The Charlotte News

Thursday, May 22, 1941



Site Ed. Note: In 1939, Franklin Roosevelt declared that Thanksgiving, celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November since Abraham Lincoln first declared it a national holiday in 1863, would be moved up to the third Thursday in November. Many of his political opponents took then to calling the holiday "Franksgiving" and continued to celebrate the feast instead on the traditional fourth Thursday. In May, 1941, he moved the holiday back to the fourth Thursday.

There is an eery significance in this change. Had President Roosevelt not retreated on the movement of the holiday, we would not view November 22, 1963 as black Friday. For the third Thursday that year was the day before and President Kennedy would therefore have traveled to Texas either the week before or the week after--or perhaps at that time, not at all. Undoubtedly, the fourth Thursday that year was the saddest fourth Thursday for the country in its history.

In the first year of a national Thanksgiving, the holiday followed by a week the Gettysburg Address, which had been delivered on Thursday, November 19.

This is another true story: There is a fellow we know who, having grown up in the sixties on a street called Avalon just a stone's throw from its intersection with Robin Hood Road bordering the former estate of Bowman Gray, had something happen to him once. And ten years later, he was reading the San Francisco Chronicle one morning from his window overlooking San Francisco Bay. (Life is unfair.) He saw a story about a book entitled, A Question of Character: A Life of John F. Kennedy, by some hack professor from Wisconsin who protested mightily in the foreword to have admired President Kennedy--until he looked closely at his character. (Someone should have told the professor at the start that all men have clay feet of one variety or another, some of softer clay than others, but we digress.) Well, the man of our story read in the Chronicle that the book contained a few typographical errors of its own--prime among which was that the professor apparently thought--we joke not--that one José Jimenez, the famed astronaut of the early sixties who often made appearances on Ed Sullivan, usually impersonating Bill Dana, a comedian, had been none other than Fulgencio Batista's stand-in as the true President of Cuba prior to the revolution of New Year's Day, 1959.

Well, the fellow of our story, finding this affair to be the most humorous sounding part of what sounded to be an affair-filled book, made a point a few nights later of going to a book store called Pegasus Books, on an avenue called Solano, and seeking out the book to see if the reporter for the Chronicle might have either engaged in hyperbole or just got an early version with an erratum. But, upon opening the book there in the bookshop, the man discovered to his almost uncontrollable laughter, that indeed, there 'twas for all to see--"President José Jimenez" of Cuba, until his overthrow in 1959, that is.

And the man thought about that awhile. He never knew that.

Then, this happened to the man two years later, 2,765 miles away, as he was looking for something to read on his scheduled flight next day from Charlotte, North Carolina back to San Francisco. He walked into a bookstore called Rainbow Books, on a street called Summit. He espied therein a table full of used library books, must have been a hundred or so, all the same book, the same A Question of Character: A Life of John F. Kennedy. Having used occasionally the incident a couple of years earlier as example upon which to question the bona fides of those who, to set themselves up as betters, question a person's character, he decided it might be fun, after all, to have a copy of this book, to further prove his point as the occasion might arise. So he picked up at random one of these many copies of the book, examined the copy to insure that it contained the reference to President Jimenez of Cuba. Seeing that it did, as all the hardcover versions apparently did, and that the price was right--3 smackers--he tucked the hard cover under his arm, duly purchased it and took it with him, departing the store with a broad smile.

Next day, while packing his bags to proceed to the airport, the man reached for the library-cellophane covered book which was turned back-side up. And then he saw the most curious thing--almost worthy of Poe. The book had on its back plate a tag under the cellophane. Not just any tag. The tag indicated that the book had ventured all the way across country in crates, trucks and boxcars, from the library system of the county wherein the fellow lived in California. "Isn't that something?" thought our friend. From three thousand miles away, this book did course to this little bookstore in North Carolina, all the way from the county in California wherein he did live, all to find its way serendipitously into his hands as a used book. But that is not where the story ends.

To his shock, the man looked more closely, having thought he saw, yes he saw, that not only did the book venture from his county of residence. It was not only that. There was something else. It was from the branch library in the little town of 5,000 persons wherein he lived, a library, we kid not, right around the corner from his house, in fact--a library located on a road, a road named Arlington.

And that's a true story about a used library book a friend of ours once bought in North Carolina. (We've seen the book to prove it and verified its purchase with the North Carolina bookstore. So doubt not.)

Well, what does the story mean?

We don't know. But we do know this. There is a book which says, "Judge ye not that ye be not judged." We counsel that it is a pretty good thing by which to live. We may on occasion judge, justly or unjustly, acts as right or wrong, but we do not judge people--ever. And we think that's what that book means.

We were reminded of this little parable when recently we heard yet another story, far less salutary, coinciding almost with what would have been our 35th President's 86th birthday, regarding a certain woman, now a grandmother, who had been an intern for that President 40 years earlier. And we heard about the "historian"--alas and alack, another hack who can't write and so he must have some hook, after all, to sell a book--who had fished out this woman's story from oblivion after 40 years, supposedly a story about a quiet person who sought no publicity. Yet, when the thing came to light with her name maintained anonymously, the quiet woman had no qualms about going before microphones and proclaiming her story, name included, to the world--days before publication of this book, close to the 35th President's 86th birthday.

And we thought about that awhile. We didn't know that.

The yellow press, of course, has had its day on this story, yet again--because, after all, inquiring minds want to know. Especially so when the subject is not around to contradict the story and when the story helps yellow press publishers sell plenty of yellow books to those inquiring minds, books which will no doubt one day wind up on a table somewhere as cellophane-bound former library books when the inquiring public gets tired of it and moves on to more au courant books of the same variety. And at that point, we might pick up a copy of this book and see in it what we didn't know before.

And, of course, by contrast, every February, this same yellow press heaps lavish praise on another former President at his birthday--for having exemplified high moral character. That President, after all, as we are constantly informed by this adoring yellow press, never even took his tie off in the Oval Office. (Someone ought remind them, of course, that few men in their seventies do take their tie off in the office.) And yet, the latter President, while he was a Hollywooder, sometime back in the latter forties, left his first wife high and dry and took a second. The former President, who consistently has his moral character questioned by hack yellow press "journalists" needing a hook to sell books, never did that.

And that's another true story about which we thought some.

Kept Promise

At Long Last, Mr. Roosevelt Lives Up To An Old One

In the rush of news about the war it went nearly unnoticed, but Mr. Roosevelt has finally made good on that old promise--remember it?--candidly to admit the failure of experiments. That is, he has made good by confessing the failure of just one experiment.

There was never much real excuse for uproar about that setting back of Thanksgiving by a week, to be sure.

Nevertheless, there was no real reason to change it, either. The excuse given by the President, that the merchants wanted a longer holiday season and that it would increase business and prosperity, always seemed hollow and more than a little puerile.

On the other hand, it should have been plain that the change would be pounced on by the Roosevelt-haters as another proof of the President's liking for change just for change's sake, one more reason for disunity.

Still, the thing did perform the feat of making the President confess to a mistake for once. And if it would set a precedent for more of that spirit, well, this particular experiment would have been quite justified.

Gas Attack

England Might Do Well To Take Initiative In This

One commentator with a great deal of first-hand knowledge of this war raises the question as to whether the Germans will eventually resort to gas in the effort to beat England, and afterward the United States, to her knees. And answers it in the affirmative: she will.

The most likely scheme will be the strewing of arsenic powder over England and then waiting for the first rain in that rainy land, or even the constant heavy mists, to do the work of killing off the population by wholesale. Arsenic forms a deadly gas when it comes into contact with moisture, and what is worse gas masks are very little avail against it.

There is nothing improbable about this horrifying story. The 70 million malignant Huns have stolen the whole liquid wealth of France, are now engaged in stealing all its movable wealth, have corrupted the French mind into moronic acceptance, have told the French that if ever Britain and the United States forced them out of France they will destroy it systematically as they go, have murdered two million Poles, emasculated one million more, have literally enslaved the rest, etc., etc., etc.

But a question must inevitably arise: with this prospect before them, why must the British wait to be struck first?

Bum Steer

It All Worked Out Fine Until the Last Chapter

The romance of Mr. Earl Lee Archer, sophomore at the University of Arkansas, seems to be definitely over. And it appears that he has a legitimate complaint against the movies for having misled him. After all, it is asking too much of a sophomore to ask them not take the movies seriously.

You've seen those pictures. Our hero gets a glimpse of a cutie in a train or as she leaves a ship, wisecracks at her in a ticketbooth or in Central Park, and therefore goes pursuing her with energy and devotion, always getting slapped every time he catches up with her, but in the end getting the gal to the altar.

That was what Mr. Archer took seriously. Leaving the Kentucky Derby on his motorcycle he caught sight of Miss Helen Linger, of Kansas City, as she was also leaving Churchill Downs in her papa's big automobile. And after her in the best movie style dashed Mr. Archer, all the way to K. C., where the cops locked him up for annoying the girl. Then the girl's papa came along and got him sprung on the stern terms of going on home.

All this was, of course, strictly according to Hoyle, and Mr. Archer was justified in hoping for a good end to romance still. But now it develops that Linger is going to marry a guy named John West.

Even so, Mr. Archer might still cling to hope, since it is established law of the movies that our hero always gets the gal just as she is about to marry the other guy. But here's the hitch. In the movies that other guy is always "a laggard in love and a dastard in war"--whom our hero can dispose of by one good sock in the jaw.

But alas and alack, in real life that fellow West is former boxing champion of Stanford University. It looks like the movies sold Mr. Archer down the river.

Our Quandary

Martinique Suddenly Brings War to Our Front Door

Yesterday the French (Nazi) airplane carrier and cruiser which have been lying at Martinique since the fall of France last June steamed out to sea on what was called a "test run." The action followed the appearance on the island of many German "technicians"--whose appearance anywhere has so far been the invariable forerunner of a new Nazi grab.

Perhaps the ships were simply being tuned up for it--into the Atlantic, to join the French (Nazi) navy at Dakar or in the Mediterranean and, or, to begin preying on shipping from the United States to Britain.

But perhaps it was in preparation for beginning to operate against British shipping from Martinique as a base--a bold effort to challenge and break the Monroe Doctrine in a stroke. Or a testing out of the possible reaction of the United States. And perhaps it was intended as a threat against any attempt by the United States to interfere and seize the island.

This is borne out by the report of the Nazi-controlled newspaper in Paris, Le Matin, that Vichy had issued orders to Martinique to prepare for attack from the United States and to resist to the bitter end.

In any case, the peril for the United States is definite and great. At Martinique are something over a hundred American-made planes already--halted there on their way to aid France last Summer because she had already fallen. Quite conceivably, the carrier operating at night in conjunction with these planes could cripple the Panama Canal in a sudden below, cut off the fleet in the Pacific. And the presence of a Nazi base in the heart of the Antilles and off the coast of South America is intolerable from many other viewpoints.

But Washington is plainly hesitant. Why? The answer seems to be that we are in a most dangerous pickle.

To treat Martinique apart from the West Coast of Africa, the Azores, the Canaries, and the Cape Verdes would not be very realistic, for it is just one stepping stone in a long series. To seize it would make us immediately more secure, certainly. But if that precipitated hostilities, it would bring on the problem of seizing these other positions before Hitler got them.

The navy is rumored to favor occupying them all at once--and now.

But the isolationists will not hear of that, though some of them were willing to take Martinique, regardless of the risks. And in the Middle West the isolationists still hold sway over public opinion. The President naturally hesitates to act in defiance of the wishes of so great a segment of the people, located strategically in the heart of the nation. If war came and the isolationists kept on whipping up dissension in the Middle West, the consequences might be catastrophic.

Moreover, there is very grave doubt that the United States has the forces successfully to occupy all these positions. The number of trained Marines is only about 30,000. The regular army is scattered widely and is needed desperately to train the new army. To send the latter against the Nazis at the present, even if they were adequately trained, would be useless murder. And there is no sufficient air force to cope with the air attack the Nazis would surely launch.

There is the navy, of course. And the British have many soldiers, equipped and trained. Together, the landing might be made in these positions. But the British hesitate to weaken the defenses of the United Kingdom, with reason.

And then there is Japan, which both the United States and Britain must bear in mind.

It is an ugly quandary. But it is clear that, unless the course of events changes quickly, a minimum decision with regard to Martinique at least cannot wait long.

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