The Charlotte News

Sunday, March 10, 1940


Site Ed. Note: "I stepped into an avalanche. It covered up my soul/ When I am not this hunchback that you see, I sleep beneath the golden hill/ You who wish to conquer pain, you must learn, learn to serve me well."

Oh, hello. Didn't see you there. We were just humming to ourselves, passing the time.

Crooks and wire-tapping and blackmail. Hmmm. We had thought to say a couple of words somewhat in disagreement with part of the first piece, that by way of suggesting that wire-tapping for "framing" is certainly an evil to be denounced, as "framing" implies innocence of crime and deception to impute a taint of guilt where none exists, an air of which the "sting" operations of the late seventies and early eighties began onerously to emit, the stings themselves often smelling of more corruption than the alleged activities of the stung.

Then, no sooner than we had formed the thoughts, we picked up the headlines today to see a fast-breaking story on the alleged corruption of the corruption-busting Governor of New York, a popular Democrat who has held the office but a year, and now finds himself facing an embarrassing situation, having allegedly been involved as a customer with a call-girl ring, an illegal activity, and, if the charge is true, not merely one involving penny-ante conduct, but $4,300 for four hours worth of services. Such prices indeed would be the envy of most, even high-priced, attorneys or doctors, or even psychiatrists. Thus, these call-girls must provide some service for which there is something ample to show for it, to command such rates for hourly service. Divide it up by fours. In any event, the accusations are flying like mustangs on a hot Nevada night, but we don't know the circumstances, and so won't say too much, as much ado has often been made by political opponents over little or nothing. Even if true, for all we know, there was no more at issue than a pleasant afternoon tea party in the offing. We shall not make lurid and unseemly suggestions until all of the facts are known.

It does bring to mind though again that the original basis, says, to this day, Mr. Liddy, anyway, a very trustworthy former prosecutor himself, for the break-in of the Democratic National Headquarters at the Watergate, was to investigate a call-girl ring.

In any event, speaking of Realism and adventure in tedious lives, we thought we would tease you a little with some of the writing of Mary Ross Northrop, by the end of the year to become Mary Cash, as exhibited on the book-page of this date. The book-page print is a little tedious to read and so we shall provide it for you below, having strained our eyes in the process to labor through it--and so we expect your appreciation for our service. You may drop the money in the fishbowl on the way out, and be sure and come back and see us sometime.

There is no cartoon on the page today, a second time in thirteen days we have so found such an empty, though the first one was two years before this date's page. Today's empty was apparently the result of an editorial decision to fill up the space instead with more letters on the putative needs of youth in 1940, as seen through the eyes of the readers of The News, most of whom thought the church lady was the answer to avoid Satan's grasp.

We shall offer our two-cents plain to the mix, and simply say, looking back on our own youth with clarity of memory, that probably what youth of any age most need is to be simply and amply left alone to be youth within their age, without quite so much probing and pushing from their elders to be this or that or else than they are, youth. In that, for the most, civilization lumbers along at its petty pace and somehow, despite pestilence, wars, famines, disease and death tolls by the dozens, hundreds, thousands, millions, knife fights, midnight rebellions, gunfights at the O.K. Corral, duels in the noontime sun, and all the machinations able to be conjured by the dramatists among us, nevertheless plods along and survives out of the ooze besetting all of us from birth.

Of course, a little visit with the church lady on occasion never hurt anybody. That way, when Satan calls, you are a wee shamed and red-faced to acquiesce to his request, and properly simply say, "No, thank you, Satan, despite your very nice offer of plentiful booty. Please go away now."

In our case, we only needed to go visit our own old grandma. In that we got plenty of action.

Batter up.

Realists Neglect Action

By Mary Northrop

There is plenty of action in that great Western novel, "Pecos Pete, The Gringo Coyote," where our hero fires most of the telling shots; there is suspense aplenty in "Murder Goes Mad," where the thrill lies in figuring out just who did fire the telling shots. But Westerns are pure hogwash unless leavened with authentic history, when they become epics; and murder mysteries, fun though they may be, have little to do with reality. In the two decades since "Main Street" literature that is literary has scorned action and suspense and I wish to go on record here as being against a third term in the 'Forties.

I am tired of day-by-day accounts of the lives of harmless little bookkeepers, their yearnings, their strivings, their timidity, their little disappointments, their utter futility. Whence this preoccupation with futility, vacuity, and defeat?


It comes, I think, from the people who, in the 'Twenties, called themselves Realists. Is it a reality that nothing ever happens to anybody? That seems to be the idea behind Realism--that life is made of an eternity of inconsequential people and events. If that were true, it would certainly be depressing. But it isn't true. The 'Thirties were a time of humiliation and defeat, and small things loomed too large in the lives of most of us. But other people--not ourselves, of course, but the people we read about in the papers--were having the most incredible adventures. These adventures, too, were realities. But the majority of the literati, ever timid in shooing away trends, held us in the main to the inevitable commonplace. Adventure, they allowed, was cheap pandering to the mentally undeveloped. A queer notion. Let them read "Wind, Sand, And Stars" for only one example of supreme adventure exquisitely told. It has been for months and still is a best seller. So is "Escape" and "Rogue Male" and "Captain Horatio Hornblower"--high adventure all. The works of Joseph Conrad do not go out of print. John Masefield does very well.

Nevil Shute's "Ordeal" is a breathless story of the things befalling an everyday little English family during continuing bombing of the "[indiscernible word]" that may begin any day. People moaning that the days of daring-do [sic] are dead must themselves be dead. When he returns from the war-lands we shall hear what W. L. White has to say about the scarcity of adventure and cataclysm in the lives of everyday people. I daresay that in time E. Phillips Oppenheim's elaborate international intrigues will be revealed as nursery tea compared to the actual plotting of European governments. Graustark and Ruritania will but seem as silly as of yore.


Anything can happen now, and anything will--as it always has. But I suppose the "better" writers will continue to stay away from anything that smacks of "plot." Plot is jaw-breaking Dick Tracy stuff. Suspense is a cheap, false device. But the suspense in "Forty Days of Musca Dagh" is the same sort of suspense that grabbed the world during the siege of the Alcazar in the Spanish War, the siege of the Hel Peninsular in the storming of Danzig, the siege of Warsaw, and now in the siege of Viipuri.

Some radio programs are creating real life situations that would be "impossible" in the lit'ry world, and I do not mean those appalling soap operas during the morning hours. I mean the Pot of Gold and the Court of Missing Heirs and possibly others of the sort. Every time one of those programs is put on a bolt from the blue strikes somebody in the form of that unexpected sum of money we all dream about.

The Angel of the Ozarks, if written up to fashion would be rejected by any publisher in the land but Lloyd C. Douglas's. Yet, the Angel has been taking a lot of space in the newspapers recently, sending cashiers' checks from $150 to $500 to dozens of needy people, mystified little people who know no one wealthy enough to do such a thing, strangers to one another. Who can the Angel be? How does he (she?) know the needs of individuals in widely separated towns and coves? Has a Santa Claus detective been moving among them disguised as the garbage man? Here's a sentimental story calculated to make the sophisticated writer turn green around the gills. It has action, suspense (who will be the next to get one?), plot, and dozens of happy endings. But that's because it is a true story. It wouldn't do at all for lit'ry fiction.

Site Ed. Note: We make note above that "daring-do" is an incorrect rendering of "derring-do", itself originally from a 1513 misprint for dorryng-do. Other writers, notably Edmund Spenser and Sir Walter Scott, then took over the misprint and delivered it as such into the English language. It means, in fact, daring-do, but nevertheless, there is no such phrase. Derry, derry, down, down.

Regardless, within less than sixteen months, Mary, herself, would experience a world of unsought Realism, in the form of action unworthy of any accountant or bibliophile seeking from a San Francisco bibliopole an out-of-print version of the Audubon classic with an erratum at page 268, Realism thus of the type she discusses, in Mexico; derring-do which, it is a pretty reasonable guess to assume, she never imagined would ever likely befall either herself or her husband of six months. C'est la vie. We must look to with perspicacity as we dream, even vicariously, for that for which we might wish may surely befall us in ways that we never foresaw or expected, as perpetrated in a delicately interwoven web of subconscious hints from the imagination to the perceptions of the real world through the somatic processes, then such fear as thus might arise from that realization being so communicated unter der linden as to be sensed and exploited by the nefarious with perversely inclined motives, such as Nazis.

Incidentally, Rogue Male, mentioned in the piece, was the godfather to the birth of Rambo. Mary passed away in September, 1980, prior to the age of Rambo. Had she lived so long as two more years, she might have recanted.

Rambo may now be seen in a starring role occasionally in your local high school or college drama class; only these Rambo impersonators choose to use live bullets because they obviously wish to commit suicide, but need first to have a good excuse, unable to think of one on their own.

It won't be long, the way things are going, until the very Horror discussed in Reed Sarratt's piece on the book-page regarding the incident in 1902 at Balingaysig comes at once to your college campus. Listen for the church bells ringing...listen to the sound in your ears singing.

What? You don't like what we say about Rambo? Krupp you.

Ban guns. We'll take our chances in the knife fights.

"Now the flames, they followed Joan of Arc, as she came riding through the dark."

Price Of Ease*

Nobody Ever Blackmailed A Clear Conscience

For getting the goods on crooks, wire-tapping frequently comes in handy. In fact, if it could be made certain that wire-tapping would be used only against crooks and not violate the privacy of honest men, there couldn't be much reasonable objection to it.

This, however, does not appear to be the view of Senator Green of Rhode Island, who was holding forth in Washington last week on the evil of wire-tapping. Said he:

"Wire-tapping is being used not only for gathering information about private citizens but for framing and blackmailing public officials."

For those last victims, we cannot shed a single tear. A public official who is on the up-and-up need have no dread of blackmail. A clear conscience fears no exposure and is proof against extortion.

As for public officials who can be blackmailed, the inference is that they have been corrupt in the past and would be a partner to corruption again in order to keep from being found out. The sooner they are exposed, the better for the public interest.


A Man With A Program Misses His Just Reward

A great many people, no doubt, will be desolated to be deprived of the services of so great a statesman in the next four crucial years. But there seems no help for it. The Hon. Robert Rice Reynolds, taking counsel with himself, has about concluded to wait until 1944 before accepting a nomination by the acclaim of the people of the United States for their President.

The country, we guess, will just have to go to the dogs. The great man obviously has a program designed to cure all our ills, to-wit:

1--To stir up a pogrom against the aliens, with an ultimate view to applying the Hon. Martin Dies's great remedy, deporting all these aliens, and so destroying a vast market for American goods.

2--To abolish the Bill of Rights.

3--To quit having anything at all to do with other nations. Robert himself has seen them all, anyway--didn't like them, except for one notable exception where the rulers were very nice to him.

4--To avoid war with Nazi Germany by grabbing the British West Indies as a payment on the war debts, an action which will mean that we'll have to support them at the cost of many millions annually, but which will give us the ecstasy of pulling the Lion's tail and probably have the ultimate global result of getting us into war with Britain.

Still there seems no help for it. The Hon. Robert himself tells us that sinister forces have arranged it so that he couldn't get a square break if he went into the Presidential primaries. Far be it from us to doubt it; we formally refer the matter to the FBI with a demand for an investigation. But in candor we do not believe that the sinister forces are the main explanation. The main explanation is plainly that the Hon. Robert Rice has just not caught on as the late Huey Long caught on.

T'was ever thus. The people, unhappily, seem simply incapable (save over a long course of years) of appreciating a real heavyweight when at rare intervals he rears up over the horizon.

Gag For Ball*

How Some New Dealers Respect Free Speech

It all began when the Santee-Cooper Authority decided to move its principal offices from Charleston to Columbia. That the decision was influenced by political considerations does not appear to be proved. Captain Billy Ball himself says the move is quite in order, and is in fact probably required by the law which set up the authority in the first place.

But the New Deal Mayor and the other New Deal politicians who run Charleston have eagerly pounced on it and made it a weapon against Dr. Ball. Dr. Ball is editor of The Charleston News & Courier and about as thorough-paced a Bourbon as Bourbon Charleston ever produced, though he himself is an upcountryman. He makes no bones of his dislike for democracy, wants a property qualification for the ballot--and hates the New Deal and all its works, including the Santee-Cooper Authority, with unflagging hatred, devotes most of his editorial page to continuously denouncing it, lock, stock, barrel, hoof, horns, tooth, and tail.

And so the New Deal Mayor and his cohorts are telling the people of Charleston that the Santee-Cooper Authority offices are being moved because of Dr. Ball's attacks on it. More, some of them have been insinuating darkly that unless he is persuaded to lay off, the town is likely to lose its Navy Yard and even some of its fortifications. That has the business community, fearful of losing important trade, so whipped up that it has been meeting and passing resolutions loudly repudiating Dr. Ball.

It amounts, of course, simply to a snide effort to coerce the editor into changing his views. It does not appear that the paper has yet lost any advertising as a result of the campaign. But the threat is certainly there--though nobody in his senses will attempt to use it, for Captain Ball is a stubborn man. What is astonishing is that Washington allows the thing to go on without publicly and decisively repudiating it.


Analyzing The Reply To The Youth Question

Mr. Gerow, of the First Presbyterian Church of Washington Park, N.J., wanted an answer to a question. The church was preparing to celebrate an anniversary, wanted something different, was asking the question of editors: "What in your opinion is the greatest need of American youth today?" We passed the question along to our readers. And--Mr. Gerow certainly got an answer.

The response was greater than we have ever had to any question.

More religion--that was what the overwhelming majority of the letter writers thought youth needed most. And after that came better home training. And then a faith of some sort, whether definitely religious or not--an ideal to which they can cling, faith in themselves. A much smaller group thought they needed security, from want, from war, from fears and doubts about the shape of things to come. Character got a number of votes--truthfulness, honesty, courage, stamina, these were what youth needed most. Several thought that what was wanted was jobs all around, at pay which would be acceptable. A better chance for the poor, a better taste in reading, better schooling, old-fashioned, rod-wielding schooling, the Bible in the schools, social religion and social democracy, all got a few votes. One man thought our whole system of education needed to be junked, replaced by a more logical one adapted to modern conditions.

All of which is very interesting. There is good reason to believe that this great torrent of letters represents a pretty fair cross-section of the thinking of the people of this territory. A few of them were from people of obviously superior education and station--about as many, in proportion to the whole number of letters, perhaps, as there are such people in relation to the people as a whole. But most of them came from average people.

Moreover, most of the letters were unmistakably spontaneous and honest. Editors, in the nature of the case, develop a capacity for spotting attempts to play up to their own opinions or what people imagine to be their own opinions. There was little or nothing of that here. The people were writing, not mainly to win a $5.00 prize but to get something off their chests.

It seems reasonable, therefore, to conclude with some degree of certainty that, the old native pattern of this section retains an unshaken hold on the majority of the people at large. Despite all the talk about the breakdown of the old religious faith and the old moral values, the spread of a new intellectualism and new ideologies, skepticism and doubt, of the sociological approach to life, of unrest and class bitterness, etc., the majority not only of the grown-ups but also the youth themselves seem to feel and think very much in the same fashion their fathers and mothers did. For many of the letters we received were obviously from young people. All the ferment and uncertainty of the modern world is here, but apparently only in occasional individuals, seems hardly to have touched the great body of the people as yet.

We are not here arguing one way or the other. We are simply setting forth what seems to us to be the inevitable deduction and "passing it on" without comment.

Site Ed. Note: For more on the action and Realism of the decade preceding 1940, see "Time of the Scorn", May 31, 1936.

For further insight into the world of sedentary bibliophiles, mild-mannered editorialists for great metropolitan newspapers, see "Poictesme for the Pious: Jurgen in the South", June 20, 1937.

And again, for a return to action, this time stateside, see "McCann Meets the Test", August 30, 1936.

Remember, if you go in for action, whether of the domestic or foreign intrigue variants thereof, pay careful attention to the canary.

Good 'ay.

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