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The Boss

By David Dayton McKean
This Web version, edited by GET NJ, COPYRIGHT 2003

Old Public School 21 on Twelfth Street still stands, where futile efforts were made to give him an elementary education. In later years he liked to speak of his first day at school. His father had taken him and his brother James to school, but Frank had not been there more than ten minutes when he climbed out a basement window and ran away. He was induced to return, and for a few years he struggled with education. To judge from his adult speeches on juvenile delinquency be must have been an incorrigible youth. `I was,' he once said, `what folks call a bad boy. I was a truant from school, not once but many times.'

His mind was intensely practical, and he could not see the immediate benefits of book learning. He had no grasp for abstractions, no curiosity for ideas. He did not do well at any subject. He never learned his way about in the intricacies of the English language, so that as a man he would say such things as: `It depends entirely on what the circumstances was. If there was objections by the people receiving these circulars, yes; if there was no objections and there was no disorder it makes no difference,' or, `They shouldn't come in there with any purpose of aggravating and disturbing the peace and quietness of the city.' Because he never acquired the miscellaneous information that most people possess, he was always liable to such errors as to say of an opponent in 1939, `Why, he don't even know it's the nineteenth cen- tury.' When he prepared his biographical sketch for Who's Who in America he noted that he was educated in the public schools and by private tutors. The identity of these tutors is a mystery, but whoever they were, they were singularly unsuccessful. In 1889, at fourteen years of age, Frank Hague was expelled from the sixth grade as incorrigible, and his formal education ended.


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