The Charlotte News
Thursday, December 26, 1940
Site Ed. Note: "The Okies" presents the problem of the disappearance of the small family farm as equating to the erosion of the foundation of democracy. Given the acceleration of both phenomena since the 1970's, there does indeed appear to be a non-anomalous correlation in Cash's point; add to it the concomitant growth of agribusiness and increasingly unregulated syndicalism generally since World War II--(whatever happened to vigorous and consistent attacks on monopolies via the Sherman Antitrust Act, 15 USC 1, et seq. , and Robinson-Patman, 15 USC 13?)--the point becomes confirmed.
The question, of course, as Cash himself expressed frustration in answering, is what to do about the disappearance of the small farm. The tax code and various government farm subsidy programs have of course been the answers with mixed results since the Great Depression began this erosion. Increased education in agricultural techniques has also been designed to curb the loss.
But alas, the bottom line is the bottom line and increased costs of doing business in modern farming, (average tractors cost at least $15,000 these days--unless you buy one of the Japanese reconditioned ones), have eroded already scant profits to the point where the newer generation of would-be farmers wind up getting a business degree and heading to the city, leaving the farms to be bought up by cooperatives and labored by migrants, both in California and the South.
Well, there remains no magic solution. But the fact appears to subside, as the small farm disappears, so, too does our democracy... Perhaps, therein, also, lies the answer. If we as a society were to put as much effort into preserving the small family farm as we have just in the past year removing a dictator in a third world country--waging war against the disappearance of the farm--what great and productive things might occur.
Ah well, one can always rent out space along the interstate for Burma Shave ads--where still permitted, at least.
On December 31, there appeared a disgruntled letter to the editor regarding "Only Kerosene" which we set down below for passing interest, especially given Cash's consistent attention to the matter of "these rolling bombs".
We have just read your editorial entitled 'Only Kerosene' which appeared in your issue of December 26. Although The Charlotte News in the past has not been friendly toward the trucking industry, I feel quite sure that there has not been and there is not now any desire on your part to discolor facts nor mislead your readers. Of course, editorials are not news items, in fact they are far more than 'news'; because editorials create sentiment, good or bad.
In justice and in fairness to the motor carriers and without much stretch of the imagination, it might be said that they are now and have only been contending for their rightful place under the transportation sun; a place made by and continued by the insistent demand for the fast, flexible type of movements which only trucks can render. I do not believe the trucking industry has ever asked for any special privilege or dispensation. Yet it alone 'pays its way' as will be noted from a careful reading of the enclosed booklet entitled, 'Whatta Yuh Mean, Subsidy? They Pay More Than Their Share.'
Any reader of the editorial in question could not fail to get the impression that you are directing your attack on the typical over-the-road transport truck--the truck that has brought and kept down freight rates on gasoline and all other commodities. But why not give the public the actual facts. The truck in question was (according to my information) owned and operated by L. J. Queen of Gastonia, N.C. He was driving the truck at the time of the unfortunate accident which resulted in his death and that of his son as well. It was a 1933 model Chevrolet pick-up truck with panel type body and an improvised tank of 250 gallons. Mr. Queen was what is commonly known as a 'kerosene peddler' making city deliveries in small quantities. I know of no way for poor people to obtain their kerosene needs if not by truck delivery, unless they walk to and from the stores. Certainly railroads cannot make such deliveries, and the horse-and-buggy days are gone.
Now as to the dangers of the highways (which is beside the question as far as the present incident is concerned), if you will be fair-minded enough you will find that of all drivers on the highways, the truck and bus operators by long odds have the best records. Take the trucks and buses off the highways; return to the monopolistic transportation era of 10 to 15 years ago; see freight and passenger rates skyrocket and living costs advance; then, if you really and truly have the public interest at heart your paper will be among the first to yell to high heaven for relief.
The motor transportation industry is only asking that you and all editors 'shoot straight from the shoulder.' "
--No, it wasn't signed James Riddle Hoffa.
Some photos of the old behemoths may be found here, perhaps conveying in less than a thousand words why they were so dangerous in their 1920's-40's vintage incarnations. And, of course, we shouldn’t let the mood pass without a reminder that the need for some to earn a living, even the poor and downtrodden, does not thereby permit endangering everyone else--in any industry, including that of nuclear fission, today's rolling bomb...
The Genius of Christmas Overcomes a Sodden Setting
As days go it was miserable from an atmospheric standpoint. The air was soaked with moisture as the ground underfoot was sloshy with it. Never a ray of sunshine suggested that behind the great wall of insulation the great ball was flaming as usual, and would in time manage to filter through its light and warmth.
But, ah, masters, as days go there is not such another day as Christmas. And the greatness of it was never more clearly manifested that on yesterday, for not even soggy clouds and red mud and a pervasive cheerlessness could overcome the happiness that Christmas engenders in all people.
In the households of this city and this land yesterday there was love and good fellowship and light-heartedness. And so the day came and went to the expression of these emotions, and joy again reigned over the lords of darkness and dismay.
But Gasoline May Have Made a Different Tale
Fortunately the truck contained kerosene instead of gasoline, and so no members of the train crew or passengers were injured.
The truck was struck by a passenger train at a crossing in Gastonia this week. In it were two men. They were thrown clear and killed. The truck itself took fire and burned. And oil from the tank poured over the engine and two coaches, setting them on fire. The fire department was called out and extinguished the flames. But, says the story from Gastonia,
Had the tank contained gasoline instead of kerosene, it was stated, members of the train crew would probably have been injured.
As it was, considerable property damage was inflicted. Not even the railroad train, which dwarfs the largest oil truck, is immune from the peril of the rolling bomb, you see. And if that is the case, how much greater is the danger to people proceeding innocently along highways in frail vehicles like the automobile.
It has happened before that people have been trapped and burned to death in collisions with gas trucks. It will happen again and again until we face the fact that the free use of the highways does not include the right to menace the lives of all of us.
Growth of Large Unit Farms Is Grave Problem
Professor Paul S. Taylor of the University of California, as quoted in the Washington Merry-Go-Round yesterday, is concerned with a problem in the nation with which The News has dealt a number of times already, with respect to the South alone. That is, the appalling growth of farm tenantry and the progressive rise of an army of unemployed and pauperized farm labor--the so-called Okies.
Professor Taylor finds three trends: (1) the rapid enlargement of farms under a single operator; (2) the growth of absentee ownership to the point that regular farm management services are being set up; and (3) the rapid increase in mechanization.
In the Middle West he found farms up to 9,000 acres in size and, at the same time, 25,000 tenants unable to secure farms. The same conditions exist in the deep South and are spreading to other parts of the area.
This condition has been growing up for years. But the wholesale foreclosure of farm mortgages in depression years greatly accelerated it, for often a mortgage company or bank would find itself with half a county or half a dozen counties on its hands, and naturally turned to trying to operate the land as profitably as possible. It has also drawn impetus from the fears of business men who distrust the future and somehow imagine that the ownership of farm lands will be safe if the worst happens and revolution arrives--but there is nothing in the history of revolution to bear out such an idea.
But whatever the explanation, the process is undoubtedly one of the most ominous phenomena in the American scene. The whole story of democracy shows conclusively that its backbone is always the yeoman farmer--the wide distribution of the land among small holders to work it themselves. This class when large and reasonably prosperous serves as ballast for the undisciplined tendencies of the proletariat in cities and prevents wild and obviously foolish experiments--without freezing society against necessary changes. And they are the great guardians of democratic liberties and of the basic values in democratic society.
Democracy flourished in Athens precisely when such small farmers were in flower, decayed as they decayed. In Rome the beginning of decay was coincidental with the gathering of the land in the great absentee-owner estates. Democracy in France became possible only when the land was divided among the peasants and the true story of the decay of that country is the story of the expropriation of those peasants from many causes, the rise of great landholders like Pierre Laval, and the growth of a vast hungry and irresponsible proletariat, a great deal like that which flourished in Paris before the Revolution.
That is not to suppose that tenantry can be done away with altogether or that the land can or should be divided into uniform small holdings. Many people are so constituted that they either don't want the responsibility of running a farm or can't discharge it if they do. But the present condition far outruns the limits of that class and continually grows worse.
What can be done about it we don't pretend to say. Maybe nothing effective under our economic, social, and political system. But to say it is virtually to confess to defeatism about the ultimate fate of democracy.
A Real Gift*
Upwards of $2,000 Given News In the Stocking Fund
Through the kindness of a number of people and the great kindness of others, this year's Empty Stocking Fund has set a new high. That is meet, because whether you like it or not the place is growing, and with it the need for benevolence.
Something more than $2,000, at last report, The News was given this year to be distributed among the firemen, the Salvation Army and the Family Service Association. It is a touching Christmas kindness these three agencies undertake, to which The News esteems it a privilege to have a part. And for the generosity of those who supported it so handsomely we return thanks in the name of the hundreds of children whose Christmas they have provided.
A Gentleman of English Blood and American Upbringing
James H. Northey never held office of any kind or, so far as we know, a public position. Even so, he was almost a part of the civic organization of the place, and when a few years ago he retired as Carolinas district manager of the telephone company, the event was more than business or purely personal interest.
And yet, come to analyze it, this popular affection and esteem for Mr. Northey was bred of long acquaintance and trust rather than by any cultivation on his part. By nature he was friendly and neighborly. But he was reserved, and liked nothing so much as the peace of his own fireside or the unfolding beauty of his own flower garden.
That may have been the strong English strain in him. In any case, it blended agreeably with his American upbringing and combined to make him as well thought of as any man of his long time.
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