The Charlotte News

Thursday, December 14, 1939


Site Ed. Note: As to "Bad Start", we've an irresistible impulse to add "Bad Start: Redux", which begins thusly--

"Shall we get 'em?"

"Yeah, yeah, let's get 'em. Threaten them some." [Raucous Laughter]

"They have good legal counsel." [More laughter]

"All over the country." [Pounding on the table laughter]

"Yeah. Everywhere."

"Where's that?"


"Well, quite frankly I don't know what you're talking about. You seem off the cliff to me."

"Have you studied the issue?"

"Well, no."

"Good. What's your opinion on it then?"

"Oh, I don't really know. But it's all the same on every issue, you know?"

"Well we won't prosecute the farmers." [Belly-aching Laughter]

"Say, have you got any more of that milk to drink? That stuff's good."

"I don't know. What time is it?"

"Well, I don't know either. Where are the crises?"

"I don't know. What are they?"


"Let's find them. How many?"

"Seven. Or, make that eight."

"Where'd they go?"

"Yeah, Get 'em."

"Pass the milk."

"That's not so good, you know."

"I like it."

"Oh, I do, too. More of that, yeah."

"This next theme is relevant, but not really related."

"Oh, good. When?"

"How much is it?"

"As soon as we get done with this?"


"What time is it?"

Thoughts On Snow

By Heywood Broun

There are many things wrong with snow. It gets down the back of your neck and, besides, it's escape stuff. Probably no other substance in the world carries on such a double-barreled function of comforting and irritating with the self-same flakes. Every now and then some author goes away on the ice to ruminate and avoid the telephone and hit upon a great philosophy. But what happens is merely hibernation. The first person singular being suspended like a giant icicle through the proceedings. You cannot freeze an ego out of any narrative which is probably the reason why cold weather is so bad for columnists. Iceland, in all its long history, has never known a good newspaper columnist. Georgia has produced a whole parcel. And so when the swans of the sky begin to festoon my inclined head and typewriter with feathers, I practically give up and say to myself, "This will just be one to hold the franchise."


After all, even if you work your fingers to the bone during a blizzard, the whole thing is likely to turn out just another "Snow-Bound." It always discourages me when I cannot follow my copy clear through to its practically final rendezvous in the composing room.

Once I sent a newspaper essay by carrier pigeon and neither of us had any delay in the collaboration. As I remember, it was a piece written in favor of the five-day, 40-hour week and the bird gave me a dirty look as if to say that its own working standards were less equitable. At any rate, it finally made a forced landing in the Hudson just off Tarrytown, and so the whole experiment had to be set down as a failure.


A man is a fool, of course, if he remains unsatisfied when some kind neighbor offers too mush his copy out and take it to the telegraph office. But in such cases it is a pretty good idea to add at least two carbon copies of everything in the original message because the dogs sometimes become ravenous and will even eat up stuff on industrial unionism.

Moreover, hot or cold, I have one complaint against telegraph operators. Not for the world would I emphasize it too much, since these boys of the bulldog breed have frequently saved both my life and my reputation.

Indeed, it was under the golden dome of the morning World that one such episode occurred. I was reporting a fire in the city room just outside my office when I suddenly remembered a formal dinner party to which I had been bidden. Terry, with the aid of his faithful "Bug," was already sending a prodigious amount of copy to the outside world.


"Terry," I told him, "I'm late for dinner, but I think this lead will suffice. Of course, if Swope jumps, that ought to be mentioned in the fifth or sixth paragraph. But do it in your own way and you can sign my name to it."

And when I got the award that year Terry was just as proud and happy as if he had done the entire job himself.

But I started off to complain of the manner in which operators may mar your copy.

I remember now. They're against puns. Once I wired a story of the manner in which I threw a rock at a goat in a menagerie so that the animal scrambled to its feet. I inquired of my readers what popular song was brought to mind by the incident. The pun was ruined in transmission. It should have been "Mighty Yak Arose."

There's nothing like a blizzard, a goat and a telegraph operator to kill a newspaper story.

Site Ed. Note: When Jinn, the Eleks' Moe, gets here, don't talk back. For, as he will tell you, even the goat must get stoned.

Once upon a time, about ten years ago, we had a deadline to meet one Monday. So, being caught in a blizzard in the east, we were forced to fax our work to the other end, in the west, to which it was supposed to go for approval before final draft--though silly enow all those conditions were. Met our deadline fine. The other end, however, complained next day because, though the work itself was without deficit, the 80 pages we sent burned up their fax.

You can't please everyone all the time.

That was when we discovered that we were no more to them than a tenant on the farm, that being the one owned by Loosy.

We were stuck in a blizzard.

They wanted our copy for proof before submission by an early deadline, and without regard either to our life conditions or that of Nature.

We merely complied.

They should have placed a fan over their fax if they didn't want it burned up.

We couldn't see it from where we were, in the blizzard.

We weren't in a car crash, nor were we late.

But we nevertheless apparently burned up their fax.

We figure they must have either greased it too much, causing it to catch flame that way, from overly adroit faxing and waxing.

We considered, ourselves, living as we were, or thought it so to be, within a democracy, that we were, though receiving somatic experiential data communicative of their arrogation, nevertheless, within even the Romans' conception of adrogation, sui juris, that is to say, without potestas--though on Poe we thought we tested rather well anyway, and yet we shan't be overly testy as relating to such potestolates as those of whome we speak.

So, after their vociferous complaining, we then gave our little horse a shake, and took our cudgel elsewhere.

They didn't like that at the other end.

It burned their facts, or what little they had left after we took our leave.

Let Freedom Ring

Louis Graves, Chapel Hill Weekly

In a recent issue of the Caswell Messenger, published in Yanceyville, I read this advertisement:

"NOTICE--I forbid anyone to hire or harbor Herman Miles, colored, during the year 1939. A. P. Dabbs, Route 1, Yanceyville."

I had read such notices in papers published a hundred years ago in slavery days. But in this year of 1939--?

To satisfy my curiosity I wrote to a friend of mine in Yanceyville, who frequents the county offices and the law courts and the leading centers of gossip, and who knows about almost everything that goes on in Caswell County, and asked him what it meant. He replies that such advertisements are still employed to "put the fear of God into Negroes and ignorant white folks."

"Without taking the time and trouble to hunt through the revisal of North Carolina statutes," he writes, "I think I'm correct in telling you that the notice you quote is in accord with an archaic statute, yet in the books, although declared unconstitutional, maybe several times, as smacking of peonage or slavery and abridging the liberties of human beings.

"Many of our magazines still hold it is good law and zealously support its use in upholding the contentions of landlords who resent any dissatisfactions on the part of tenants to whom they advanced as much as 50 cents for rations in which to make a crop. The landlords will risk incurring the wrath of some good Christian Democratic freeholder by hiring his hand after he has warned us not to and has threatened to sick the law on us for violating the statutes. As long as folks don't know the statute is unconstitutional it can be made to serve its intended purpose. The Caswell legislator who would try to take that law off the books would lose many votes."

Bad Start*

But Mr. Taft Seems To Learn Fairly Rapidly

According to Mr. Charley Michelson, Senator Robert Taft got his foot in it in his recent junket out into the corn country.

Mr. Charley, of course, is not the most unbiased reporter when it comes to writing up Senator Taft, seeing that he holds the fat job of Director of Publicity to the Democratic National Committee, and so for quite understandable reasons would naturally like to see the Democrats stay in power come next November.

But, even granting that Mr. Charley deliberately picked only the unfavorable evidence, he still makes out an impressive case in his latest release to the editors, which he candidly assures us is not copyrighted and which we are perfectly at liberty to use, in part or in toto, if (he hopes) we feel that way.

First, at Des Moines, the Senator told the farmers of Iowa, who grew more corn last year than they had ever grown before save once, that the Roosevelt corn loan was a terrible error. That moved The Des Moines Register (Ind.) to observe that the nomination of the Senator "would be most unfortunate."

Then The Lincoln, Neb., Star (Ind.) joined the party to say that "only one other statement could have been more treasonable to Iowa"--to wit, a statement charging that the Iowa University football coach was a bum at his job.

By the time he got to Omaha, the Senator was laying off the corn and alleging that "the farm situation was the most difficult economic and political problem facing the nation." Which sounds as though he might be capable of learning to talk like a politico, after all. But he seems nevertheless to have made a bad start. To win, you have to have those farmers, as Mr. Charley knows foxily, and the way to get 'em is certainly not to begin by talking about taking something away from 'em.


Bailey's Ship Plan Runs Into Questions Of Law

International law is such a mass of contradictions that it is impossible to say decisively whether Senator Bailey's scheme to sell possibly 50 per cent of the 88 American ships affected by the Neutrality Act to Canada, is legal or not.

Our own Neutrality Act certainly allows the sale of anything for cash on the barrelhead, and so the sale of ships would be just as proper from the standpoint of our internal law as the sale of airplanes or tanks. But so would the proposed sale to Panama which fell through.

The flaw in any case was that the United States interests reserved to themselves the right to reclaim title to the ships--and that the ultimate title to the ships rested in the Shipping Board, which is to say the Government. That violated a specific provision of the Hague Convention of 1907. The United States has never formally adhered to that convention, but it has admitted it as a rule of conduct in practice.

Under that statement of the principles of international law, however, the case of the transfer to Canada would certainly be open to question. It provides that individuals and individual nations may sell arms, etc., to belligerents, but that the nation as such "must not lend either belligerent money, furnish him troops or ships of war or any article susceptible of warlike use..."

But Germany regards merchant ships as "articles susceptible of warlike use" and acts on the belief. And, in fact, when Mr. Churchill boasted several thousand British merchant ships have been armed and that more are to be--when "Q-boats" like the Rawalpindi turn up in news stories, you can't well argue that it isn't so.

The ships are just about as menacing to the submarine as the submarines are to them. But if we start specifying, as one of the terms of sale, that they must not be armed, then we'll be reserving rights again, and the sale would not be bona fide under the terms of the Hague Convention. And on the other hand, there is no doubt where the real title to the ships rests: Senator Bailey himself points out that a large number of them are rapidly approaching an age which will terminate their leases and force the Shipping Board to take them back over.

It is desirable to do something to get the ships to work, granted, though a sale itself defeats all the efforts of the Maritime Commission to extend American ocean-going shipping and build up a large fleet of deep-sea vessels as a reserve in time of war. Nevertheless, it is to be kept in mind that the announced purpose of the Neutrality Act was to avoid all chance for trouble with Germany over our shipping--and that it was on that basis that it won popular support.


Nelson Would Have Been Proud Of This Fight

The British yesterday demonstrated what many people had begun to doubt, that the great sea tradition of the past still holds.

In "Mein Kampf" Adolf Hitler boasted of superior German marksmanship and rapid firepower in the last war, lamented that it hadn't been sufficiently concentrated upon, that when he came to power he would see that that was remedied. But it failed to work out in practice yesterday as the Nazi navy at last met the British in open battle.

The fact that there were three British ships to the German one means nothing. The Admiral Graf Spee (named ominously enough for herself as it proved, for that Admiral Spee who defeated and nearly destroyed a British squadron off Coronel in Chile in December 1914, only a few days later to lose his own squadron and life in the Battle of the Falklands) actually was capable of hurling a greater weight of steel than all three of the Britishers combined, and she had the overwhelming advantage in both range and armor plate.

Specifically, she carried, for effective use in this running battle, six 11-inch guns, eight 6-inchers, six 4-inchers, eight torpedo tubes. The British heavy cruiser, Exeter, had six 8-inchers, eight 4-inch anti-aircraft guns (German pocket battleships carry a bomber), six torpedo tubes. The two light cruisers, Ajax and Achilles, each had eight 6-inch guns, eight 4-inch anti-aircraft pieces, eight torpedo tubes. The torpedo tubes are effective, of course, only at very close range.

Theoretically, the Spee should have been able to knock off the little Ajax with a few rounds of her great guns, without ever leaving the little one in range of her. But actually it was the small ship which opened the action. Afterward when the Exeter and the Achilles steamed up, she concentrated the fire of her big guns on the former, and eventually put her out of action but not until she had exacted her toll by making the German ship unable to stand up to the fire of the two other ships--presumably by putting the 11-inch batteries out of commission. To the little one fell at last the honor of driving her into port, from which she is not likely to emerge again until the war is done. For naval purposes, it is as good as though she had been sunk, without the loss of life.

It was a magnificent performance. For there is no doubt that the German navy is immensely skillful, and that it is manned by stoutly loyal men. Merely, in the showdown the British turned out to be the more skillful at running action, in the open seas.

Site Ed. Note: This one suggests what may have lain at the root of the debate over the election to add a half-cent property tax for the library, which having failed to pass in June, forced its closure.

"If from his grave that Mr. Carnegie is going to force us into a position where to have his books we have to allow the coloreds to read, too, well, we'll show those Yankees a thing or two! White-only books from now on for us! Come on, kids, what's on at the Idlehour?"

..."Oh I don't care, as long as they stay up there in the balcony."

Better Settled

Library Friends Should Remember Sanatorium

Those of us who would like nothing better than to see the library reopened would be wise to observe the legal entanglements in which the Mecklenburg Sanatorium tax is caught. The same sort of delay and uncertainty, it is possible, may face the library even though an election is called and carried.

Answers to several questions should be established so firmly as to remove the least shadow of doubt. Can the Charlotte Carnegie Public Library legally give service to all of Mecklenburg County? Can library service be given to whites and Negroes alike? Can the library give service in the white and Negro schools of the city and county? Can another election be called without a special act of the Legislature? What is the legal status of the petition bearing more than 7,000 signatures requesting the County Commissioners to call another election?

Perhaps the best thing to be done would be for those seeking to reopen the library to request the County Commissioners officially to call a library election, then to bring proceedings in court to test the validity of the election.

Framed Edition
[Return to Links-Page by Subject] [Return to Links-Page by Date] [Return to News--Framed Edition]
Links-Date -- Links-Subj.