The Charlotte News

Sunday, June 5, 1938


Site Ed. Note: Ah, the Windsors had more or less the right idea, but for the fact that they didn't do most or all of it themselves. Therein lies the quest for the zen... But, watch the ladders and don't spiral the staircases quite all the way to the heavens or Pegasus may come riding through your work.

"Notice to Employers", being about the wages of waitresses, reminded of something we read once back in 1992. So, naturally we put in several trunk calls overseas, through 17 satellite interchanges, bounced it off Telestar three different times, and back down to ground eventually to those tin cans down in the Caribbean to the little hut by the sea where this strange hermit lives with whom we have had contact now and again trying to get his opinion on various things, to which we have alluded a couple of times earlier. As we have previously suggested, usually he hangs up on us, and then we have to call back several times. This time, he threatened to call out the law if we continued to bother him. Said he would acquire a 4,000 mile stay-away order, in fact.

"And that, sucker," he said in a specially encoded telegram to us, (written in what we have been able to ascertain as "Nahtaivel", a rarely used form of code known only to certain natives of Pitcairn Island), "will put you either in the Pacific Ocean or somewhere in Argentina probably. So be forewarned. I shall not put up with this being bothered in my place of refuge here."

Nevertheless, we continued to call back at great expense, now believing that he might indeed have even greater information for us than we at first contemplated. Finally, without saying anything or even picking up the tin can, apparently knowing precisely that for which we were looking, though how we don't really have the foggiest notion, he sent up--or over--to us part of the rest of that scene, the beginning of which he graciously provided to us back in December.

He appended a note: "Look, you, this is it. Now be off with you. This stuff was written elsewhere, by whom even I don't really know. I'll give you a portion of the rest of this scene because of what you have explained to me. And, yes, it was authored in 1992, 54 years after your 1938, and I never saw your 1938 pieces there or had anything to do with them whereby I might have seen them until your frantic telegram and phone calls apprising me of their contents. So be on your way now. You think I'm some sort of haruspice or something?"

So, as crabby as all of that sounds, we got the permission to present it to you, once again at an undisclosed cost, after severe bargaining. So here it is:

Wilbur walked to the back, through the spring-loaded door and into the small double-stalled area to find it vacant. The water was running in the single lavatory. As Wilbur turned it off, he noticed that the window had its sash halfway up. Wilbur went to it and looked in both directions into the night corridor along a creek bank behind the line of businesses to either side of the Little Pep.

In a combination of a streetlamp's flood and ray of moonlight, he could readily discern, standing a few feet away, a young brown-haired girl dressed in jeans, appearing to be in mid-teens, surrounded by four young children, all engaged merrily by the stream, playing some sort of game--"Simon-says" or something akin.

Wilbur cleared his throat and huskily issued a demanding interrogative. "Hey, young lady, could you tell me if you saw a man climb out of here in the last few minutes?"

The girl looked over at Wilbur, with a sudden appearance of someone much older than her size and complexion suggested, trying her best to feign the look of a slatternly strumpet. She nudged her right shoulder up into her cheek and looked right at Wilbur from underneath her excessively fluttering lids. Looking more like a hobbledehoy than a vamp, she took her right hand and nervously brushed her dark tresses from in front of her face, straining each movement to appear casual. She finally capped the moody act with a frustrated blowing of the stubborn locks which, despite all the effort, continued to veil her left eye.

She waited a moment to answer, clearly trying to suggest coquettishly mock offense at having been asked anything by an older male stranger.

She finally spoke in a soft, purring voice, thick with country accent. "I hadn't seen no one, mister. I wished I had. My name is Polly-Pamela. If I see someone, I'll be sure and let you know." She twirled clockwise 360 degrees. "Do you know what he wanted with you?"

Wilbur was momentarily dumbfounded. "No, but you kids better get home. It's getting late."

"My mama don't care if I stay out. I'm baby sittin'." She now affected an exaggerated recalcitrant pout by lifting her head and sticking out her lower lip. "You ain't my papa. Don't tell me what to do. Just 'cause I lost my suitcase..."

Wilbur was becoming increasingly amused by the young girl's strange assumption of the other's understanding of what she meant.

"...I may work in the stock of my brother's shop right now, but I'm goin' to Hollywood and be a dancer, a movie star bigger 'an Lillian Vee or Starlet O'Gara. I'm gonna play with Cory Tant." The girl shook her head slowly up and down as she proudly uttered these names.

"Okay, good luck. I'm sure you'll make it. I'll come to see you in the pictures when you do and say, 'I knew her when.'"

She grinned broadly at this reassurance, dropped her head slightly and synched to silence, "Thank you."

As if tipping Wilbur for his generosity, she demurely added, "Hey, mister, I did see some man. He said not to say anything. Paid me fifty cents not to and patted my head real nice."

Her voice lifted high in excited pitch as she spoke the last with increasing velocity. "But I can tell you, I guess. He hopped out 'at window you're standing by, a few minutes ago. Fiddled with it 'fore he did and took him one of them weights. Paid me, and like I said, patted my head, and lit out crossed there like some rabbit runnin' through the bushes."

She twirled 360 degrees in the other direction with her arms extended out, palms down as if restraining the air-hoop uplift of a billowing skirt, and pointed across the creek bed. "Got them bobwhites all upset. I liked to thought they were come over here and peck me. Well... 'Fore he lit out, he said, 'I been her' too long and I got to go 'cause I'm all puny and talkin' muly.' Well, he really didn't say it quite like 'at. But then he did say I reminded him of 'My Dona in the chariots' or somethin'. I liked 'at and said I wouldn't tell no one his secret." She paused, lowered her eyes a moment, tucked her chin slightly toward the base of her neck and pertly pursed her lips as she smiled and said in slower cadence, "But you're so nice and all."

She subserviently looked down again, stuck her thumb in her mouth and shuffled her feet, trying hard now to appear as an infra-annuated innocent.

Wilbur thought about the supposed quoted compliment a moment. "Oh, Titian... Say after me, young lady, 'Madonna of the Cherries.' It's a painting."

"My Donna..."

"No... Ma, Ma, Madonna."

She shook her head, accentuating the up and down movements. "Madonna in the Cheerries. They paint that in Cheerryville?" She began giggling at her own attempt at humor.

Wilbur chuckled. "No, it comes from Venice in Italy... Well, thanks for the information. I wouldn't play out here by this creek at night if I were you. You never know who might try and play a trick on you."

She suddenly frowned and turned back toward the children who had begun to scream for her attention. As one pulled her by her arm back to the game they were playing, she rebelliously mumbled, "I'll go home when I like, mister."

"Suit yourself, Polly-Pamela-Donna."

She giggled witchily as Wilbur smiled.

"I been joshing with you. My name's really Norma."

"Norma? Okay, that's a pretty name. Well good night, Norma-Donna-in-jeans."

She cackled with glee again as Wilbur pulled down the bathroom window.

He had to struggle with it an extra moment, finding he had to use unusual force. Looking to the open frame, Wilbur saw the apparent problem, a dangling chain empty of its counterweight.

As he got the window closed, he heard the slightly echoing clink of a metallic object hitting the tile next to his feet. He looked down to see a silver spoon which had apparently fallen from the sill. He picked it up, surprised to see that it appeared nearly new and unflawed. It certainly was not of the set of cheap stirrers they normally put out at the Little Pep. It bore the tiny, engraved letters, "M.M.", along the back of the stem.

As he placed the spoon back on the window seat, he pondered a moment as to why this strange Gus had been in such a hurry to escape such a small bill. If he was a lawyer, why so broke? Why swipe a sash weight? Oh well, maybe that's why he was moving to Havana.

As Wilbur washed his hands at the laver, his eyes caught a bit of graffiti boldly penciled on the tile in the form of an arc: "Mean Yellow Scene." There was a freshly squirted, dripping mustard rainbow overriding the words. Beside was a quickly sketched stick image of a large muscular man sleeping with his head propped against a round object--maybe a stone. The inscription next to the figure said: "FerragUS needs an ironclad Farragut." Next to that was an ovate shape, presumably an egg, with a jagged crack running halfway down its axis, resting on the precipice of a horizontal line, apparently drawn to represent a wall. He found all the phrases and squeeze-play ornamentation empty of much more than the usual dram-soaked imagery one would find in such places.

He patted down his hands on the roller-towel and headed back to further triple-talk of Dreibunds.

Well, that was something. Pardon us while we take our leave. We have to go out distributing some handbills on which is printed the Bill of Rights.

Ah, Romance!

The second year of the romance of the Windsors starts simply enough--overseeing the paper hangers and painters working on the villa into which they will move.

Ah, romance! The whispered word of the first week becomes a sharp reminder to a paper hanger to be sure, now, and match that border, and a shriek to the painter not to let that stuff drop on the rugs. A year makes a lot of difference. Instead of sitting across a table in some dining salon, with soft lights and sweet music, looking deep into each other's eyes, the lovers must watch their steps or spoil a shoe in a can of linseed oil. Instead of a beautiful nose-gay from the garden the lady gets a chance to select flowers for the wallpaper. Instead of dinner in the restaurant they eat a pork chop sandwich on a packing box in the kitchen amid daubs of paper hangers' paste.

So the years pass. The first year has passed, anyway. Perhaps it's just as well. After all, pork chops sustain life more than soulful glances, and paper hangers and painters too must eat.

Anything Goes*

Although the vote was close, that was due mainly to the alignment of Republicans and anti-administration Democrats against the steamroller. In any case, the Senate turned thumbs down on an amendment to the spend-lend bill which would have required the dismissal of WPA administrative employees caught participating in political campaigns.

Besides, it's one thing to make a rule, something else again to enforce it. There is an established rule against post office employees' taking part in politics, and we believe that the Charlotte postmaster himself, an estimable person in ways other than this, will not have the nerve to tell you that it is scrupulously observed or enforced.

But the administration--the administration would not even go through the motions of ordering WPA executives to stay out of politics. The corollary follows, doesn't it, that WPA officials have carte blanche to mix relief and politics? It seems reasonable to assume so, and altogether within the record to say that for a man who continually prates of High Ideals and Clean Government, the President is paradoxically tolerant of ward-heeling methods in his own crowd.

Notice to Employers

Four operators of four different eating places were hailed into Recorder's Court Friday on charges of violating the State labor law. They were given suspended sentences on condition that they observe the law hereafter.

It is certainly high time. The 1937 Legislature enacted a statute (Public Laws North Carolina, 1937, Chapter 409, Section 3) providing that except for agricultural and domestic service--

No employer shall employ a female person for more than forty-eight hours in any one week or nine hours in any one day, or on more than six days in any period of seven consecutive days.

That law went into effect on July 1, 1937, and it received such publicity that it is almost impossible to believe that any employer doesn't know of it. Yet our own inquiries extending over the whole period convince us that many, and probably the majority, of the eating places in the city, not to say other sorts of places, have cooly gone on violating it right on down to now. Some of these girls, who were afraid to complain to the authorities lest they be discharged, have told us that they had sometimes to work as high as 60 to 70 hours a week for pay as low as $7. And for all the tears which are shed over the factory worker, there are few tougher assignments than that of a waitress.

The only excuse we can think of for letting these four violators of the law off as lightly as they got off is that after all, the State is getting around slowly to the enforcement of the law. And the eating places are not the only violators in the city by a long shot.

Two Old Men

Let's take a hypothetical case. Old Man A, 65, is down and out. His children either can't or won't support him. Nobody would hire a man at his age even if there were something he could do. As a consequence, he becomes a public charge, and the public agrees that he shall draw an old age pension of not more than $30 a month, which is enough, if one manages frugally, to keep body and soul together.

Old Man B, however, likewise 65, has done not so badly by himself. Instead of having to live with his children, he has a home in which his children may live with him. He still runs his business and makes a deal on the side now and then. He has cashed in on his endowment-at-65 insurance, and he has a fair income from other investments. As a consequence, Old Man B is no sort of public charge, yet the public agrees that because he served as much as 90 days in a one-sided war 40 years ago, which he came through in good health and excellent spirits, he is entitled to draw $60 every month, or twice as much as Old Man A, who is totally dependent on the money.

It's a hypothetical case, to be sure, made extreme for the purposes of illustration. Yet it could happen and it will happen time and again as a result of a bill the President signed last week, without protest, awarding $60 a month to every soldier, sailor and nurse who served as much as 90 days, or was discharged for disability within the time, in the Spanish-American War, the Philippines Insurrection or the China Relief Expedition. Financial need or physical disability has nothing to do with it. It's the GAR all over again on a smaller scale--but, ah, the World War veterans are coming on, and you haven't seen anything yet.

Engagement at Eger

Consider the case of Sergeant Wenzel Toman of the Czechoslovak army.

To his lot a day or so ago it fell to serve as a sort of rough and tumble archetype of his country. He went into a cafe at Eger, by himself. There were 35 other men there, all of them Sudeten Germans. And though the odds are not quite that great between Germany and Czechoslovakia, they almost are when you take the superior armament and resources of Germany into account. There, in microcosm, you might almost have said, was the Czech nation confronting its overweening neighbor.

What happened does not appear for certain. We have a hunch the Sergeant had been looking at the wine while it was red and that he was armed, as Czechoslovakia is, and kind of hankering for a fight, which his country, being cold sober, is not. Anyhow, a riot is what he got, and when it was over two Sudeten Germans were carted off to the hospital and Sergeant Toman brushed himself off and went back to barracks.

Maybe Germany too would do well to consider the case of Sergeant Wenzel Toman.

Pal for Jersey City

The Mayor of Peekskill, N.Y., has taken a page from the book of Boss Hague and has defied the Governor of New York to do his worst about the town's ordinance which forbids the distribution of handbills.

The Mayor claims that the measure was adopted at the request of the town's merchants association to the end of keeping streets from being littered up and to halt trespass on private property. So far as that goes, it is possible to feel a certain sympathy with him. Certainly, it is irritating enough to a householder to find his porch or stoop or yard filled with handbills put there without his permission.

But that such was the real purpose of the ordinance in Peekskill seems somewhat dubious. Certainly it didn't work out so in the first case of an arrest since its passage in 1936. That arrest took place under these circumstances. Representatives of the Millinery Workers' Union came into town. A factory owner heard of it and notified the chief of police, who called them in and informed them of the law. They decided to test it out, and distributed handbills bearing a reprint of--the Bill of Rights as embodied in the Constitution of the United States! And were promptly arrested and lodged in the hoosegow, where they now await trial. Governor Lehman says he'll use the State police to halt such flagrant abuse of free speech, and the town defies him--which seems to get it into a class with Jersey City.

It may be somewhat difficult to differentiate between commercial abuse of handbills and their legitimate use for purposes of free speech, but it is not that difficult.

Site Ed. Note: As a bonus, the codger in the Caribbean sent us through the vacuum tubes, received just before deadline, this part of the book, too, saying it might add something also in relation to some of the above. He first benificently apologized for his previous obloquies toward us, but then concluded: "You bother me again with this relativity stuff, you freak, and I'll summon up Hesperus against you." Ah well, you can't please everyone. Here it is, same stipulations as to time of authorship as earlier, provided by him:

Wilbur stopped and sat down for a minute on a stone bench and silently stared at the budding branches of the oak trees whispering between the shimmers in the wind. The first spare pink and white blossoms of the dogwoods had begun barely to open their pod covers to the light. Charles sat down a moment and mused with him.

"There's nothing quite so rejuvenating as an early spring day in Tar Heel country."

"I have to agree with you, Charles, and not at all reluctantly. It is indeed invigorating. It's the annual resurrection of the spirit coming into full bloom after the death of late fall and the entombment of winter."

"I've never really pictured it quite like that, Wilbur. That's quite an illuminating description. Reminds me of Dubois' 'Seven Last Words...' which we're preparing in the choir. Sounds like the parable of Easter."

"I believe that's exactly right, Charles. I believe that's exactly right. Why do they have to fight wars over it? It's only meant to inspire continuation of life; not to be taken up by the Crusades to be a rallying cry of tyrannical imposition of belief. That little balustrade-leaning creep thinks he is inspired by 'The Almighty' as he calls him--inspired to murder and slaughter. The question is who is 'god' in his gestalt? Anyone can invoke the term. What does it mean? Anyhow, I appreciate your being with me this afternoon."

Site Ed. Note: And, here, the other wheat for the day. Ah, Tuolumne. Yes, Tuolumne. Be there. Freedom.

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