Lee attended DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx. In his youth, Lee enjoyed writing and entertained dreams of writing the "Great American Novel" one day. He said that in his youth he worked such part-time jobs as writing obituaries for a news service and press releases for the National Tuberculosis Center; delivering sandwiches for the Jack May pharmacy to offices in Rockefeller Center; working as an office boy for a trouser manufacturer; ushering at the Rivoli Theater on Broadway; and selling subscriptions to the New York Herald Tribune newspaper. At fifteen, Lee entered a high school essay competition sponsored by the New York Herald Tribune, called "The Biggest News of the Week Contest. " Lee claims to have won the prize for three straight weeks, goading the newspaper to write him and ask him to let someone else win. The paper suggested he look into writing professionally, which Lee claims "probably changed my life. " He graduated from high school early, aged 16½ in 1939, and joined the WPA Federal Theatre Project.