I love books set in the LA of the 1920s and 1930s. I love hobo tales. Charles Willeford’s I Was Looking For a Street falls right into that wheelhouse. That said, I liked I Was Looking for A Street well enough, but I didn’t love it. It’s a memoir of Willeford’s childhood years. Orphaned by parents who succumbed to TB, Willeford was raised by his grandmother. Because times were tight, he spent much time at a school for boys when she couldn’t afford to keep him. His reminiscence of weekend visits with his grandmother are particularly sweet and touching. Though he was close to his grandma, the Depression took a toll on the family and Willeford, at the ripe old age of 14, lit out to the rail yards to tramp across the Southwest to make his own way.
Street contains a hint of Edward Bunker’s Little Boy Blue. There’s a hint of Jack Black’s You Can’t Win. Willeford’s writing is spare. He doesn’t dress up the prose. But, alas, there’s something light and surface level to the tale. The book, which clocks in at 150 pages, feels like an anecdote rather than a fully realized memoir. There are potent incidents, yet they don’t build in a wholly satisfying fashion. I Was Looking For A Street is an easy read and an enjoyable read, but it left me wanting more.