The Years Were Good: The Autobiography of Louis B. Seltzer


I LIVE for tomorrow. I can scarcely wait until it comes. To be sure, yesterday was interesting. Of course, today is the immediate challenge. But, tomorrow is for the plans, for the dreams, and for the reaching up.

It has been that way ever since as a small boy I began to wonder what life was all about. And if again I were granted the chance of reliving my life, not a solitary thing would be changed - nothing added, nothing subtracted.

It has been, and it is, an exciting, lifting, exhilarating life, both hard and good, dismaying sometimes, oftener otherwise. I have been singularly blessed to work in a profession I love, in my home city which I worship, and at the side of the only girl I have ever known - and whom I adore today even more than when forty years ago, as this book relates, I first looked into her brown eyes.

Struggle is good for the soul. I have had my full share of it. It is shaping, building, strengthening, even when, at times, it seems almost intolerable. I have had no time for worry, and even less for self-pity. Nothing more sharply or more deeply cuts into the ability to meet today and tomorrow - and their problems - than to worry or feel regret.

My heart has always gone out to the children of the rich. I feel for them. Little of my sympathy has been reserved for the children of the poor. I am one of them. I am proud so to be regarded.

The sheltered child who has much is denied the sharp contrasts which give life its true meaning. The appreciation of life comes only from living it - being a part of its struggle, its sacrifice, its tragedy, its self-denial, its heartache, its making nothing to be something - even from feeling hunger, desolation, misery. The child psychologist may squirm at this. Nevertheless I believe that a good measure of these experiences is more often good than bad for a child. For these are inescapably the ingredients of character, of personality, of compassion, of sympathy, of understanding - the contrasts without which a child's growth is not complete, or full, or with perspective.

I like living, for example, in the north country of changing seasons. I like the chilling cold of winter and the almost intolerable heat of summer - the swift transition from color to the attractive grays and blacks of fall, and winter's imminence - the contrasts which make appreciation deep and vivid. I would not wish the monotony of a steady, unchanging climate.

Because as a boy I wore patches on the seat of my britches and shoes whose soles were stuffed with cardboard as I walked through winter's snow, I appreciate good clothes the more as a man. Because as a boy I ate stale bread larded and salted to give it a flavor it did not have, I appreciate food the more.

My heart beats with those who today are suffering those deprivations, yet I do not feel truly sorry for them - except when health is actually endangered and souls are permanently damaged.

Within those limits deprivations will be good for them. They will be better men and women for it. When these things are experienced throughout the making years - the shaping and testing years - the years that children of moderate and poor circumstances will know best and remember longest - they are truly the good years.

It is to these years - to those who have seen them - to those who all over America and the world are now seeing them and will be lifted and strengthened by them - that this book, The Years Were Good, is put between these covers.

-- L. B. S.