own name stories that were mainly about blacks and which reflected, perhaps, his experiences as a newsman in Florida and Louisiana. Chester took a pen name, Ms. Seltzer said, only after he married and became deeply interested in the Mexican culture of the Southwest. By the mid-1950’s Chester was already experimenting with his role as “Amado Muro” and in marking false trails concerning his identity he was perhaps having a little fun as well as adhering to hiw own artistic principles. \(Items: A note on contributors in the 1961 New Mexico Quarterly informed readers that “Amado Muro’s delightful stories about life in his native Mexico have appeared in Americas Magazine.” A 1955 letter of acceptance from the associate editor of Americas commented: “.. . you say you graduated from high school in 1944 and have worked on the ice docks ever since. Is writing your I found that critical recognition of his stories in Martha Foley’s annual Best American Short Stories ranged from 1944 “A Peddler’s Notebook,” by Chester Seltzer, in the Southwest Review, cited as “Distinctive” to 1970 and 1972: “Maria Tepache” and “Blue,” by Amado Muro, in the Arizona Quarterly, also listed as “Distinctive.” During one visit I asked Charles about the hobo sketches: Did his father really take off and live the hobo life? “Oh, yes,” he said, “and sometimes got thrown in jail for it. He told me once about being picked up on a vagrancy charge in Big Spring. He stayed in jail until the police checked him out with Washington.” “Chester was a very compassionate man,” Amada Seltzer added. “In Bakersfield and in El Paso he was always buying groceries for the hobos that would turn up at our door.” How about Chester’s method of writing the sketches? I remarked that it was almost as if he had used a tape recorder to get down some of the hobos’ talk. “No,” Charles said, “he just had a very good memory. And he really listened to people … You know, in a way he was against the written word. He was for letting the people speak, not the writer; he felt the writer should be subservient to the people he wrote about … It’s ironic that he valued the oral tradition more than he did writing.” MY FATHER admired the writers that did their work in the 1930’s,” Charles continued. “He was not in sympathy with writers who published after 1945 after World War II. He rejected the philosophy of existentialism and was against the death-of-God in literature. That’s why he celebrated Dostoyevski and Tolstoy all the Russian, 19th century novelists. He thought they were the best . . . When I was in high school he would give Robert and me lists of books and authors he felt we should read: Flaubert, Gorki, Chekhov, Sienkiewicz, Dreiser, Dos Passos.” Besides not wanting to trade on Louis Seltzer’s name, I wondered, was there any other reason why Chester Seltzer should become Amado Muro? “My father always pointed to the example of Steinbeck and Hemingway,” Charles said, “as writers who finally yielded to commercialism who got caught by their fame and lost their feel for people.” Charles added that his father also admired the works of B. Traven, who had remained anonymous. \(Another ironic twist to the Amado Muro story: that B. Traven, a legendary man of letters in Mexico whose real name was Traven Torsvan Croves, was admired by a man who may become more legendary in the I asked Charles about The Mexican-American: After my first visit to the Seltzers I had gone home and pulled out the copies I had kept of The Mexican-American and found the issue with the article entitled “A Boy Named Manuel.” I looked at the author’s name and one more little riddle was solved: the writer, of course, was Louis B. Seltzer, editor, Cleveland Press. “Yes,” Charles said, “my father published The Mexican-American and ran his sketches in it, but it was a short-lived affair only two years. He had an office in the Banner Building, and I used to run all over town trying to collect from people who owed us for advertising. But they just wouldn’t pay their bills . . . I thought we ought to distribute the paper around the college area but my father said no. For one thing, he felt that it ought to be sold near the South Side, where the people he was writing for could buy it easily; another reason he always gave was that if he sold it at the college some professor would get interested and want to find out more about it and come around and you know, learn who my father was. He didn’t want that.” We talked a bit about Chester Seltzer’s last days. Charles said that during the year before he died his father was working on more short stories. “He was freelancing then,” Charles said. “He worked on the stories in the morning, then he would sometimes go over to Juarez to take steam baths and walk around. He believed in keeping his body in shape he did not drink; he was a vegetarian . . . And oh, yes, there’s an unfinished novel in a box down in the basement that I’m going to take a look at. My father put it away and never talked about it.” Had his father ever suffered any heart attacks before the one that killed him, I asked. “Not that we know of,” Charles said. And it was in South El Paso that he died? “Yes, he had stopped in at a news stand to buy a paper and talk. He had the attack right there and died before the ambulance could get him to the hospital.” At a news stand? “Yes. Zamora’s . . . Zamora’s News Stand on Paisano. My father used to go there often.” March 30, 1973 5 MARTIN ELFA NT Sun Life of Canada 1001 Century Building Houston, Texas CA 4-0686
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