Biography in Decades: 1930s

twenties photos
Youthful Malcolm serving as an acolyte at  St. John’s Cathedral, Denver Malcolm with a young friend in Rockdale, Texas

Beatrice and Melville were divorced early in this decade, and Malcolm’s mother retained custody of him. Mother and son moved to Colorado Springs, CO. The Great Depression struck the nation mercilessly, affecting the well being of millions of people. Beatrice went to work as a single mom. As a student in Middle School Malcolm discovered his vocation as a writer when he worked on the student newspaper. He wrote many articles including interviews with visiting authors and artists renowned in their fields including Carl Van Doren, John Gunther, Harold Laski, H.V. Kaltenborn, Lotte Lehmann and Kirsten Flagstad. When harpsichordist Wanda Landowska received the young interviewer in her suite, she served him tea and cake. On Saturdays Malcolm listened to radio broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera. As a young New Yorker isolated in a Western town, he impatiently awaited the arrival of the Sunday New York Times. Stiff blizzards could delay its arrival for several days.
      Beatrice’s work required her to move to Denver, where Malcolm attended high school. He wrote the editorials for the school newspaper, served as Denver Post correspondent for his high school, poured out poems and book reviews for the little-noticed school literary magazine, and won first prize in a distinguished essay contest—which, he feels, launched him on a writing career. Malcolm had always showed a spiritual and religious bent; now he became more and more active in church events surrounding St. John’s Cathedral in Denver. The Rev. Paul Roberts was its dean. He became the religious mentor in Malcolm’s life that led, years later, to Malcolm’s becoming an Episcopal priest.
      But first Malcolm became—or thought he became—an atheist in college. He was rebelling, seeking fresh ground, and throwing out nearly everything that had marked his life. He became seriously ill with bronchiectasis and doctors advised he needed a radical change of climate. This led him to attend the University of Arizona in Tucson.