Studs Terkel was born to Samuel Terkel, a Russian Jewish tailor and his wife, Anna Finkelin in New York City. At the age of eight he moved with his family to Chicago, Illinois, where he spent most of his life. He had two brothers, Ben and Meyer.

From 1926 to 1936, his parents ran a rooming house that also served as a meeting place for people from all walks of life. Terkel credited his understanding of humanity and social interaction to the tenants and visitors who gathered in the lobby there, and the people who congregated in nearby Bughouse Square. In 1939, he married Ida Goldberg, and the couple had one son. Although he received his law degree from the University of Chicago Law School in 1934, he decided instead of practicing law, he wanted to be a concierge at a hotel, and he soon joined a theater group.

Haha! I joined a band of comics!

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