The Charlotte News

Sunday, August 14, 1938


Site Ed. Note: Mr. Agar's piece this date, "Puncturing a Legend", poses a capturing spirit for us, that the War to end all wars produced the so-called "Lost Generation" of the Roaring 20's, the hedonistic cadre of F. Scott Fitzgerald-adoring, Isadora Duncan flying, scarf-waving in the wind on the running board awaiting the catch of fate, fools fading into lost glory as a meteoric quick-messenger burning its way bright but thoroughly exhausted in the mere twinkling of an eye, that this generation must have lost its creative thrust and spirit in the fields at Flanders, Ypres, and in the blood-muddied trenches of the Marne, that its writers, poets, singers, songwriters were laid early, too early, to waste in the flurry of shrapnel piercing their hearts and skulls, as the gas filled the air around them, as the tanks lit the first flames of modern warfare beyond that of the comparatively emasculate horror of the sword and the limb-wrenching spell of the rifle's wages, that these spirits were gone and lost in that Lost Generation.

No--says Mr. Agar. Quite an ironic fallacy, says he. The truth, he tells us, and the evidence would seem to back him up, is that there were always great periods of creative flourish following on periods of warfare. One can look only as far as the 1950's and 1960's in the United States, Great Britain and France, West Germany, among other countries, whose fathers and sons, daughters, wives, mothers and grandmothers perished directly or indirectly as fighting soldiers, nurses, or civilians during World War II, then hard on its heels, Korea, hard further on the wings, Vietnam, for the confirmation of that theory espoused by Mr. Agar which he amply examples back through history, modern and ancient.

Yesterday, we were thinking about Butlers--two Pierce Butlers, one a husband of an actress in antebellum Georgia, one a Supreme Court Justice appointed by Warren Harding in 1923, Barnwell Rhett of Charleston and Rhett Butler of fiction, and finally Smedley Darlington Butler, of whom we had never heard until yesterday, a decorated soldier of the highest rank who fought in the Spanish-American War, in Haiti, in World War I, who came to loathe war and condemn it as merely a mongering business on which manufacturers made their bloody lucre, who was hired by the mayor of Philadelphia to clean up corruption and fired a week later for stirring up too much trouble in his initial ardor, emblematic of which was the ordering that the tops be chopped from the police coupes so that the officers inside could no longer sleep on duty as too many had been reported doing, finally court-martialed under Hoover for speaking out of turn, though the charges were finally dropped--for his speaking out of turn against Benito Mussolini.

Needless to say, we find Smedley interesting.

All of that then led us down the turnpike a way, back to a childhood memory locked away. We somehow recalled vaguely that the winner of the Darlington race in 1963 might have been who we thought it was--and it was. So we read a little about him, probably duplicating some things we once read in the sports pages of our hometown newspaper, though racing drivers we did not follow assiduously but only casually, and then from that drift, saw a couple of photographs of his old race cars, too, bearing the number 22, one a '57 Chevy, the other a '63 Ford Galaxie 500--(that's the way they spelled it at Ford, kid from Galax--(which is the way we heard some pronounce it down yonder)). Saw that he died on July 2, 1964, in Charlotte Memorial Hospital, the one for which the building campaign chest was being sought here during summer, 1938 to complete the $100,000 local stimulus fund to acquire the remaining $450,000 from the Federal Treasury to build it. July 2, 1964 he died, five weeks after injury sustained in a fire at the track at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, World 600 race. July 2, 1964 he died, the same day ironically the Civil Rights Bill was signed into law by President Johnson.

What does all of that mean, you may ask, from this float along the stream of this and that tributary off the main river. We ask ourselves the same.

Maybe nothing. Maybe everything. Maybe, just a stimulus of thought somewhere in between, something by which to acquire some arcaniana about which further stimulus later will connect to bring to bear a larger picture of the whole in sum. Maybe it's the young student within merely saying to us as an adult grown of age--"Look there, you old goat, and remember. It's important to remember these things." At present, we can't say.

But, we had a nice hour or so floating down that river yesterday on a lazy, hazy Saturday.

We were thinking of Fannie Lou Hamer and the Mississippi delegation at the 1964 Democratic convention, which we viewed with our pa in a little Holiday Inn cabana, as they called them, actually a trailer rolled up as a room for the motel, cheaper by a little than the normal rooms, out there on an adventure one late August day and evening; we think maybe, ah, yes, it was that town which straddles two states on the line, Bluefield? Or, was it Bristol? No matter. Somewhere along in there, we went over to Fredericksburg, back in June we think it was, down to Richmond, bought a minié ball from the Civil War, a minié ball we still have, one from the Civil War, one which they dug from the battlefield after the dead were laid to waste too early, as already the Saturns, the ones which stood ready to launch that summer, were forming in the minds of the science fiction writers born of this age of the Civil War.

--As the musicians played on ever more, that summer of 1964.

Memories are made of this--though sometimes it can make us so to think about it all in a certain light in the later occluded shade of the tree, through the limbs and leaves of which the sun somehow finds its way, not so silly really when poised against the immediacy of the pain occasioned too often of reality. But of that latter aspect, we are wont, most fortunately, mostly to forget, from yesterday.

More Silly Season

At Rice, in Southern California, the thermometer stood at 120. In Charlotte, N.C., it stood at something like that.

In cantankerous Yorkshire, England, it snowed, and the children snowballed in the streets of the towns.

In Smithfield, Pa., a seven-year-old boy got paid $6.54 as a ditch-digger for WPA.

In Trenton, N. J., John W. Mannefield Jr., who paints white lines on roads to warn motorists to keep to the right got fined for driving on the wrong side of the road.

In San Francisco, a line of lovelies in bathing suits picketed the Golden Gate International Exposition on the ground that its publicity wasn't fair to legs.

In Durham, N.C., a defeated candidate reported for campaign expenses "75 cents for gum drops."

In Baltimore the watchful cops caught a slot machine redhanded and arrested its owner.

And somewhere in the heavens Sirius, the dog star, beamed on his way, doomed to wait eight years or so before he found out about it all.

Boy, bring up our eight-motored, 700-miles-an-hour, solid platinum fuselage plane. We crave cantankerous Yorkshire, even with the pudding.

In the Powder Keg

What seems to be shaping up in Europe is a showdown on Czechoslovakia. And at the end of the road lies a very great possibility of war. That Hitler's mobilization is a routine maneuver is nonsense, as Mr. Chamberlain in London undoubtedly knows. Questionless, it is a move designed to intimidate Czechoslovakia and France. And if Mr. Chamberlain goes on alleging that he believes that it is a routine maneuver, then it may well be because Mr. Chamberlain is hand in glove with Hitler on the whole business. Reports have had it for the last two weeks that Adolf has promised to give up his demand that England return the old German colonies if he (Chamberlain) will acquiesce in the rape of Czechoslovakia, and Lord Runciman is pretty plainly engaged right now in attempting to coerce the little country into yielding without a fight.

But that the regime of Dr. Benes has the notion of doing that is far from certain. The apologists for Chamberlain's policy claim that all Hitler wants after all is simply the economic hegemony of Central Europe and that if he gets it he'll be content without political hegemony. That's what was said about Austria once, too, but it didn't work out so. And the very nature of the demands of the Sudetens indicate that it is not really true in the case of Czechoslovakia either. What the little country is really being asked to do is to surrender its sovereignty immediately, with every prospect that it will cease utterly to exist, as Austria has ceased to exist, within a very short period.

And if it shows the proud, stiff courage which is the inheritance of its people, denies Mr. Chamberlain and Hitler's show of overwhelming force, can Adolf back down even if he wants to? It is more than probable that he'll want to, for the man is a psychopath who believes frantically that destiny rides invincibly with his arms. But even if he did, can he afford as a dictator to see his mobilization scorned? And if he strikes, will France break her word to come to the aid of Czechoslovakia? Benito Mussolini, at least, obviously doesn't think so, as witness his sudden decision to issue no more passports for Italians to travel into French territory.

Point of Departure

The National Emergency Council's report to the President on the South Friday contains nothing which is startlingly new. That we are poor; that we have a third of the nation's population but only 15% of its total productive equipment, 13% of its total income; that our wages average a third lower than the national average; that our average income is only about half that of the average of the nation; that the assessed value of taxable property per person among us is only one-third that of the rest of the country; that farm unemployment has been increasing by leaps and bounds as the foreign cotton market dwindles; that our housing is bad; that we have a monopoly on pellagra, and that, though Dr. Isaac Goldberger proved it a vitamin deficiency disease so long ago as 1916, it has shown little decrease since; that our system of finance imposes an intolerable burden on agriculture; and that all this, and more, is true in face of the fact that we have a country which is one of the richest in natural resources to be found on the earth--all this has been pointed out, often in recent years, and may be found set forth methodically and in great detail in Dr. Howard Odum's "Southern Regions."

But if the report has the effect of directing popular attention to these facts, it will be immensely useful. One of the great burdens which the South has labored under has been its refusal to admit that anything was wrong--its tendency to take a dispassionate statement of facts concerning its economic and social condition as criticism inspired by the same carping and hated spirit which characterized the Yankee journalists who have roamed the land from the Civil War right on down to Mr. Walter Davenport and The Philadelphia Record, and to insist that, in fact, the South needed nothing but to be let alone and to go comfortably and complacently on in its ancient way.

The report discreetly made no recommendations as to what ought to be done, contenting itself with the observation that the solution of the problem is "not beyond the power of men." It is a faith we all must share--or resign ourselves to disaster. But it may as well be conceded at once that solution is not going to be easy. What is primarily involved is the shift from a traditional economy which has always made us poor by binding us to European standards of living, and an economy which we must willy-nilly get away from because it is now shrivelling at the root, to a new one of which the shape is yet far from apparent--and that in a very long period. And men have not ordinarily been able to make such a change in orderly fashion--for the reason, precisely, that they have refused to face the facts and begin making their plans before necessity had them in such close quarters that it was no longer possible to plan.

And if Friday's report can have the effect of drawing the attention of the South at large to the facts and bringing about agreement that these facts do exist and must be met, it will, as we say, have done us an immensely useful service. For it is to that point that we must go before we can even begin to look for a solution.

In the Right Direction

And discussion of Friday's report and the Southern problem reminds us that the Agricultural Committee of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, headed by Ralph Robinson and Harvey Morris, seems to be going the right way with its program for a farm congress here next Saturday, to the end of letting the farmers hear speakers who understand the facts in the case, and the promoting of a packing, poultry, and milk products plant in Charlotte.

Charlotte boasts itself the center of one of the largest and most populous trading territories in the South. But it is clear now that mere population isn't going to make the city prosperous and great. What is required is buying power on the part of the population. And so far as the rural population goes, the buying power of this territory is appallingly low. Farmlands in the area run to only four and a half acres per person engaged in agriculture. And the growing of cotton on those four and a half acres accounts for almost all the income such a person has. Even in South Carolina, for instance, 40% of all farm families have no cattle, and 31% haven't a chicken.

But obviously the production of beef, poultry, dairy products, etc., offer an excellent chance for increasing the incomes of these farmers, and their buying power. For the South every year spends $7,500,000 in freight bills alone for the importing of food products, among which these of beef, poultry, and dairy products are important items. What is needed is three things: (1) to get the farmers supplied with good breeding stock, which will pay a profit, (2) to acquaint them with the best methods of raising their animals for the market, and (3) the provision of a regularly organized market where they can bring their animals and produce, get them properly graded, and sell them at the market prices current in the nation instead of for whatever they can get.

The Chamber's plan looks toward the second and third objectives, and if these can be reached, a way can probably be found to take care of the first.


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