The Charlotte News

Tuesday, July 12, 1938


Site Ed. Note: Five disparate individuals are the fit fodder for the column this date: Hitler, Howard Hughes, Secretary of Labor Francis Perkins, New York Senator Bob Wagner, (father of the three-term popular Mayor of New York City in the 1950's and early sixties who eventually broke with Tammany Hall), and finally Peewee the erstwhile bootlegger, former newsroom merry prankster. Life's little pageant of different aspects of the species, from the fairly honorable to the horrible, and some epic adventures in between the two extremes to fill the void, all here neatly on display in one day's print.

Metamorphosis of Peewee*

Lauk a-mercy on us, can it be Peewee--this bold bad bootlegger Robert Taylor? For some months a couple years ago, Peewee was on the payroll here at The News. They had him classified as a galley boy, which is the polite equivalent of printers' devil, but Peewee manifestly thought he had been hired as a sort of shop jester, and he did his best to enliven the routine and keep work from becoming a mere drudgery to Peewee. Were a printer goochy, Peewee would gooch him. Were the foreman in a hurry for a proof, the fun-loving Peewee would madden him with pretended delays. Did a slug fly through the air to land disconcertingly near some floor man concentrating on his business, Peewee had flung it.

Before he left, or was lefted, we had finally prevailed on Peewee, who is about five feet of skin and bones and unquenchable spirits, to drink milk with his lunch instead of dopes. He had begun to fill out a little; and washed up (he could get dirtier than a chimney sweep) and in his street clothes he looked like what he was, a rather nice child, mischievous but not a bit malicious. We heard afterward that he had got in with a bad crowd, and he showed signs of having come into some easy money. But we never had the faintest suspicion that Peewee was Robert Taylor and even with the disclosures in yesterday's News we don't believe Peewee could ever have been entrusted with a load of liquor. He'd have wanted to play jokes on the cops.

The Neanderthal Rule

Adolf Hitler called modern painters "cultural Neanderthalers" and "foul ignoramuses" in opening the art exhibition at Berlin yesterday. And went on to say that "strength and beauty, clarity and logic" are hereafter to be the rule for German artists.

The people at whom he curled his epithets are, of course, the cubists, the futurists, the dadaists, and so on. And for that matter, some of their productions do seem, to a layman, quite as sterile and foolish as he made them out to be. Nevertheless, the epithet of "cultural Neanderthaler" belongs much more rightly to Adolf and his own henchmen than to them. About the habits of Neanderthal man we know almost nothing. But it may be surmised that he lived under the rule common to savages, in which the tribe is all and the individual nothing. And that is exactly the rule Adolf has adopted in Germany. Art, like everything else, is made subject to the state, and no one can produce anything save what is ordered by the politicians who run the state.

The result will certainly not be "strength and beauty, clarity and logic"--qualities which have never been those of German art, anyhow--but the reign of mediocrity. For the right to experiment is the first condition which the genuine artist must have to do his work.

Wagner As a Judge

The fact that Senator Bob Wagner plays along with Tammany in matters of practical politics does not exactly square with the rest of him. But, on the whole, he is certainly one of the best men in the Senate. His views are honest--and, what is rarer, they are disinterested. In the sense of being on the side of the underdog, he is probably as thorough-going a liberal as any man in Congress. But it is still possible to doubt that he is really a fitting successor to Justice Cardozo or that he belongs on the Supreme Court at all. If he fills the bill in being a liberal and in possessing integrity and intelligence, he falls a good deal short in other respects. For one thing, he is not notable for learning, either in the law or any other field. And both of the President's other appointees--Justices Black and Reed--have been men who are not notable for learning, either. And with Cardozo gone and Brandeis as old as he is, the court plainly needs another man with a broad intellectual background.

But what is more important is that the Senator's temperament is essentially that of an advocate and a partisan, and that his positions are always obviously emotional in their core. He has repeatedly demonstrated that whatever bears the New Deal label seems to him to be necessarily good. And it is highly unlikely that, however much he leaned over backwards trying to be judicial, he could really divest himself of that attitude when he became a judge.

Paging Madam Perkins

With a shoe mart going on in town, it was inevitable that newspaper accounts should ring in Sis Francis Perkins. It was Sis Francis, Madam Secretary of Labor, who innocently made the remark early in her administration that the South was a good potential market for shoes; and thereby brought down on her head all that mock Southern pride which takes offense at the diagnosis and lets the disease pass unchallenged.

Madam Perkins didn't mean, as was immediately pretended, that people in the South went barefooted, or even that they danced for quadrilles under the magnolias with brogans protruding from under their hoop skirts and tight velvet breeches. To the contrary: what Madam Perkins meant was precisely what she said: that the South was a potential market for a lot of shoes. Anybody who keeps his eyes cast down as he walks along the streets, especially the streets that are streets only in name, may see that it is so.

And so a shoe mart in Charlotte set some reporter to harking back to Madam Perkins and her remark about the South and shoes, and that set us to stating that, as a matter of cold fact, the South does need shoes, and the assertion has led us, by a somewhat roundabout path, to a question that was uppermost in our minds at the beginning. What has become of Madam Perkins? We haven't heard that worthy lady's name mentioned, either in oral or written discourse, for months. Has she been eased out or something?

In Which Precision Encounters Siberia

What seizes your attention about Howard Hughes is not so much the adventure of his flight--though there is plenty of that in it--but the methodical precision with which he does the thing he has set out to do. Like Lindbergh, he picks out a dime on the other side of the world upon which to set down his plane. But when Lindbergh succeeded in hitting it, we all were breathless with amazement. And, indeed, it was one of the most astounding feats of navigation ever accomplished, that one of taking the "Spirit of St. Louis" into Le Bourget with no more than a compass and a rough and ready dead reckoning--as though one who had no nautical training but the sailing of a cat boat in a river should take command of the "Queen Mary" and carry her roaring straight into the harbor at Southampton.

But when Hughes sets his ship down in Paris--well, what of it? None of us ever had any doubt that, barring the worst of luck, he would do just that. What we marvel at is the clockwork and niceness with which he draws his straight line between two points, makes his flight in unbelievable time, and, before we have quite got our breath again, is as certainly in Moscow as though he were traveling by train. What we marvel at is the perfection of calculation which, at New York with a heavily laden plane sheers the tree tops or at Paris when she seems bound to crash into a house or factory chimney, pulls her safely and surely through.

Well, he shall have need of his precision, our Mr. Hughes, in the country into which he is whizzing today. The route he is taking follows the line of the Trans-Siberian Railway over the Urals and the plains of the Samoyeds to Krasnoyarsk, which lies about halfway between Moscow and Vladivostok. Even so far, it is a dangerous enough country for a plane, for there are few landing fields save the treacherous fields of grain. But beyond Krasnoyarsk his route will lie over what is probably the most dangerous flying country on earth.

Around the bleak Lake Blaikal, which lies solidly frozen for nine months of the year, huge mountain ranges lift their heads to tower over even the great height of the Siberian plateau. Southward lies the Great Gobi, northward the Siberian desert. The only people there are a few nomads and seal fishermen; sometimes for hundreds of miles there are no people at all. And vast storms, such as it is impossible to imagine in a milder clime, leap suddenly up here, like wolves howling from every point of the compass. And almost everywhere the terrain is too rocky and uneven to afford a landing for planes.

Still, the precise Mr. Hughes will probably be equal to mastering it.


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