The Charlotte News

Wednesday, August 24, 1938


Site Ed. Note: A long time ago, just afore Christmas, 1959, we were in the friendly Belk store mentioned below, shopping with our mama.

We had been left alone on the mezzanine level of the store where there was an area packed with chairs and tables spread o'er with the latest issues of Ladies' Home Journal, McCall's, Reader's Digest and what-not, to make the tired shopper in need of a respite feel right at home ever more.

Everything was so homey there around Christmas that we paused here, in a homey mood, to observe with intensity the craftsmanship of a homey portrait artist working away at his watercolors as various homey studies posed for his palate's matter mullers before.

We had with us our newly purchased bright red aluminum homey hula-hoop. (We still have it, in fact, at home, but haven't used it in awhile, twisting with it now being such 'twould our muscles make quite unduly sore, thus hard to stoop.) As we stood pondering the aesthetic similitude between the poser and the canvas's manumission of the tempera from the artist's japanning brush, we were quite unconscious of the fact that we were, in our homey bound daze, tapping persistently, tapping in rush upon the floor, at the toe-end of our shoes with the edge of our aluminum hula-hoop yet the more. Tap...tap...tap...tap.

Eventually, the artist, a bearded fellow we recall, in the vain of a Bohemian beatnik--you know, popular in those days of folk stories so tall, even among the village artists of Charlotte--, turned his head in our direction and, with a most sinister, unhomey aspect, glared at us as if Babylon were before his veins of scarlet, this craned neck studying us for some interminable moments, as we continued, unaware, tapping, tapping, tapping upon the Belk's homey mezzanine floor, evermore wondering why the homey artist was casting his eyes upon our countenance so poor there observing his work on the poser--ah, whose befitting poetic name must have been none other than Honorenomore.

Finally, he broke the unearthly silence there abounding in the noisy store, punctuated only by the tapping, tapping, tapping of which we heard no more, quietly saying, albeit with pointed instruction cast sternly in his stare at our hula tapping on the linoleum tile's cork core, "Would you stop that tapping, please?"

Oh, sir.

Well, suddenly our ears understood that we were indeed tapping, tapping, tapping, our eyes having been so rapturously engaged otherwise in the artist's concentrated conveyance, lapping, lapping, lapping the image outline, of his subject to his easel's mount, as might a preening condor, that sumptuous cast which could only befit the poser whose count in mask was known only as Honorenomore, that we were not at all conscious of our taps upon his concentration, becoming the while increasingly sore. And so, much to our reddening a deeper homey shade than even that of the hula-hoop, our winsome grin and callow smile turning now to grim and fallow trial, we immediately obliged and ceased our tap, by his interruption, made as unruly rouge as the mezzanine's magazines' deep unending pinkish hues.

Whether this artist was read, incidentally, we don't know. But, upon this rock, its glare at us, we most certainly became so.

And yet we still have that red aluminum hula-hoop to remind us never to tap, at least not around artists at work in their home, you know, the one full of soup, to bind us so and ever tie our wrap in harmonic eyes' lore, causing magpies, who seek, to cease to break themselves upon our doors, so that we can say of ourselves when we look in our mirrors: Never, never, never Honorenomore.

That Home Feeling

The opening of the grand new Belk store in Charlotte tomorrow recalls a remark made by Mr. Henry Belk more than a year ago, when the new building was not yet a blueprint. He was asked to say what underlying element of policy he had followed which had brought him such remarkable success in merchandising. "The people," he said, "have been good to us and the reason, I think, is that we always have tried to make them feel at home in our stores."

The psychologists, no doubt, have a confusing word for that, but to those who bring thousands of harassing, individual, indefinite personal desires to the stores to be fulfilled, the comfort of it is plain and simple and understandable. They like that policy, and they come back--year after year. Because the Belk theme is "Make yourself at home," their stores grew from a community enterprise to one of state-wide scope, then to regional. Now, in the magnificent new palace of merchandise, the fixtures are different, but the policy is the same and reflects the truth that a sound idea is the only sure foundation for any structure. It is still Henry Belk's store--his and his long-time associates.

No Auditorium*

A three-to-two vote of the County Commissioners yesterday demolished, for the present, at least, hope for an uptown auditorium. It would have been a highly desirable addition to the civic and physical features of the town, and of course this depression is a wondrous time to build what you could not think of building in better times.

And, yet, we do not believe the three dissenting Commissioners are to be censured. It was doubtful that the venture would have been self-liquidating, in which case the County would have had to put up the difference or lose its valuable property. The benefits of the auditorium would have accrued principally to the city proper, which fact would seem to denominate the City Government as the agency to have taken the risk. And while no administration can bind a successor administration merely by verbal promises to do thus and so, the present County administration had an out in the covenant of the board that built the new Courthouse to sell the old site and apply its proceeds on the cost of the new.

Still, we hate to give up that uptown auditorium. Do you suppose there's any possibility of the City's putting up one on the old auditorium site at Fifth and College, or trading that property to the County for a part of its more desirable Tryon and Third property?

Armistice or Lull?

Up in Washington they've begun a study, the first under the Wage-and-Hour Act, of the cotton, rayon and silk textile manufacturing industries. A committee of 25, representing manufacturers, workers and the public has been formed. Its assignment is to determine the minimum hourly wage, not less than 25 cents, which the industry should pay, and the maximum weekly hours, not more than 44, which its employees should work.

Up in Washington, in fine, they are preparing to promulgate executive orders, having the force of law, prescribing the amount of money which a textile manufacturer must put in the pay envelope of a worker whose hours also are to be regulated. This, plainly, except for the limitation of machinery hours and rules of fair compensation, will be NRA's textile rule all over again--No. 1 in both instances. And what happened to NRA, everybody remembers. It was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, but only after hundreds of suits had been filed to restrain the Government from enforcing the act.

This time, there appears to be no disposition on anybody's part to challenge the constitutionality of the Wage-and-Hour Act. It is early yet, to be sure: a couple of months before the act even goes into effect. All the same, the general attitude, as far as it has shown itself, is to put up with the new dispensation for a while and see how it works out.

What that attitude proves we have no idea. But we think it must prove something, and in any case is worth mentioning.

Our Thieving Neighbor

The exchange of notes between Mexico and the United States over $10,000,000 worth of American-owned farm lands expropriated by our bad neighbor below the Rio Grande raises the question of what action this country is going to take about the $150,000,000 worth of expropriated oil lands and equipment. Secretary Hull's patience is wise, for it would never do, after trying diligently to make friends (and customers) of all Latin America, to call out the Marines again on the first provocation.

But, after all, a steal is a steal, whether it be committed by some bandit captain or a nation which has selected a new destiny for itself. The kind of social and economic system a nation prefers, is its own private business: but its relations with other powers, especially those seven or eight times as populous and infinitely stronger, have to be arranged with due consideration for custom and the safety of its own skin.

And yet, it is not so easily as by a resort to insistence backed up with the possibility of force that these Mexican confiscations are to be settled. Secretary Hull--the poor man is always having obstacles thrown in the way of extending American trade--plainly indicates as much when he suggests that the lands question be submitted for arbitration to a commission of inter-American representatives. And the Mexican Government as plainly indicates, in refusing, that it knows where Uncle Sam's hair is the shortest and that it will cry aloud "Gringo Imperialism!" every time he shouts "Pay up!"

Site Ed. Note: Eventually, the government urged Mexico and the oil companies to submit to arbitration on payment for the oil properties as well as on the agrarian claims, but the Mexican government refused in May, 1940 as the oil companies also backed away from the idea.

The companies had acquired the properties during the "dollar diplomacy" days of President Taft and had done so often by shady deals in which the land was bought for a fraction of its worth. Thus, the expropriation was not altogether without its just deserts to the robbed.

The thing done, however, the Mexican government could not pay the same wages as had the oil companies, and the workers threatened a general strike, stimulating rumblings of a renewal of the quiescent revolution afoot and constantly threatening since 1910.

Complicating the whole mess then, after the U.S. and Britain boycotted the oil produced by their stolen wells, was the fact that the only available major market left in the world for the Mexican oil was among the belligerents, Germany, Italy and Japan, going to fuel their respective war machines, primarily that of Germany.

The expriopriated oil eventually enabled Hitler sufficient two-front mobilization, east on the Polish border, while protecting against a possible British-French counter-offensive from the west, to provide him the strutting confidence to risk the invasion of Poland, September 1, 1939--which then, with the British blockade coming into effect, prevented further flow of the expropriated Mexican oil to Germany from the Atlantic routes, though it still continued to flow via Japanese merchant ships via the Pacific through Vladivostok and the Siberian railway into Germany right up to the June 22, 1941 invasion of Russia by Hitler.

That, after Hitler's bluffing the Sudeten German question sufficiently to buy time with the "peace in our time" Munich Pact on September 30, 1938, time to choke piecemeal Czechoslovakia, which provided him among other things the Skoda munitions works and easy access to the Rumanian oilfields, further exponentially increasing his mechanization and easy mobilization from east to west, a necessary concomitant of which was to be able easily to ward off a potential threat as well from the east by Russia. (See, e.g., "Man on a Spot", March 22, 1939)

The U.S. responded to the March, 1938 expropriation early on by lowering the price of silver to stimulate payment for the oil, but the continuing faltering economy in Mexico, with the threat of revolution behind it and the threat of either Communist or Nazi strong-men coming to power behind that, caused the U.S. to respond by buying tons of another of Mexico's important export commodities, silver, at inflated prices and in quantities which the U.S. did not need, effectively subsidizing the Mexican economy. Similarly, then came the issue of iron exports from Mexico to Japan.

All a large and complex, but ultimately interlocking, puzzle laying down layer on layer the macadam necessary for war, and the oil and steel to drive the armament over it. (See, e.g., "A Gentle Hand", March 29, 1938, "Omitting Oil", July 24, 1938, "Mexican Bet", May 3, 1940, "China Shop", May 8, 1940, and "Mexican Iron", October 14, 1940)

Juvenile Murder

In Superior Court today a 14-year-old Negro boy is to be sentenced for the knife-slaying of another 14-year-old Negro. He was booked for murder, but the Court accepted the lesser plea of guilty of manslaughter.

Unless the good burghers of the county assume that this murderous affair between boys of 14 brings up something never before heard of, we beg to remind them that last year at about the same time a 16-year-old Negro girl killed another two years younger. She used a pistol.

And earlier last year a 14-year-old Negro girl fired a shotgun at a girl friend with whom she had fallen out, dropping her stone dead and mutilated. They were classmates in the seventh grade at Isabella Wyche School.

Verily, when children of the species murder each other with knives and pistols and shotguns, it is time for the adults to examine their own ways. Murder may be catching.

Good Red Herring

If a group of Representatives choose to spend their Summer investigating un-American activities and making headlines, and if the House request the executive departments of the Government to detail "such number of legal and expert assistants and investigators as the committee may from time to time deem necessary," and if the executive departments refuse, as the Department of Justice is accused of refusing--why, it ain't right. The Legislative branch of the Federal Government is already miffed at the snootiness of the Executive, and there is no sense in the first and second horses in this three-horse team pulling against each other.

But when it comes down to the substance of the Dies Committee's findings, the Department of Justice can't be much blamed for remaining aloof.

Hon. Dies and friends have spent the last several days establishing, to their own satisfaction, at any rate, that the American Youth Congress and the World Youth Congress are communistic. In all probability this is partly so, but it is nothing to be alarmed about. Youth has always been radical, especially the type of youth which goes in for congresses--the collegiate type, the girls among whom, as old Henry Mencken once put it, need only be taken out by the captain of the football team and given a good sound necking to convert them to capitalism.

For the suspicion persists that the Dies Committee is out to present the Red movement in this country not in a realistic light but in the worst possible light. That may be good propaganda, but most of us good little Americans haven't forgotten the boy who cried, "Wolf! Wolf!" too often.

Site Ed. Note: The other wadings are here.

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