In the early 1960s, I arrived in Los Angeles to begin a new position as an Assistant Professor of American Social and Intellectual History at the University of Southern California (UCLA). Los Angeles was, at that time, a relatively small, insular, sprawling, ethnic amalgam—in the humorous phrase popular among the natives, “60s suburbs in search of a city.” There was no centrality in the traditional sense but rather two distinct populous areas 15 miles apart: the Hispanic community downtown; and Beverly Hills to the northwest, the host of the radio and film industries, as well as Westwood where UCLA is located.

There were no parking meters on the major streets. Between then and now, as history often accelerates in this dynamic of all cultures, Los Angeles is now second only to New York City as the most powerful cultural metropolis in the nation. Unless you want to chance it, there are now parking meters everywhere that demand tribute. Back then, though, is when I first met Larry Friedman.

I was 30 and Larry was 19. Despite his youth, Larry seemed at ease with older people. He lived with a younger sister and whirlwind parents who were at the center of the inland’s small but highly vibrant radical community. I say inland because there was another compact radical enclave of retirees from New York’s garment industry way to the west on the beach coast in Venice. No freeway cut across LA at that time, which meant that it took much maneuvering at slow speeds to get there. Several decades later, then-Republican Governor Ronald Reagan, no friend of environmentalism, pushed through a bill bulldozing a six-lane-plus highway path out to the Pacific Ocean.

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The inland radicals consisted of old-Left liberals and socialists and a tiny contingent of members of the Communist Party. The ranks of the comrades had been increased in the late 1940s and 50s by the repression in play during the intensifying Cold War spearheaded by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and Senator Joseph McCarthy’s nefarious actions. Many on the Left had swiftly escaped from the East to continue their organizing efforts in California’s automobile factories and other places.

Los Angeles is essentially a social culture, and Larry’s parents frequently held brunches on Sundays for the radical community in their ranch-style house. Soon after arriving, word spread of the young socialist couple, and we were included among the flowing garrulous radicals. I remember Larry only as a teenager, but I do recall that he mingled easily with the group. Then our paths slightly passed again a decade later when I was a Visiting Professor in the UCLA History Department.

It wasn’t until further down the road that I read his several psychohistorical works and came to recognize the width and depth of his research and thoughts. By then I had moved on to Boston University as a joint Professor of History and African American Studies. So it wasn’t until a humorous incident occurred that we came together in the academic universe of Boston’s institutions.

Larry was then retired from Indiana University, a divorced, single man intent on impressing a possible future date. Mutual friends had brought them together. He launched into bouncing off the names of powerful well-known political and academic figures whom he knew and had also worked with in the Democratic Party at various elections. She herself had a radical background and had been married to a highly popular Marxist political science professor at Boston University. He was one of my closest friends and had died suddenly of a heart attack. She put up with this onslaught, then decided it was time to one-up him. “Oh,” she said pointedly, “and do you know Joe Boskin?!” Larry bolted up. “You know Joe Boskin?!”

Here we are at this juncture. It was an instant connection, or rather, reconnection, as Larry and I became close friends and luncheon colleagues and pursued major league baseball. His athleticism was as a baseball pitcher in school, and he became a devotee of the Cleveland Indians, who won the World Series in 1948. He’s been praying for a repeat ever since. Growing up in Coney Island,

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mine centered on the old Brooklyn Dodgers of Ebbets Field renown. We also focused heavily on the political scene as well as history, both as a profession and our current research.

This is where we dovetailed, not in strict mutual interplay but with his notion of doing an interdisciplinary social and intellectual history pretty far removed from previous endeavors. He was fascinated by a topic that required considerable intellectual guts and corresponding imagination. Several of his close friends advised against it, one of whom astonishingly exclaimed that there was no history there, and in any case, it had no relevance. I was ecstatic and signed on as a special guide for the duration.

Its overall scope is an in-depth narrative of the pacifist One World Movement that came into existence in the previous century, taking on a utopian form and fervent adherents as they responded to the intense force of nationalism that produced several destructive Global Wars. Plus the breakthrough technological development of nuclear weaponry in 1945 that now threatens the demise of humans and other species. His title derives from the influential thoughts of Mahatma Gandhi: A World Without Nations.

It is a seminal work that will be the definitive history of this movement for decades to come. At this point, only a set-back in time has marred its publication. Larry took ill and is still recuperating from its effects. He decided to move across the country to be with his daughter and family, especially his two grandsons, to surround himself with familial warmth and continue his writing. I remain one of his few guides and bug him constantly about completing this particular episode in history. He patiently puts up with me in the same way he anticipates a World Series repeat by the Cleveland Indians, who are now called the Guardians. Marvelously, he retains his optimism.

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Authors:

Joseph Boskin

Joseph Boskin, PhD, is Professor Emeritus of American Social History and American Studies at Boston University. He is the author of many articles, book chapters, encyclopedia entries, review essays, and several books, including Into Slavery: Racial Decisions in the Virginia Colony (1977), Sambo: The Rise & Demise of an American Jester (1986), and Rebellious Laughter: People’s Humor in American Culture (1997). He can be contacted at .

How to Cite This:

Boskin, J. (2023). A reconnection with Larry Friedman. In M. I. West, P. H. Elovitz, & N. D’Andria (Eds.), Lawrence Jacob Friedman Festschrift. Clio’s Psyche, 29(3), 318-320.

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