An Evening with Pete Hamill
Thursday 20 September, 2012
6:30 - 9pm, $15
CUNY Graduate School of Journalism
219 West 40 Street, Room 308
Pete Hamill was born in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn, N.Y., the first of seven children of Catholic immigrants from Belfast, Northern Ireland. His father, Billy Hamill, emigrated in 1924 and lost a leg from an injury in a semi-pro soccer game three years later in Brooklyn. Pete's mother, Anne Devlin, arrived in New York in 1929, on the day the stock market crashed. Billy and Anne met in 1933 and married in 1934. He worked as a clerk in a grocery chain, in a war plant after 1941, and after the war in a factory that made lighting fixtures. Anne, who graduated from high school in Belfast, worked in Wanamaker's department store, as a domestic (before she married), a part-time nurses' aide, and as a casher in the RKO movie chain.
Their son Peter was educated at Holy Name of Jesus grammar school and had his first newspaper job when he was 11, delivering the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. In 1949, he won a scholarship to the prestigious Regis High School in Manhattan. But he dropped out near the end of his second year and went to work as an apprentice sheet metal worker in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. (In June 2010, Regis awarded him an honorary diploma, 59 years after he dropped out).
He was then absorbed in trying to become a comic book artist, and while working in the Navy Yard, attended night classes at the School of Visual Arts (then called the Cartoonists and Illustrators School). In the fall of 1952, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy. When he was discharged a few years later, he was entitled to the G.I. Bill of Rights. In the fall of 1956, he left for a year as a student at Mexico City College, trying to become a painter. At the end of that Mexican year, he had decided to become a writer.