MAIN LINE WASP: The Education of Thacher Longstreth by W. Thacher with Dan Rottenberg Longstreth
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MAIN LINE WASP: The Education of Thacher Longstreth

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Lively, immensely agreeable reminiscences from a resilient white Anglo-Saxon Protestant who deeply appreciates the value of his varied experiences--and roots. The eighth generation in a line of Philadelphia Quakers--whose ancestors can be traced to a Yorkshire town called Longstrathdale during the reign of King Alfred the Great--Longstreth was born in Haverford, Penn., on the main railroad line to the City of Brotherly Love, just over 69 years ago. Wall Street's 1929 crash brought his silverspoon boyhood to an abrupt halt, but he persevered and won a scholarship to Princeton. The tall (6'6""), athletic author was a big man on campus, playing varsity football, earning an honors degree in Classics, and acquiring a lifelong taste for politics. Having married his high-school sweetheart four days after graduation in 1940, Longstreth marked time at an insurance company until he wangled a Navy commission (despite eyesight so poor the Army had classified him 4-F). Once back from WW II, which took him to a number of combat zones in the Pacific theater, the author became Life magazine's top space salesman. Reluctant to accept corporate promotions that would have taken his family out of the Philadelphia area, he moved on to become a partner in an advertising agency and, eventually, president of the Chamber of Commerce. Twice defeated as a Republican mayoral candidate (by Richardson Dilworth in 1955 and Frank Rizzo in 1971), Longstreth now holds an at-large seat on the City Council. In addition to elder statesman status, he has achieved hometown celebrity, appearing in local ads that provide him funds for charitable causes. And while the author never gained high office or national renown in the course of his checkered career, he has had a wealth of illuminating contacts with public figures--Jimmy Hoffa, Richard Nixon, William Proxmire, Harold Stassen, et al. He also forced enduring friendships as well as strong community ties while ""unlearning the cozy assumptions"" of establishment forebears and making his own way in a brave new world where genealogy has long since ceased to be a passport to either power or prestige. An engaging, anecdotal memoir that, among other virtues, serves as a reminder that Horatio Alger heroes need not come from classically disadvantaged backgrounds.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1989
Publisher: Norton