“DE-PERSONALIZE” YOUR PICTURES by William Mortensen

I’ve scanned and converted the following from Popular Photography, Feb. 1941.

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DE-PERSONALIZE YOUR PICTURES

You can improve your pictures by showing less in them. Fig. 1 (right) is cluttered up with personal detail. Fig. 2 (above), which the author titled "Nemesis of Childhood," is a "de-personalized" version of the same subject. Note how much more interesting it is.

WE all realize that there is an im­portant difference between good photographs and good pictures.
A fine photograph wins our admiration as a piece of work well done. But, having admired it, we are anxious to get on to something else.

A real picture, however, is just as in­teresting a week from now as it is today—even more interesting. A picture brings us satisfaction that is far deeper than the superficial admiration that we ex­tend to mere technical excellence.

In this series of articles we are discuss­ing some of the qualities that contribute to good pictures. Pictorial excellence is not altogether a matter of composition—although sometimes we are assured that it is. Much of pictorial excellence is in­herent in the subject matter itself. In finding a picture, at least 75 per cent of the job is finding your subject and the best way of approaching it with your camera.

Last month I indicated the four qual­ities that subject matter should possess in order to lend itself to the making of good pictures. It must be

  1. unified
  2. impersonal
  3. timeless
  4. essential

Last month we discussed how best to find unity in subject matter. We will now consider ways to steer clear of its purely personal aspects.

fi3. 3 (left) shows the result of too much "expression." To avoid extremes like this, catch your subjects face in repose, as shown in Fig. 4 (above). Fig. 5 (right) is an ordinary picture of an individual. Note how the subject has been "de-personalized" by distortion, used to make his face longer in Fig. 6 (above).

To be of lasting interest, pictures must have universal appeal. This expert tells you how to avoid the personal elements that are not important to anyone but yourself.

First—a warning. It is important to understand that at this time we are not concerned with portraiture. Photographic portraiture, by its very intent, is limited in its appeal. Conventional portraits are made to conform to the subject’s vanity and for the indulgent admiration of friends and relatives. The usual portrait, there­fore, speaks in the most restricted of per­sonal terms. Insofar as a portrait be­comes a picture, it must transcend the limits of personality. It must have some broad appeal that will make it of interest to others beside the subject’s friends and relatives. No matter how good a tech­nical job it is, it must have something more than mere photographic accuracy to make it a real picture.

To illustrate this point, let us consider the case of a man you’ve undoubtedly met; we’ll call him “Joe.”
He corners you on the 8:15 local, at the office, in the locker room, or even on the street. With a fanatical gleam in his eye, he pulls forth a little bundle of prints.

“Hiya, Bill,” he says eagerly. “Want to see some swell pictures? I took them of Junior, on his birthday.”

Interpreting your expression of resig­nation as consent, he plunges ahead. “Now, this one shows him on the front steps. He moved a little, but you can see how big he is getting. Here he is with his birthday cake. It’s a little underex­posed of course, but that’s Junior right there. Now, here’s a really good shot of him riding his tricycle—`tike,’ he calls it. By the way, did I tell you the cute thing he said the other day when I was giving him his bath? . . . Oh, I did? . . . Well, this picture—Oh Boy!—wait till you see this one! It shows him when. . . .”

And so on and on—as long as you can stand to listen to it. Now, Joe is really a nice guy, and a fairly good amateur pho­tographer as well. But when he is in one of his “did-I-show-you-these” moods, people carefully sidestep him. The prints are really not so bad, and Junior is obvi­ously well fortified with vitamins and destined to grow up to be a good citizen and a leading light in his community—but there is not a picture in the lot.. Pa­rental pride and pictorial discrimination rarely go hand-in-hand. It is obvious that Joe is interested in Junior only for Junior’s sake—not as subject matter for real pictures.

Junior’s parents are primarily inter­ested in his personal aspects—matters of profound indifference to the general pub­lic. But—it is important to note—Ju­nior also can be pictorially presented. Note, for example, Roy Pinney’s first-prize print, “Hunger Strike,” which ap­peared in the December issue of POPULAR PHOTOGRAPHY.

Of course, the camera does the personal and particular with great ease. When it is well done, we like this sort of thing, just as we enjoy a bit of gossip—what he said, and what she said, and what I heard about her first husband. But mere gos­sip, however amusing, will not make lit­erature—nor will the photographic equiv­alent of gossip ever produce a picture. Nevertheless, we like this photographic gossip. We like it so well, in fact, that the biggest publishing bonanza of the century has been found in various picture magazines that tell us, in thousands of undistinguished photographs, just what he said, and what she said, and give us the very specific low-down on her first husband.

We like these gossipy photographs—but we don’t like them for very long. We must have fresh, more intimate, and more personal items if our interest is to be kept up. To find any sort of perma­nent pictorial interest, we must abandon our quest for the merely personal. We must seek a more detached viewpoint and learn to evaluate subject matter in other than personal terms. In order to make pictures, we must “de-personalize”—if I may coin a word—our subject matter.

Here, I want to outline four ways in which this “de-personalization” may take place. There are numerous other possi­bilities, of course, but the discussion of these four should bring out the general procedure.

The first of these methods consists of avoiding or eliminating personal elements in the environment or background. En­vironment tells us a great deal about the personality of the person who creates it or lives in it—but the things it tells us be­long largely to the category of gossip, which we described above. Life, for ex­ample, is very fond of showing us people —people of all ages and conditions of life, in their completely detailed, native en­vironment. There is no gainsaying the vividness of these photographs as social records, but they should not be taken as pictorial standards. The very complete­ness of their backgrounds destroys their value as pictures.

Fig. 1 might be taken as typical of this sort of fully-realized background. If it appeared in a picture magazine, it might have some such caption as this: “Miss Grace Willoughby, teacher of the third grade in the Avenue A Elementary School.” Here is plenty of environment and background, but it is all particular and peculiar to Grace Willoughby of Avenue A. If there is a picture any­where about, we cannot see it because there is too much Grace.

How shall we go about dealing with this too-personal environment? One way would be to eliminate it completely and photograph the figure in front of a plain black or white background. This solu­tion is sometimes useful, but it is too simplified and too drastic for most occa­sions. Backgrounds are very valuable pictorial elements, but they must be re­duced to their most simple and important elements.

Fig. 2 shows us one solution of the school-teacher problem. Here we have some of the same elements of environ­ment as those that appear in Fig. 1—the desk, the ruler, the book—but in Fig. 2 they are used as symbols of the “Nemesis of Childhood” rather than as part of the personalized clutter of Miss Grace Wil­loughby.

The personal element has been elim­inated from Fig. 2. It is not any particu­lar teacher in any particular school on any particular day. It is simply an alarmed child’s impression of the “Peda­gogical Presence.” Fig. 2 is, in a word, a picture; Fig. 1 certainly is not.

This, then, is our first suggestion for the “de-personalization” of subject matter:

Reduce personal detail of back‑ground or environment to symbolic elements.

The second method of escaping from the purely personal limits of subject mat­ter has to do with the expression of the model. An excess of expression always limits a picture, because it brings the model’s personality to the fore. A good picture is impossible when the model in­sists on throwing her personality at the camera through her eyes and teeth. There is much more likelihood of getting a pic­ture from a face in repose than from one that is the parade ground for all sorts of emotions. Such transitory expressions are likely to assume a violent or hyster­ical aspect when fixed in glassy perma­nence by the camera.

Even a somewhat standardized theatri­cal expression such as that displayed in Fig. 3 is a bar to pictorial representation. Personality is again insisted upon, even though it is “phony.”

How much better pictorially is Fig. 4, in which the model does not throw her­self at you.

Here we have the second suggestion for the “de-personalization” of subject mat­ter:

Avoid too much “expression” in your model.

The third method of reducing the per­sonal implications of subject matter is the use of distortion by projection control.

Any sort of graphic representation in­volves some degree of distortion. Even a straightforward photograph like Fig. 5 is distorted, for the colors of the original have been reduced to a scale of grays, and the three dimensions have been reduced to two. But a distortion of form, such as the elongation shown in Fig. 6, helps us to attain a much greater degree of de­tachment. Fig. 5 is a very indifferent sort of portrait. Fig. 6, however, is effec­tive as a picture. And it does not owe its effectiveness to the fact that it represents any particular person.

Note that such distortion is effective only when it stresses inclinations already inherent in the subject. In this respect it follows the technique of selective exag­geration practiced by the cartoonist. The length of face noticeable in Fig. 5, for ex­ample, is given pictorial exaggeration in Fig. 6.

Thus, the third suggestion for the “de­personalization” of subject matter is the following:

Make occasional use of distortion as a means of effective emphasis of the qualities of the subject.

A fourth valuable method of reducing the personal implications of the subject is afforded by the choice of the angle from which the subject is photographed.

A child, when he first attempts to draw the human countenance, tries his hand at a full-face representation—an irregular oval with squiggles for eyes, nose, and mouth. A little later he tries a profile—an arrogantly jutting nose, with dashes to indicate mouth and eye. He isn’t con­cerned with ideas of personality; he sim­ply draws faces. It is considerably later in his career, if ever, that he essays the complications of the three-quarter angle.

In like manner, the maker of pictures who is interested in faces rather than personality will do well to cultivate these two primitive angles—the full face and the profile. The faces about us are most familiar when seen in some variant of the three-quarter angle. This is the angle usually favored by conventional portrai­ture, and is most clearly bound up with ideas of personality. On the other hand, the purely pictorial values of a face are most frequently realized in profile or full-face representation.

Another use of angle is shown in Fig. 2. The low viewpoint enhances the impres­sion of detachment, so that the figure of the school teacher looms implacable and as impersonal as the multiplication table.

The fourth suggestion, therefore, is:

Reduce the personal implication of subject matter by careful choice of the angle of presentation.

Wise application of these four sugges­tions is certain to improve your pictures. When you get to working with them, they undoubtedly will bring to light other means toward the same ends. For­get about them when you are taking por­traits, but use them to best advantage when you are after real pictures.

Dance-Hall Lady – Lou Wylie – The American Mercury, 1933

The American Mercury
Vol. 29, Number 116
August 1933
Pages 269-274

Dance-Hall Lady

Lou Wylie

A TIP from an Associated Press man that additional jobs had been made for women in dance-halls by the return of beer sent me scurrying over to Manhattan in spite of the rain.

I picked the biggest hall I knew of to apply for my job as hostess. The A. P. man had said they were weeding out the old types and wanted college women. I didn’t know it as I clambered up the red velvet carpeted stairs, but this was just one more phony rumor. It was like the story another A. P. man told me last Summer about out-of-work newspaper men sleep ing on the floor at the Press Club, and picking up cats off people’s doorsteps and peddling them around the chain stores at fifty cents each for money to buy dough nuts and coffee.

Looking backward, I could see across the wet pavement the reflection of the coruscant lights blinking along Broadway. Ahead of me two youths were buying tickets. I fumbled with my bag, but the clasp was mashed and did not open quickly.

Before I had time to protest one of them had paid my admission and handed me the string of tickets the chopper passed him. They ascended the rest of the stairs ahead of me, and turned aside to check their coats.

I was bent on asking for a job and so walked straight into the foyer, which was gray with tobacco smoke. Through it paunchy men in unpressed clothes, and shallow, shiny-haired youths in double-

breasted coats could be seen galloping up and down the dance floor with women in evening dress, or standing aloof and self-consciously watching the dancers. Here and there I saw a woman clad in street clothes.

Suddenly, for no conscious reason the words of a song I had heard many years before at a Holy Roller meeting began to run through my mind.

Dance-hall lady, you gotta die, you gotta die,

It may not be today and it may not be tomorrow

But you gotta die, you gotta die.

I could almost smell the odor of the bloom on the locust trees outside the pine meeting-house. It had been April then, and with all the superiority born of my freshman year at college, and all of the snobbishness of a faith that had long ago weeded such crudities of expression from its litany, I had stood within the meeting house door.

Coatless, barefooted men shifted wads of tobacco in their mouths to shout the words with more power. Mousey-haired, flat-footed women thick around the middle shrieked them with delight. Now for the first time since that night they danced in my mind again.

The boy who had bought my tickets advanced toward me. I noticed the shuffling way his feet in their square-toed shoes slid in and out in the wide cuffs of his trousers. I did not like him, but I could not decently refuse to dance with him when he asked me.

I attempted to slide my rain-soaked shoes across the polished floor in stride with the many unusual steps which he made. The music seemed to have no bearing on the case at all. One moment my knee was grasped firmly between his; then I was spun around, and his cheek was against mine, and his hand at the small of my back. In this latter pose, with his torso rigid, he would gallop off across the floor, disregarding the music entirely.

The dance was finally over and I made my excuses and retired to the ladies’ room. If I were going to ask for a job it be hooved me to look my best. The rain and the close proximity of my partner’s cheek had done no good to a nose always in clined to shine. I felt self-conscious about my hair, too. It had not been marvelled since the bank holiday.

As a newspaper reporter I have inter viewed judges and millionaires, and even talked to the mother of a President, but I never felt so self-conscious about my ap pearance before in my life. Perhaps that was because, with only thirty cents in my purse, a job never meant so much to me before.

II

In the ladies’ room I was assailed with the odor of talcum powder, sweat and tobacco smoke. I sank on a red-lacquered settee upholstered in bright blue imitation leather, and from it looked about me.

From a row of seats ranged before a mirror a number of hostesses were making up. They eyed me with evident hostility—the professional jealousy which the dance-hall hostess always feels and shows toward the amateur who crashes the hall in street clothes.

Street clothes make a woman something different from a hostess. She is plainly a hireling. She may be the wife of a well to-do speak-easy man, or a stenographer or a Swedish housemaid out for a nigh of adventure. Or she may be, as I was an out-of-work newspaper woman wishing someone would buy her a beefsteak sandwich.

The hostesses returned to their makeup and their conversation. A platinum blonde in a poppy red taffeta sat directly in front of me. She was speaking to a fat woman with henna in her hair. Her dress was black velvet, cut high in the front and with no back. The rouge she was using was an obnoxious orange yellow.

“Get a slice of this, wontcher!” the platinum blonde said.

I could see Henna Hair getting a slice of it by regarding me intently in the mirror. I fumbled in my purse and found a cigarette to light and hide my nervousness. I was sure they knew that my room rent was unpaid, that I had made only six dollars during the past week at the office. They certainly could tell that my shoes were worn thin and that I needed new gloves.

They regarded me for a few moments longer and returned to a more intimate discussion.

“Ed ain’t brought nothing home for three weeks,” Henna Hair said to Platinum Blonde, as she expertly arched an eyebrow with a finger-tip dampened in her mouth.

“Whatcher goin’ do? Put him out?”

“Naw, I guess he can hang round an other week or so. There ain’t anybody else. Nobody’s got money these days. Only thing is, when he did have money I never seen him more’n twice a week. As ’tis, I can’t do nothin’, knowing I would find him home if I asked anyone in.”

“Men are like that, ain’t they?” Platinum Blonde replied, brushing the powder from her shoulders and the bosom of her dress.

They trailed out of the room, watching the undulations of their hips as reflected from the mirrors until they reached the door.

I ground out my cigarette in the ornate red ash tray, and with a futile dab at my face with my powder puff followed after them, conscious of the inhospitable stare of four pairs of eyes still making up before the mirror.

Outside the orchestra was grinding away. Women in all sorts and colors of cheap and tawdry evening gowns squirmed and galloped about the dance floor, or chatted in groups by the ropes, their eyes restlessly imploring the stag line for a dance.

In my gray unpressed tailored suit, seedy from its long waiting on benches outside editorial rooms and clammy from the rain, I felt in anything but a gay mood. All of my job-seeking ardor was gone. There seemed to be no one to apply to, and the effort of finding the office and get ting to the manager suddenly appeared as a stupendous task.

I was making my way toward the door when I was accosted by a bespectacled man in a tweed suit, who wanted to dance. I attempted to explain about my rain-soaked shoes, and that I was not there for the Purpose of dancing after all. Then I saw the floor manager, a tall, pimply-faced blond man in a shiny Tuxedo. He was looking at me in a way that really frightened me.

Without more attempt at explanation I danced with the man in the tweed suit. As we moved about the floor I noticed several other girls in street clothes. One of them, a small person with black bobbed hair and a Greta Garbo hat, gave me a knowing smile as I galloped by in the em brace of the man in the tweed suit.

When the dance was over, and it was not a long one, I left my panting partner and found myself a seat in a straight chair in a secluded part of the room. The girl with the bobbed hair soon found me.

“New?” she asked with a cynical smile, as if knowing the answer beforehand.

“Well, yes,” I replied, somewhat at a loss for an answer.

I could see that the black crepe the girl was wearing was greenish from age. A crisp white organdy collar and bow took the curse away from it to some extent, but its cut followed the fashion predating the big sleeve and wide shoulder period.

She opened her cigarette case with a polished thumb nail, saw it was empty and snapped it shut again. I opened my bag and fished out the crumpled package which still contained two cigarettes.

She took one, snapped it into shape against the arm of the chair adjoining mine, and seated herself beside me.

“Out of a job?” she asked pleasantly.
“Yes. I was on a Brooklyn paper until November: then they cut the staff. I have been on assignments and they have about run out. Nothing doing until next Fall, and I have to eat.”

It all came out in a burst, and then I was ready to laugh at myself. For two years I had been writing that same sort of drivel, trying to boost collections for the Emergency Relief. Now, in a maudlin mood, I was spilling it to a stranger who couldn’t do anything to help me, unless encouraging me to cry would be of benefit to me.

“Sure, I know. I was on the Graphic when it folded. Now I am playing the dance-halls.” She shook her head bitterly.

“I came here to apply for a job,” I hazarded, willing to cash in on her experiences.

“Don’t do it. Look at ’em, just so much beef on the hoof,” and she waved to a bunch of hostesses trailing their draggled silks past us.

“Free lance, Pal, if you are going in for this racket, and let me give you a tip.”

She bent over to whisper it to me as a man approached with the evident intention of asking her to dance.

“Keep away from the young ones. There’s nothing to them. They’re either petty gangsters or underpaid office boys. If there is any hoarding around here it’s in the pockets of the older men.”

She walked briskly away with her customer, a fat man, slightly bald, and in her stead I found a girl in a blue suit and a plaid silk blouse.

“If you want a partner you mustn’t sit around,” she warned me. “Let’s walk. It’s the same here as anywhere. Nobody ever dances with the wall flowers.”

I stood up hastily.

“New?” she asked me.

I told her that I was.

“Well, you’ll find it a hell of a racket, but what isn’t these days?” She offered me a cigarette.

The youth who had paid my admission was advancing toward me.

“Steer clear of him,” she warned me under her breath. “He took one of the hostesses out from here, and when she wouldn’t do what he wanted he broke her jaw and knocked out two of her teeth.”

I felt a touch on my elbow. It was the man in tweeds, asking to dance again. He had no tickets and I bethought myself of the string I had in my bag. I brought it out, only to have it snatched from my hand.

“I guess I get something out of bringing you in here,” a voice said, and I recognized it as belonging to my host at the ticket box. “You are too good to dance with me, but you can at least give me the tickets I bought.”

My elderly partner blinked at the youth for a minute and I was glad to see that he did not feel called upon to make an issue of it.

“I guess the floor manager still has tickets,” he said mildly and purchased a dollar’s worth, as if to show how little he cared.

On our non-stop flight about the floor I got glances here and there of people on the sidelines waiting, and of those dancing, and I saw that while many of the hostesses stood idly along the ropes or danced with the men professionals about the place, all of the women in street clothes had dance partners.

The woman with henna in her hair was twisting and untwisting the skirt of her black velvet evening dress into unbelievable bundles about her legs as she contorted about the floor with a boy in a sailor’s uni form. With chins uptilted, cheeks together and eyes shut, they raced as one body round the floor. Sometimes they paused and squirmed about in one spot for several seconds, and then they went into a series of whirls that sent the wide black skirt whipping and flapping. After that they would settle down to a mad racing around again.

“Galloping dominoes,” my partner whispered in my ear when he saw me regarding them, although considering his avoir dupois he had not been moving slowly himself.

When the dance was over I remembered the wall flowers and did not return to my chair, although my legs ached and my back was tired. I stood awkwardly in the middle of the floor, feeling more out of place in my street clothes amongst these women in their pitiful evening finery than I had ever felt when, as a reporter, I had

gone to grand affairs at the Biltmore or the Hotel New Yorker, and was the only woman not in evening dress.

The girl who claimed to be a former Graphic reporter came to my rescue.

“Let’s powder our noses,” she suggested.

Back in the atmosphere of talcum and cigarettes we sank exhaustedly upon the red and blue settee.

“I got some cigarettes now,” she ex claimed exultantly, breaking open a new, cellophane-wrapped package.

“Not what I smoke but you take what you can get in this racket,” she continued philosophically.

Somehow I felt differently about the butterfly row before the mirrors now. I noticed there were sweat stains about the armholes of the light colored silks, and the acrid odor of cheap rayon was in my nostrils.

“Back home,” I was telling myself, “people bought the best in evening clothes that money could buy. When they wore out one stayed at home until there was money to replace them with something equally good.” This was somehow comforting to remember. I had a very good evening dress at home, but no shoes to go with it.

My revery was broken by a query from my newly found friend.

“Did you date your dancing partner?” I admitted that I had not.

“You better land him before some of these professionals get hold of him. He looks like he’d be good for a supper and taxi fare home—if you don’t want to go any farther with him.”

“Taxi fare home?” I asked.

My companion explained that often an out-of-town man would pay a dance partner’s taxi fare home if he had enjoyed dancing with her. When this happened, she explained, it was a good idea to give some address in the Bronx or Brooklyn, and when the cab got around the corner pay off the driver and dive into the subway. That often left one three or four dollars in change, almost enough to eat for two weeks, if spent with care.

“I went to dinner with a man last night, and found out he was a truck driver,” my companion was confiding. “I don’t know why, but when he told me what his job was I was so sick and disgusted that I could have gone home and turned on the gas. Then I seemed to see them setting the story up in type, and it seemed even more cheap and screwy than what was happening to me, so I ordered beefsteak and mushrooms instead.”

“That comes from working on a news paper,” I told her, and we both laughed.

But she was right. I have had the same experience several times. Once, when I wasn’t used to being dunned for the rent, I went out on Brooklyn Bridge determined to jump off, but when I got to thinking of who would get the story, and that it would run about three sticks, and all that, it so disgusted me that I turned around and came back, although I had to tiptoe through the hall when I reached home.

“I guess we better be getting back so you can date Elmira,” the girl beside me was saying.

“Elmira?”

“Sure, don’t he look like Elmira to you ? A Kiwanian and a member of the Lions Club, and I bet he drives a sedan that has golf sticks in the back, and a little red worsted monkey that jumps up and down in the back window of the car.”

We slipped back into the dance room, which was so charged with heat and an inescapable mob something that it said “Congo” as plainly as the throbbing of drums in a jungle.

Elmira was evidently waiting for me, for he came toward me immediately. De

spite his age, which I guessed was around fifty, there was an exhilaration and a glow of health about him that were absent from the younger men in the room. His smile seemed sincere and sweet, even when he held me too tightly as we danced.

I felt that when he went back home he would be a little wiser and more tolerant of his home town people because he nourished the secret that he was a gay dog himself.

We danced a few more numbers, and although I was conscious that he was making advances over my shoulder at different women on the floor, in my sudden understanding of him I felt that he was as securely mine, if I wanted him for the night, as he was the woman’s back in Elmira who wore his ring, and pretended to believe the story of his business trips to New York.

When at last we left it was still raining, but the chill wet air had a sweet smell and I breathed it deeply.

We went to a little restaurant and had scrambled eggs and bacon, and bottled beer, and talked quite a lot about the wickedness of the city. Our knees touched under the table, and all of the things which seemed so possible up in the dance-hall, as I talked in the dressing-room, faded out of the realm of possibility as the sleepy-eyed waiter served us on a soiled tablecloth.

I suddenly invented an old maid sister who kept such a close watch over my morals that even now she was sitting at the door waiting to see me come home. I could not stay at a hotel all night because she thought I was at work and would call the office if I didn’t show up. That immediately tabulated me as one having a job and automatically put me out of the class of women that a man might like to help, even in a platonic way, because of the Depression.

The result was that I found myself going down the stairs to the Brooklyn trains, tearing up a card with an address and telephone number on it in case I should change my mind, for he was to be in town for a week.

“Dance-hall Lady, you got to die, got to die,” the train rattled and clacked at me. I could see myself back in the Holy Roller meeting-house, and I damned myself for ever having gone there, blaming the song for what I had done.

I had only thirty cents in my purse, and I knew I could have had more. I was not wise, neither was I good. I had wanted food and shelter and shoes at any price and I had been cheated out of them because once, on an April evening when locusts were in bloom, I had gone to a Holy Roller meeting. I had laughed to see the faithful squirm about on the floor. Ugly, common mountain people I had thought them, with their snuff sticks and bare feet, and because of them I would be hungry to morrow, hoarding my nickels to help me answer advertisements for jobs that never turned up.

I looked at the worn toe of my shoe, and sat crying in the subway train.

Jailbirds by Jim Tully – The American Mercury, 1928

Scanned and OCRed on Sept.8th, 2010 by Kevin I. Slaugther. Read “Thieves and Vagabonds” by Tully as well.

JAILBIRDS

BY JIM TULLY

THE jail room was thirty-five feet long, twenty-five feet wide, and seven feet high. In this large cage were fifty prisoners. Some had been sentenced and were serving jail terms; others awaited trial, or removal to the penitentiary.

The floor was of thick sheet-metal. Around the walls and ceilings were heavy iron bars, painted a ghastly yellow. On each side of the cage was a row of cells, a dozen in all. Each cell was about five by six feet. There were four hammocks in each, one above the other, two on each side. Each hammock contained a filthy blanket.

The oldest inmates had the choice of blankets and hammocks. The prisoner in jail the longest was the court of last appeal in all disputes.

In case of his release, to go to the penitentiary—or freedom—, the next in order of seniority took his place.

Between the rows of cells was a long pine table. A bench was on each side of it. There was room for only sixteen men on the benches.

Cards were not allowed in the jail, but somehow there was always a game in progress. Cigarettes, cigars, and plugs of chewing tobacco were the stakes.

Each prisoner, upon his arrival, had been deprived of all his possessions, with the exception of tobacco and handkerchiefs.

The daily routine began at five o’clock in the morning.

A guard awoke the inmates by pounding on the steel bars with an iron weight.

There arose from hammock, benches, table and floor as disheveled and terrible a group as ever pleaded for justice before merciless judges.

Swollen from sleep and grim from life, each face was a study for a philosophical misanthrope.

The odor of unwashed bodies was accentuated by the complete lack of ventilation.

There was but one faucet, and at it fifty men washed their faces. They pushed each other out of line like free citizens boarding street-cars.

The senior prisoner was allowed to keep a safety razor. He would shave any of his brothers in misery for the equivalent of fifty cents in cigarettes or tobacco. He plied his trade with the grimness of an executioner.

The blade was duller than a sergeant of police. The water was cold. The only soap available was a cake of coarse yellow naptha. The operation was violent and bloody.

At five-thirty they were called to break-fast. Half the men had not had a chance to wash.

They now stood, two by two, at a steel door which opened into another tank, in which was a long pine table.

Steaming hot chicory in a tin cup, two slices of hard bread, a spoonful of hash and a raw onion made all un-happy for the day.

Ten minutes were allowed in which to eat. It was impossible to gulp the boiling chicory in that time.

While the prisoners breakfasted, trus-ties swabbed the cells. They returned to wet floors and the same odors.

Any cigarettes or trinkets accidentally left in the cells were gone–stolen by the trusties.

Old magazines and daily newspapers strayed into the jail. Every line was read.

If a prisoner had arrived since the preceding morning, he was tried immediately after breakfast by a kangaroo court.

The charge was that of breaking into the jail without the consent of the in-mates. As in the outside world, judge, lawyers and jury took their places in the curriculum of injustice.

The blindfolded prisoner was led before the assembly. The senior prisoner, who was the judge, subjected him to a series of questions.

What was his age? What was he in for? Would he have an auburn or a brunette maiden to ease the loneliness of prison? Did he have dandruff—or any of the nameless diseases? Would he desire his breakfast brought to him by the chosen maiden as he lolled in bed? Would he have his chosen maiden bow-legged or pigeon-toed, or both? Or did he prefer a youthful virgin with a darker skin?

When the poor devil tried to name his preference, he was told to shut up. A roar of mocking laughter followed.

He was then given his instructions and told the rules of the prison. The violation of those rules would mean the infliction of so many lashes with a leather belt from the hand of the senior prisoner.

He was placed upon a blanket in the centre of the room. Suddenly the blanket was jerked from under his feet . He sprawled, still blindfolded, upon the floor.

Never was more moronic entertainment offered in American lodges. After he had nursed his bruises, the bandage was re-moved from the new arrival’s eyes. He was then made one of the bunch.

If a prisoner offered resistance to the kangaroo court, he was given the silence. No one talked to him during the day.

The following morning he was called before the court again. If he still offered resistance he was given the silence again, until at last he bowed to the majesty of prison law.

Few held out more than one day.

II

Guards brought in and took out different prisoners from early morning until late at night.

Some would leave to face juries of their uncaught peers amid the ironical good wishes and ribald sneers of the other prisoners.

The clanking of the iron doors and the calling of convict names by guards and trusties were the oases in the steel desert of monotony.

The next meal was at two o’clock. Chicory, bread, stew or beans. It was the last meal of the day.

A huge, gorilla-like Negro was the comedian of the tank. His crooked black arms hung to his knees. His lips were the size of doughnuts cut in half.

He had been released from the penitentiary four months before. After serving ten years as a two-time loser, he was now sentenced again for burglary. He laughed from morning until night.

“I’s a bad niggah, I is! Tain’t no use lettin’ dis niggah free no moah, nohow. I jist go percolatin’ ’round wit’ a gat an’ gits in trouble agin. I’se too bad a niggah to be loose exceptin’ on a chain.”

His eyes glistening with mirthful tears, he would laugh at his monstrous joke like a film comedian.

“I jis’ do a little burglin,’ an’ hot damn, de cops git me! An’ now dey takes dis heah niggah back home to de Big House agin.”

He would laugh again, louder than be-fore, his great lips shaking.

A pyromaniac was in the jail.

A tall, thin ghost of a man touching the shores of fifty, his eyes were blank, his mouth open. He faced a twenty-year sentence for arson. His gray hair straggled over a scar on his forehead. One shoulder drooped. One leg was shorter than the other.

He shuffled like a man paralyzed.

The ends of his fingers were blistered from holding burning matches. His eyes followed every match that lit a cigarette or pipe, in the hands of other prisoners. He did not smoke. He borrowed matches whenever possible. He would hold the burning piece of wood beneath his fingers. The blaze was lost in the blistered flesh. Prisoners would give him matches just to watch him sit in the corner and strike them on the floor.

Each hour was livened by a song from the Negro:

Standin’ on Fouth street,
Lookin’ up Main,
Cop come along
An’ ask me mah name.

I tol’ him mah name,
It was Dennis McGee,
I got seben wild wimmen
Aworkin’ foh me!

Ashes to ashes
An dus’ to dus’,
Was dey eber a woman
A burglah could trust?

A group would soon gather around him. To the stamping of feet and clapping of hands, the Negro would sing:

He took her to de tailah shop
To have her mouf made small,
She swallowed up de tailah,
De tailah-shop an’ all. . . .

Massa had no hooks an’ nails,
Nor anything like dat,
So on dis darky’s nose he used
To hang his coat an’ hat.

Ashes to ashes
An dus’ to dus’,
Was dey eber a woman
A burglah could trust?

III

A conglomerate gathering of frayed ras-cals, they were completely detached from the outside world. Regardless of color, innocence or guilt, they fraternized one with the other. Some tried to keep hearts from breaking; others tried only to kill the monotony of the hours. Thrown to-gether by the steel bars of circumstance, they snarled, quarreled, and cursed. Many seemed to bear all their burdens easier than propinquity.

One man among them held himself aloof.

Accused of forgery, with the certainty of conviction and a long term, he walked nervously up and down the tank. Even in misery he made no comradeship with more illiterate and braver rascals. His body was taut, his eyes swollen and strained at a door that did not open—for him.

Slowly the madness came upon him. Each night he sobbed and groaned. He may as well have thrown particles of ice at the sun.

Each time the iron door clanged he would suddenly rush forward and ex-claim, “Yes, sir! I’m ready!”

All but the pyromaniac laughed.

The door would let another prisoner out or in—and clang shut.

The forger would stand transfixed for a moment, and gaze at the iron-grey door. At last it opened for him.

One trusty took his head, another his feet. He was hurried out one morning with a leather strap around a swollen purple throat—a suicide.

The Negro laughed as he told his decrepit mates: “He’ll git up to Heaven and de good Lawd, He’ll say, `What foh you done fohged ma name foh? Ahse goin’ to put you to writin’ down de names of de preachehs an’ judges who keeps comin’ to Hell forebeh and ebeh.’ . . .”

A trusty brought in a paper which con-tained the picture of the forger’s wife and daughter. The young girl was posed by the photographer so as to show her beauti-ful legs. Her picture was fastened to the wall.

Otherwise life went on in the prison as though the forger had not lived among the men who knew of neither dawn nor dusk.

All day the electric lights burned. At night, all of them save a dim bulb over the door were switched out.

The pyromaniac would sit on his cot and bum a last match before going to sleep.

At intervals in the night, the main lights were switched on and off. The door clanged open and shut. A new face appeared in the morning.

A dope fiend, eaten with disease, was always well supplied with “snow.” The guards either knew or feigned ignorance for money. The prisoners knew. A stool-pigeon told a guard. No action was taken.

A friend regularly brought him clean handkerchiefs. The hem contained cocaine. Sometimes a spot soaked in morphine would be marked with a lead pencil. The saturated cloth would be soaked in a spoon of water. A match under the spoon, a safety pin jabbed into the arm, … dreams again!

Tobacco smoke circled, heavy as fog, about the steel room.

Men paced up and down, up and down, like automatons on a wire stretched across the empty chasm of life. It was night al-ways—with never a ray of day in the jail. . . or in their hearts. The Negro burglar alone was happy.

After many days the monotonous hum of voices would tell on their nerves.

They ached for solitude away from iron bars and caged men.

Each night a trusty came with a large can of Epsom salts. Coarse food, no exer-cise, bad air and overwrought nerves made indigestion king.

Ignorance and false pride sustained the inmates. Pride and hope. Alone, they might have given way to tears.

The Negro hoped for chicken again—in fifteen years.

Minds dulled with too much revery, with too much smoking, too many incessant tunes, often took on the illusion that they had always been behind the bars.

Among the two or three-time losers there was always much talk. Notes were com-pared. Denver Shorty, Texas Gyp, and Gimp the Red, each with a coterie of friends about him, talked of robbed banks and bullets in the night.

Young first offenders, actuated by the ego that makes the Pope and the yegg twin brothers, listened with awe.

“I blazed it out with the rube marshal and heard him fall in the alley. Another yap threw a bullet against the wall in back o’ me. . . . We got away with twenty grand—but Sailor Pete fell. A rube dis-trict attorney took three thousand an’ got him off with a little rap of a year. We sprung him in ten months.”

And Denver Shorty called, “Ain’t that so, Gimp?”

Gimp answered, “Yeah—what is it?”

In this world of iron bars and dim lights, ego paraded with braggadocio. Many lies were told.

“My kid brother’s only twelve years old, but he’s the best thief you ever saw,” was Texas Gyp’s contribution.

Young lads never before in jail told tales of long incarcerations for desperate crimes. Like snobs the world over, they wished to edge into the society which they admired.

Two brothers were in for automobile stealing. The younger, not over eighteen, was taken out of the jail one morning at nine o’clock.

The older brother walked the jail, mum-bling: “If those cops are givin’ the kid the third degree, I’ll kill ‘em.”

A guard brought the boy into the jail that afternoon. His face was black and blue. He staggered from exhaustion.

Ferocious hulks of life gathered about guard and boy. Among them was the brother. The guard, to whom the beaten boy had been delivered by the police, now met a heavy fist with his jaw.

A riot started. Other guards dragged their comrade out of the jail. The young criminal’s brother was knocked unconscious with a blackjack, and dragged out of the door. He died next day in a hospital.

The younger brother, bleeding and groaning all night, was taken away in an ambulance.

Added to the charge of stealing against him was the new one of resisting an officer.

The trusties were really the rulers of the little world. Their unpaid services added to the graft of the jailer. Like others of their kind, they assumed a great dignity with their little authority.

Prisoners serving jail sentences, they had privileges. They could run errands.

They had ample time to eat their meals. They were given as much food as they liked. Nonentities in the outer world, they were despots in a shutaway wilderness of iron.

Many of them were reluctant to leave when their terms expired. One had been a trusty at alternating periods for twenty years. Old, hopeless, broken, derelict, he would purposely commit small crimes in order to reenter the jail and become a trusty again.

He had never been in the Big House, or penitentiary. He scorned all those who had. Like most criminals, petty and great, he was really a moralist at heart.

Nearing seventy, bent double, with an awful leer on his face, he was known as Old Babyface in mockery. Intensely a Christian, he pored over his Bible with fanatical eyes. As bitter as St. Paul, and meaner in heart than Calvin, life had put glue on his fingers.

They stuck to everything.

He told everything to the guards . . . stole every-thing from the men.

Youths facing the State penitentiary the first time eagerly asked him questions about the Big House. He told them be-tween sneers of the hard way of crime.

IV

A newcomer slept in a heroin stupor.

There was blood on his hands and clothes. The morning paper came. A man was dead.

He was the murderer. The prisoners stared at his neck in silence.

He slept peacefully in the last moments of untroubled oblivion he was ever to have.

His hat was on the floor beside him. His shirt was torn to the belt. His collar was gone. His four-in-hand scarf was in a hard knot, as though a hand had pulled it tight.

He did not remember the quarrel.

A clean-shaven fellow had been brought into the jail with the murderer. His eyes were furtive and rheumy. His manner was a conciliatory apology. He told with weak gusto of being caught in the at-tempt to rob with a deadly weapon. He established himself on terms of familiarity with everybody in the jail. But the two-time losers, with an air of suspicion, with-drew from him.

“They got ‘im in here to pump the guy that bumped the fellow off. Then they’ll use it agin him at the trial,” was Gimp the Red’s comment.

It went around the jail, like gossip at a woman’s club. The new arrival was a stool-pigeon.

Gimp the Red and Denver Shorty were in the wash-room with a dozen other prisoners.

The loquacious fellow with the furtive eyes was among them.

There was a sudden groan. A fist crashed at the base of his brain. His eyes went tight shut with pain. Blows whistling with sudden speed smashed his face and body. A foot caught him in the groin. Bleeding, twisted, groaning, he writhed on the slippery floor.

The prisoners regained composure and washed themselves in the nonchalant manner of men at a hunt club.

A guard came, asked many questions, made many threats.

No one seemed to know who hit the stool-pigeon.

The bleeding mongrel was taken away. The prisoners went without breakfast that morning.

The old plan of the police to have one criminal win another’s confidence and be-tray him had been frustrated.

A few weeks later the murderer returned from the court-room. In his ears still rang, “To be hanged by the neck until you are dead, and may God have mercy on your soul!”

His hands, in steel bracelets, were before him. His eyes stared unseeing.

The handcuffs were removed. His cell door was closed. The guard left.

He fell wearily to his cot. His head sagged low. As if unable to hold it up, he placed his elbows on his knees and rested his jaw in the palms of his hands, in the manner of Rodin’s “Thinker.”

Only the pyromaniac noticed him.

He looked at the bent-over figure for several minutes. Walking to his cell door, he asked, “Have you got a match?”

The man lifted his furrowed face.

“Yes.”

He rose unsteadily and handed the pyro-maniac a small box of matches.

The incendiary’s eyes glowed. “Thanks—thanks!” And then, “Is it all over?”

“Yeap —I drew the rope. They’re stretchin’ it now, I suppose.”

The pyromaniac lit a match. It burned into his fingers as he watched.

“Well, it don’t make much difference,” he finally said. “Everybody kicks the bucket sooner or later.”

The condemned man rolled a cigarette. The pyromaniac held a match for him.

He watched the blaze while the murderer smoked feverishly.

“You know,” he said, lighting another match, “I wouldn’t be afraid to die. I’d rather like it. I wish this place’d burn up now.”

“But I’d want the judge in it,” snapped the murderer, “and that damn pie-faced jury. I raved in my sleep last night at the hangman—he painted my neck white where it was swollen an’ purple. . . an’ he put me in an iron coffin an’ gave me a hammer, sayin’, ‘Here, pal, you kin pound your way out.’ They dropped me through the trap—and I laughed and wriggled my way outta the rope.” He felt his throat. “I wish to God it was over.”

“It don’t take long,” said the pyromaniac. “Not over a minute.”

“No, it’s the waitin’ that kills. I gave the guy I bumped a better deal. He only died once.”

“O’ course you’ll have a preacher at the last,” suggested the pyromaniac.

“If they send me a preacher they’ll hang me twice,” was the answer.

Over his face passed clouds of reality.

“But, Bralen,” continued the pyromaniac, “it wouldn’t do no good to have the judge and jury die. . . they’d just get others.”

The murderer looked at the incendiary between puffs of smoke.

“Besides, you shouldn’t feel that way about ‘em. They hain’t no worse’n us—just different.”

He struck another match.

“If you die feelin’ happy towards every-body, you’ll wake up in tother world with your soul clean like fire.”

“Maybe you’re right,” answered the man about to die.

The incendiary walked to a group of prisoners.

“Bralen got the rope,” he said.

V

It was evening.

The Negro was starting for the peni-tentiary. He sang like one going on a glori-ous adventure:

Hang up de fiddle and de bow,

Lay down de shovel and de hoe,

Deys no moah stealin foh pooh ol’ Ned,

He’s goin wheah de bad niggah’s go.

He walked about getting ready, an antediluvian monster with the gift of laughter, his doughnut-lipped mouth open from ear to ear.

With crooked short legs, gigantic chest and baggy green-striped pants, the frayed bottoms of which dragged on the floor, and with a collarless shirt that was grimy and tom, he faced the meaningless futil-ity of his chaotic life with the laughter of a fool.

The fat guard waited, his hard lower lip and undershot jaw twisted in a smile at the Negro.

“Come on here, Rastus—time to go. They cain’t wait your Pullman all night, you know.”

“Dat’s all right, Mistah Guand. Tell ‘em foh me dat Geohge Washington Jones’ll be comin’ right along, an’ tell none o’ dem boys to come to de train to meet me, ’cause I’se been deah befoah.”

His eyes turned to the murderer’s cell.

“Ah’ll be waitin’ foh you, boy.”

“Go on, you black devil—an’ chew on a bone like an ape!”

The Negro laughed louder than ever.

“jis’ heah dat white boy talk! You bettah jist say all you kin, ’cause dey’s goin to buhn youh neck till it pops, an’ make it all red!”

The murderer stood up, his hands grip-ping the cell door until his fingers were white.

His heavy lantern-jaw was hard set. He scowled at the Negro. The Negro went on: “Bettah grin a little, white boy . . . ’cause you’se goin’ to dance till youh knees cave in—an’ you bettah pray hand too, Mistah Man, ’cause deys gonna hang you so fast it’ll be three days befoah de Lawd knows you’se daid.”

“Come on, Rastus,” laughed the guard.

The Negro put a shapeless hat on a bul-let head and shouted, “So long, eberybody! See you all in jail! Why dey allus takes you away at night so’s you cain’t see no purty country is moah’n I know.”

Guard and convict moved toward the door. It opened. Another guard entered. “Bring Bralen,” he said.

The murderer’s cell was opened. He was handcuffed to the Negro.

One smiled. The other frowned.

They marched away.

Thieves and Vagabonds by Jim Tully

The following story was transcribed and introduction was written for a ‘zine a few years ago and was never published. I offer it here now because I just rediscovered it on my computer.

Jim Tully is one of my literary heroes, and I don’t have many. Tully was a defacto Satanist, of this I have no question. He lived his life as he saw fit.

Credited with originating the hard-boiled writing style practiced later by such authors as Dashiell Hammett. His own story is on par with such figures as Jim Thompson and Jack London, writing not from fantasies, but from his own hard won experiences.

This red-headed Irish bruiser became one of the most respected writers during the roaring twenties, a time filled with more historical greats than probably ever before or since.

A literary bum, Jim also spent time doing an assortment of jobs to get him from one day to the next. By the time his first book was published in 1922, he’d been a dishwasher, chainmaker, boxer, newspaper reporter, tree surgeon, circus handyman, and Hollywood press agent. Through these jobs he compiled a few lifetimes of experiences and characters to write about.

Just like the most of the once great figures of history, Tully has been all but forgotten. His works slowly went out of print and his name brought up less and less. Just like the legacy of Al Jolson, who was in his time considered to be the greatest entertainer the world had known, is resigned to the intrepid hands of those who search the dustbins of our uniquely American past.

As Satanists, we search these dustbins. Most of the dust it churns up is lung-choking garbage, but once in a while an amazing thing will be found.

“Thieves and Vagabonds” was originally published in H.L. Mencken’s monthly magazine The American Mercury in 1928. This work is being published for the first time in 80 years.

Since we’re talking about Mencken, I’ll quote him now. It’s one I’ve sort of adopted as my own long-form motto:

“I hope I need not confess that a large part of my stock in trade consists of platitudes rescued from the cobwebbed shelves of yesterday… This borrowing and refurbishing of shop-worn goods, as a matter of fact, is the invariable habit of traders in ideas, at all times and everywhere. It is not, however, that all the conceivable human notions have been thought out; it is simply, to be quite honest, that the sort of men who volunteer to think out new ones seldom, if ever, have wind enough for a full day’s work.”
-H.L. Menken, from “In Defense of Women”

Enjoy,

Kevin I. Slaughter

THIEVES AND VAGABONDS

Jim Tully

NO BIRD flew through the air. No bare branch stirred. The turbulent water of Lake Huron was icily supine in the midst of the frozen desolation. The little town in the Thunder Bay river section was buried deep in snow. For days the weather had remained the same.

The cold cut to the marrow of sparsely clad bones, like frost-bitten razor blades. The deep drifted snow glinted chameleonlike under the spasmodically shining sun. It, too, seemed a frozen candle in the sky.

All day the wind had whirled the snow in every direction. It abated by night, and the snow ceased falling. A deadly calm, and a deadlier cold settled over the earth. It was twenty degrees below zero.

Every living thing had hunted shelter for the night. The stars glistened above, as if piercing through the atmosphere with swords of burning steel. The moon was a mist of frozen white and yellow.

To keep beggars from freezing the calaboose was left open. A pine structure for the lesser offenders, it stood on a side street―alone.

A group of vagabonds huddled around a jumbo stove in a wretchedly furnished room that faced a row of cells. The window of the room was stuffed with rags; there were but three unbroken panes of glass left. The door was cracked and frostbitten. The unbroken panes were covered with a heavy frost. A large lamp, fastened with a bracket, was above the door.

The echo of a locomotive whistle was heard, like the faraway sound of vibrant music. The vagabonds listened, and a flare of interest passed over their life-beaten and weather-lashed faces. But no word was said as they turned their eyes to the round stove again, like tired dogs dozing. The engine whistled once lore and all eyes became alert.

“That old boy’s a ramblin’ to git out o’ the cold,” said a derelict with a weazened face. “He thinks !it’ll be warmer ‘n Detroit.”

“Yeap,” said a one-legged man, “it’s a hell of a night for yeggs and hoboes. I wouldn’t even want a railroad bull out on a night like this. We’re gittin’ punished for our sins.”

“It’ll be hotter ‘n this when you git punished fur your sins, One Leg,” grunted a heavy man with a red kerchief around his neck.

“Maybe so, maybe so,” drawled One Leg. “I been punished enough in my time for all I ever done.”

The heavy man, a crumbling mountain of muscle, smiled a crooked smile, rubbed his week-old beard with a knucklecracked hand, and said, “What da hell, what da hell―gittin’ soft, One Leg? You’d steal pennies from dead men’s eyes.”

“You bet your life I would, Husky. Dead men don’t need no pennies, and they don’t need their eyes shut-they can’t see nothin’.”

The group laughed without mirth.

“I hope no hobo’s on that rattler just pullin’ in. He’d freeze―sure’s Gawd is just,” said the derelict with the weazened face.

“Don’t worry your potato soul, Weazle,” advised the man called One Leg. “They ain’t no smart ‘boes ridin’ freights tonight. And them that ain’t smart―well, the deader the better. Too many dumb ones on the road already.”

The decrepit of the earth lapsed into silence. The husky vagabond arose and reached into the bottom of the wood-box. He pulled out a chunk of wood. “Don’t know what we’ll do when the wood’s gone,” he sneered. “Burn the shack down, I guess.”

“I’d just as soon,” responded One Leg. “These jails are gettin’ rottener every year. A self-respectin’ tramp can’t stop in them no more. It used to be when I first went on the road they was decent jails. You’d git good eats and java. Now all you git is hell from the jailers and corn bread and chicory.”

He was interrupted by the man with the weazened face. “Well, if you don’t like the jails you kin quit trampin’.” Then, scornfully, “Quit your crabbin’! You’re lucky they let the jails open.”

II

The large man moved his shoulder and neck muscles nervously, completely oblivious of the conversation.

“What’s the matter, Husky, old snowbird, do you want a shot?” asked a vagabond, looking at him.

“Naw, I don’t want a shot. Gosh! Can’t a man sit quiet without you mosquitoes buzzin’ at him? I was jist thinkin’ o’ the days I was a man―and a damn good one at that.”

“What you was don’t buy any ham an’ eggs,” laughed One Leg. “People go to Hell ’cause they was what they was. No one gives a cockeyed nigger for what you was. What you was is all over―has-beens ain’t useful to society nohow.”

“That may be, One Leg, but a hasbeen’s better ‘n a never-was, any day. What you were shows what you was-and I was one of the two best men of his weight in the world. Think o’ that, you bums and would-be yeggs! The world’s damn big―and they wasn’t any man in it―millions and millions o’ them―that could lick me. Huh,” he looked about with scorn, “that’ll make your eyes pop out like eggs―huh―the world’s damn big.” He raised an immense hand. “Lookit that mitt―and this mug”―putting his hand to his jaw. “It’s stopped wallops from all o’ them―an’ the best any o’ them ever got was an even break wit’ me―and only one o’ them ever done that.

“I used to go ’round ’em like hoops on a barrel and they called me the Ghost Wit’ the Kick of a Mule. I put the fear o’ Gawd in their hearts, I did. I played on their ribs till they cracked. Didden I put the Chicago Slasher out wit’ a rabbit punch―and he croaks before mornin’? I’ll say I been a man in my time!”

The derelicts looked at Husky in a disinterested manner. He rose and went on.

“When Regan was champeen, who fought him a twenty-round draw? Me! An’ the gong saves him in the last round. I was gittin’ better ‘n the twentieth. I kin hear the crowd hollerin’ yet. No one ever stood up in front o’ him twenty rounds before, neither. In the third round he sez to me, he sez―’Say your prayers, Husky, you’re a goin’ to Heaven to-night,’ and I grunts back at him, ‘Not ’til I gives you hell first,’ I sez. And then we went at it. Lord almighty, what a battle! In the ‘leventh round I drops him for a count of eight. Eight, do you hear that? I jest come within two counts o’ bein’ the champeen o’ the world, I did. But the Kid he gets up and shakes in his knees and then comes at me with his right sailing plumb fer my jaw, an’ quicker ‘n lightnin’ I squared ‘roun ‘n’ hooked my left―an’ doubles him up like a rusty knife.”

Husky gulped.

“It was a night like this an’ colder ‘n Hell wit’ the door open. They was forty thousand people there an’ I come near bein’ champeen. You git that―you bread-beggars―you crums―you meat-snatchers―you unbathed bastards! ―an’ don’t make fun o’ your betters! I’m still man enough to clap your heads together.” He slapped his immense broken-knuckled and finger-twisted hands together and went on: “Don’t you never call me Snowbird agin, One Leg, or I’ll make you pick your teeth with that crutch o’ yourn. I’ll make you dig your grave with it if you say I’m a hophead out loud.”

One Leg looked about the room, then turned with a bored expression away from Husky. The other vagabonds did the same.

The ex-bruiser, baffled by their unconcern, trembled with the memory of past glory. The crumbling muscled hero of a little hour that had passed, he looked about forlornly.

His hands dropped from their clenched position; his taut muscles relaxed. He jerked the soiled red kerchief from around his neck and wiped his rheumy eyes. He then seated himself by the stove. A strained silence followed.

III

One Leg broke it with, “Well, ‘boes, any of you want to see my new invention?”

“Sure―what did you invent?” asked Weazle.

“A dog-fooler,” answered One Leg, pulling up the trouser of his remaining leg and showing the calf of it wrapped about with heavy brown paper. “There ain’t a dog in this country can bite through that,” he said proudly.

Husky felt the paper and exclaimed, “Gosh, it’s only paper!”

“Sure! What did you think it was―cement?” One Leg snarled.

“Well, a fellow needs somethin’ like that―there’s a lot of dogs in Michigan,” commented a vagabond.

“Well, I ain’t very fast on this one leg,” resumed the inventor, “so I had to rig up somethin’ to protect it.”

“I’ll bet a Newfoundlan’ kin bite through that,” said a vagabond who had not spoken before. “I seen ’em up in Maine bigger ‘n cows.”

“How about a bull-dog?” asked another.

“Oh, they can’t bite very hard,” answered One Leg. “Their jaws don’t open very far―it takes a big mouth for a hard bite.”

“A collie’s mean, though,” ventured Husky. “They’d bite their uncle if he wasn’t lookin’.”

“Them little terriers are pizen to me,” said a nondescript. “They don’t bite so hard, but they raise old Ned till they git all the darn dogs in the neighborhood after a guy. ”

Husky looked bored. “Let’s forgit about dogs,” he said. “Doc don’t care about dogs, do you, Doc?”

The vagabond addressed might have been any age. from fifty to eighty. His shoulders were round, his hands delicate, slender and bloodless. His face was pinched pink and blue. His hair straggled silver into his bleared and insane eyes.

His pockets were ripped on his buttonless coat, the collar of which hid his thin neck. There remained still a touch of authority in his incisive manner, as if he belonged not in such crass surroundings. With precise enunciation he turned to his mountainous questioner.

“My name is Dr. John Abercombie, if you please, sir, and I may say that I am not at all interested in dogs-only the human brain.” He raised his right hand in the manner of a professor before a class. “It is, gentlemen, the most marvelous gift of God. I speak of man’s brain―not woman’s.”

Laughter interrupted him. He frowned at his audience.

“And I often said to her, ‘But, dear, remember our position―and your own good name―even if you do not love me―you cannot afford a scandal. You surely would not trade a brain specialist for an Italian teacher of the dance! Ah, dear wife, do you not recall the words of the woman-weary Shakespeare, “Frailty, thy name is woman?” Madness lies in getting what we want―one should be careful of the brain. The convolutions of the cerebrum are many―this man belongs in the medulla oblongata position. He has touched the pia mater which connects the nerves of your body―it is that most delicate portion of the brain.’”

Weazle rubbed his yellow eyebrows in a bored manner.

“Well, one thing’s a cinch―none of us has any brains―that’s why we’re here.” He looked at Doc. “Believe me, herdin’ sheep in Idaho beats this life. The sheep may be dumb, but they hain’t any dumber than us.”

“Chortle for yourself, Weazle,” snapped One Leg.

“Well, I’ll sing, then,” returned Weazle beginning in a cracked tenor voice:

Oh, all you young Dukes and you Duchess,
Just listen to what I do say,
Because it ain’t ourn that we touches,
You send us to Botany Bay.

Singin’ too-ral-too-ral-looralay,
And too-ral-loo-ral-lorray,
Because it ain’t ourn that we touches,
You send us to Botany Bay.

Oh, had I the wings of a buzzard,
I’d spread out my pinions and fly
‘Way back to Old England forever,
And there I’d be willin’ to die!

“Gentlemen,” said Doc slowly, “most anyone would be willing to die in England.”

Weazle flared into a cockney accent:

“England’s a white man’s country―and the women are all beautiful―not like in this hick country.”

Doc rubbed his thin, bloodless hands, and gazed at Weazle with the round eyes of the insane.

“Slandering womanhood ill becomes a gentleman, young man. Perhaps you have never known a real American woman.”

“No―but that wop did.”

Doc was frozen dignity.

“I shall not discuss such matters with children.”

His head sank. He looked a fragment for the pity of his fellows.

All were oblivious except Husky. He rose from his seat and put a heavy hand on Doc’s shoulder. “Don’t take it so hard, old boy. You were up an’ now you’re down. I know what you mean-these yaps don’t. They’re just a lotta hogs an’ they hain’t never seen but one pen in their life. We been in real ones, ain’t we, Doc?”

He patted the remnant of science. Doc did not stir.

“No use talkin’ to these yaps about brains, Doc. They don’t know what you mean.”

IV

The door opened.

A rugged fellow of about thirty-three entered. He held his hands funnel-like to his mouth and blew hot breath upon them.

He wore a dark suit that had been well tailored. Full of the grease-stains of the road and pricked in several places by the sharp pieces of coke upon which he had lain, it nevertheless fit him well and accentuated the lines of his powerful body. He was about six feet tall. His hair curled around the edges of his cap. His face was intelligent, well cut; his eyes a vivid blue. When he removed his hands he showed a sardonic sneer. He tried to smile. The sneer remained.

All in the group save Husky were deferential to the new arrival. They acted as though a man had appeared among them. He walked toward the stove.

“God Almighty, what a night! Is this all the wood you’ve got?” He blew on his hands again. Then as if irritated at the scarcity of wood, “What a hell of a bunch of vagabonds and thieves you are! You’d all sit here and freeze before you’d rustle some wood.”

He pushed One Leg from his chair, tore it apart, and put it in the stove.

He pulled a quart of whisky from a sagging coat pocket.

A constable’s voice was heard.

“Come on, here! It’s a wonder you ain’t froze! You oughta be in school instead of galavantin’ around the country.”

He stood in the door with a youth of fine features.

All the vagabonds looked up except Doc. He still stared at the rotting floor. The youth walked to the stove.

“They’re comin’ younger an’ younger. Soon babies’ll be on the road,” laughed a vagabond.

“Yes―lovely babies,” remarked Doc, looking at the youth. The sound of the constable’s footsteps could be heard, dying.

Tacked to the wall was part of a map of America. The ruffian in the tailored suit walked toward it.

“It’s not all here. The Gulf of Mexico and the Southern States are missing.”

“Well, you don’t count ’em anyhow,” laughed One Leg.

The man traced a route with his finger.

“We’re a hell of a ways from nowhere…and along ways to go.”

He walked away and stood with his back to the stove. His eyes scanned the array of derelicts.

“Where you from, Bozo?” He turned to the youth.

“Over yonder,” returned the lad, circling the room with his hand.

“We’re all from over yonder,” put in Doc.

The wind rose in a terrifying crescendo. The kerosene lamp flickered. A shadow passed over the room.

The wind died down, then rose again, louder than before. Doors and window rattled violently.

“It’ll blow the cells outta the building if it keeps this up,” laughed Weazle.

“Or the wool off a sheep’s tail, eh, Weaz?” suggested One Leg.

Doc spoke in a cracked, appealing voice to the youth who had taken his fancy.

“So you’re from over yonder?” He broke into a half song:

Over yonder―when the roll is called
Over yonder―I’ll be there!

The ruffian in the worn tailored suit took up the words in a rich vibrant voice:

On that bright and glorious morning
When old time shall be no more…
When the roll is called over yonder
I’ll be there!

He beat time with feet and hands. The youth and Weazle took up the song.

They stopped suddenly. The wind pounded at the door. The ruffian in the tailored suit took another drink.

“Gimme a swig o’ that, for God’s sake!” pleaded Husky. “I’m needin’ a drink for a week. I’m goin’ nuts in here―two whole days of it.”

“Who ran your saloon last year? I’m not feedin’ good liquor to hoboes. You get a couple of swigs of this an’ it’d blow your empty can off. It’s not regular liquor, you know. It’s nitro-glycerine. I use it for soup―it opens anything.” He looked at Husky, trembling on his pine box scat.

“Lord, have a little pity, ‘bo! I’d give everybody a drink if I had it. I’d give the sun away an’ sit in the shade… That’s why I’m here.”

The man’s sneer vanished for a second. “I’ll give you a swig-just to watch it work.” He handed him the bottle. “Bathe your troubles on Nitro Dugan.”

V

The vagabonds became alert at mention of the name.

Husky clamped his immense jaws about the neck of the bottle.

“Here―what the hell! I’m giving you a drink―not the whole bottle!”

Nitro Dugan wrestled with Husky, who held the gurgling fluid upward.

Impatient, he stepped backward and slammed a heavy fist against Husky’s jaw. The bottle broke and fell to the floor.

Husky stood, legs apart, the neck of the bottle in his mouth.

“Give a bum a horse and he’ll want a stable,” snapped Nitro, looking at the spilled liquor. The bottle neck rattled to the floor.

Husky’s mountain of muscle trembled as though lava poured through it. He frowned at his benefactor with menace and seated himself on the pine box. Nitro sneered at him, “Now would you like some ham and eggs?” His voice rose. “What do you think I am―a traveling bartender?” Pointing to the floor, “Look what you did-you’d muss up Heaven if they let you in.”

Husky’s heavy voice boomed. “Gwan away from me-afore I tap you on the button!”

“Don’t talk to me that way, ‘bo. I’ll put a hole through you so big you can bury yourself in it,” sneered Nitro Dugan.

“Gentlemen, gentlemen―remember where you are,” pleaded Doc. “It ill behooves men to forget themselves over such trifling matters.”

“Shut up!” snarled Husky, pushing the emaciated vagabond backward.

He stood before Nitro with fearful menace. “Go ahead and try to put your hole through me, ‘bo. They hain’t a bullet made that kin go through my hide.”

Nitro stood with his defiant sneer, his right hand buried in his coat pocket.

All eyes opened startled wide.

“Don’t, for God’s sake! Don’t you see he’s just a wreck? And now you’ve drove him mad with hooch,” the youth pleaded.

“The hell I’m a wreck! I’m Battlin’ Hagen, you whippersnapper! No longlegged sap kin talk about drillin’ holes through me an’ git away wit’ it.”

All drew in closer. The youth held Nitro’s right hand. Nitro commanded, “Hands up, you bum, or I’ll throw a bullet through you!”

Husky dashed toward Nitro. A bullet missed him. He twisted the snub blue revolver from Nitro’s hand. The youth picked it up.

Nitro made a move for the gun, but Husky was upon him.

“Now we’ll take it―man to man―you yellow dog!” Nitro, with the same defiant sneer, twisted a left fist upward. It connected under Husky’s chin. The blood spurted from his teeth.

“Gentlemen, gentlemen!” pleaded Doc. A wild blow caught him. His jaw went to one side. His eyes popped. He fell unnoticed.

One Leg decided against Husky and thumped him with his crutch. The blows rattled from his head.

Then, as if irritated, Husky pulled his right shoulder back in the midst of the general melee. His fist caught One Leg on the right ear. It shot him perpendicular for at least six feet. He then fell like a telegraph pole, chopped low.

Husky did not look at him.

Now roused, he rushed in relentlessly, using every trick long years in the ring had taught him.

Nitro parried, feinted, and stalled for time. His blows rattled on Husky’s jaws like pebbles on an iron roof.

Hurtling bodies drowned the noise of the roaring wind. Nitro’s coat was torn from his shoulders. Crushed against the door, he began to push his knees upward in an effort to cripple Husky. The ex-bruiser, equal to the occasion, used the same tactics.

“Stop it! Stop it! I’ll shoot,” the youth cried.

The gun was leveled at the bloody assailants. As if eager for a breathing spell, they stopped hostilities and looked at the youth.

Doc sat erect, rubbing his jaw. He rose shakily and stood, a ghoulish spectator, blood dripping from the corners of his mouth.

One Leg still slept, like a crippled soldier, with the crutch across his breast.

The blue gun was held firmly. The monsters of men looked down its barrel.

The lamp above the youth accentuated his fine cut features. A strand of blondishbrown hair fell from under his cap. The vagabonds faced him in a half-circle as he leaned against the door.

“You wouldn’t shoot, would you, kid? Why do you care if we kill each other?” coaxed Nitro.

“I don’t―but if you do, they’ll blame it on us―and throw the key away.”

“Ho ho―that’s it―lookin’ out for yourself!” Nitro again sneered, stepping closer.

“Sure―ain’t I human? But stand where you are!”

The revolver was shoved forward.

“Now quit your fightin’―both of you. You’ll get us all thrown out in the cold. If you want a fight, beat it on out of here. Then you kin freeze and go to Heaven like little babies swattin’ flies.”

Husky sprang forward. He grabbed the gun with one hand; and with the other he ripped the youth’s clothing to his waist. The lad’s cap came off in the scuffle.

The half-circle of vagabonds gasped in unison.

“God Almighty! It’s a girl!”

VI

The words awoke One Leg. He clattered to his one foot.

Centuries fell from every face save Doc’s. Impassive as stone, he saw not a girl, but a fellow vagabond.

The girl, with hair falling over her slender shoulders, now stood with the expression of a trapped animal; arms folded across her breast. The half-circle began to close in.

“You dirty devils! Now you want to paw me! You’re all alike―every one of you―even the damned preacher in the Reform School!”

Her words made them hesitate. Her left hand searched for the door knob. An awful stillness followed. The wind could be heard trumpeting outside.

“Gentlemen, gentlemen!” pleaded Doc.

“Shut up, you nutty yap!” from Nitro Dugan.

Husky, his mind on weightier matters, held the revolver loosely in his hand. He touched the girl’s arm. She shrank.

Nitro Dugan moved closer, and delivered a powerful blow to Husky’s Jaw. He grappled for the gun.

It turned downward and exploded. A moan followed.

The girl looked upward for a second. Her left hand searched for the door-knob again. Her right crashed the lamp to the floor. A blue flame spread over the kerosene in Husky’s direction.

Dodging low, she was gone. The door slammed shut.

Husky awaited the fast creeping flames. Nitro Dugan jerked the door open with,

“Well, it’s our move―damn the luck!” Doc remained.

The other vagabonds scurried after Nitro Dugan.

“Wait a moment, gentlemen,” Doc called. “Perhaps he isn’t dead.” No hobo heard.

An obscure paragraph in a Detroit paper announced next day that the jail at______ had burned to the ground.

Two unknown tramps, seeking shelter for the night, had been found dead among the ruins.

Memento mori, Isaac Spencer London Jr. 1926-1947

The “I” stands for Isaac.

Usually people think that Slaughter is a pen-name. It is not, it’s a family name going back a few hundred years to when one of my relatives Anglicized their German name when they stepped off a boat in Philadelphia. If I’ve cleared that up, and there is a further question, it’s “What does the ‘I’ stand for?”

There are a number of Isaacs in my paternal family line, on both my grandfather and grandmother’s sides.

The father of my grandmother, Isaac Spencer London was a newspaper owner/editor in Richmond County, North Carolina. He was married in 1915 to Lena Payne Everett, the daughter of a man who would be Secretary of State of North Carolina.

Isaac and Lena had 5 children. The fifth, Henry Armand London, died within minutes of being born, and the mother, Isaac’s wife, died the next day, Jan. 9, 1930, from pneumonia.

Isaac Spencer London Jr. was the 4th child of the two, being born August 5th, 1926. His mother passed away when he was only 3.

Isaac Jr. enlisted in the Army, and during the course of kidney stone operations he contracted Hepatitis, eventually killing him on January 20th, 1947 at the age of 20.

During the last days and following the death of his namesake, Ike did what a newspaperman would do – he wrote. These writings were then gathered together with photos and genealogical data on dozens of family members and published in a 44 page booklet titled “Pictures and Sketches of My Son Isaac Spencer London Jr. who died January 20, 1947 of Acute Hepatitis at the Veterans Hospital, Fayetville”.

I found a couple of copies of this booklet when I was sorting through my grandfather’s belongings after he had died. I didn’t know any London family members but my grandmother. A few years ago I’d pulled a significant amount of genealogical information from the booklet into a database, and when I went looking for it again, couldn’t find it. When considering the task of doing it again, it occured to me that these booklets are probably quite rare nowadays (though it seems a few are listed as being in a few NC University libraries), and certainly there were more family members who may be interested.

Rereading last page was what spurned me to take action:

This last page and the two blank pages of the cover are intended to be used as a Family Record. It is my hope that the names and data of additional grandchildren, and the names of their descendants, or of other members of our families, may be written hereon as a PERMANENT Family Record.

I have prepared this 44-page booklet (and 4-page cover) entirely with the idea of INFORMATION for our descendants. Here’s hoping it will be of value and be informative to you all in the many years far hence!

—Isaac S. London, Rockingham, N. C., June, 1947.


The past two days I’ve spent scanning, OCRing, Photoshopping and WordPressing to eventually finish with a website dedicated to this booklet and the information it contains. With the exception of typographical issues (many hyphens are still present that don’t need to be, a few misspellings from misreadings by the OCR program, etc.) the entire booklet is online.

http://www.picturesandsketchesofmyson.com/

Grave of Isaac Spencer London Jr.

The grave of Isaac S. London Jr.

Though I don’t imagine that most of my readers will have an interest in the site as a whole, I appreciated greatly the following section from near the end of the 44 page booklet, though, and it may be of interest to genral readers. It is a glimpse into the small-town newspapers now gone:

How Carl Goerch Views the
Rockingham Post-Dispatch
In His May 17 1947, Issue

The following story on the writer and his paper was printed in Carl Goerch’s “The State” at Raleigh May 17, 1947, and was written by Robert W. Shaw. The boners or linotype errors Carl lists really never occurred in the Post-Dispatch, but they make up a “good story” and serve to accentuate the individualistic make-up of the Post-Dispatch. And so with no apologies, here is his story, caption and all:

Ike’s Newspaper

POST-DISPATCH VIOLATES THE RULES OF
JOURNALISM BUT THE READERS LIKE THE
PAPER AND ITS, EDITOR IMMENSELY.

ISAAC S. LONDON is proprietor, editor and publisher of the Rockingham Post-Dispatch, a weekly paper ,of seven columns width and twelve pages which he has been running for nearly 30 years—since Dec. 6, 1917 (and The SILER CITY FRIT for nine years before that — April, 1909, to Dec. 1, 1917). Ike has probably the most incomplete make,- up or format of any paper in North Carolina — from a JOURNALISTIC standpoint, that is.

As everyone knows, there are certain set rules which the operator of a newspaper has to follow. In the first place, it is practically mandatory that he be a graduate of the journalism department of some college. He must know newspaper “style” when it comes to writing. Naturally, he must put the most important news stories in the most prominent position, he must classify the news, and there are a number of other regulations to follow in connection with make-up.

All of these rules are cheerfully violated by the Post-Dispatch every week.
As a matter of fact, IKE runs his paper without the slightest regard for rules.

NO FANCY HEADLINES

There are no, fancy headlines: just a word or two to give the reader a hint of what is to come. Moying-picture theater ads appear on the front page. If somebody has paid for a classified ad, offering a cow for sale, that’s liable to appear on the front page also. It all depends upon whether the type fits nicely or not. If there are 12 pages in this week’s edition of the Post-Dispatch, society news and sports news are liable to appear on any one of the 12 pages. An account of Mrs. Upjohn’s reception is just as apt as not to be followed by an item announcing that Joe Waterby’s cow gave birth to twin calves last Wednesday. Sometimes it happens that the items get slightly mixed, so that they appear in print as follows:

“Mrs. Upjohn was hostess at a beautiful reception last Monday evening. She gave birth to the twin calves earlyin the morning, and Joe is highly pleased because of this unusual event.”

Scores of persons who have birthdays during the following week are mentioned in the current issue of the Post-Dispatch—that is, if Mr. London can possibly find out about them. The jovial editor—with a keen sense of humor and tremendous vitality—writes every word that appears in his paper. He pecks out the copy on his typewriter and never reads a words of it to check for mistakes. That is why you’ll find items like this occasionally:

“Mrs. Jones had on a punk dress and looked lovely in it.”
“The local P.-T.A. meeting last Wednesday was hell at Mrs. Harrison’s home.”
“Pete Walker, employee of the Carolina Power & Light Company, was badly shocked Tuesday as the result of com-ing in contact with a live wife.”

Exudes Friendliness

The Post-Dispatch exudes the friendiness of its editor. There is no room for high-falutin’ words and phrases, and if a little editorializing and a few personal views get into the news columns occasionally, that is all right, too.
Mr. London sounds off to his heart’s content in his editorial column, entitled: “Glimpses — On the Cuff.” In it he doesn’t try to solve the world’s weighty problems, but leaves that job for the bigger newspapers. So far as the Post-Dispatch is concerned, the proposed installation of a new street-light is of much greater news value that a rowdy session of the United Council.
Then, too, Mr. London has a habit of imparting a little extra information in his news items. For instance, if Louise Culpepper had left town for a visit with relatives, the aver-age paper probably would carry an item like this:

“Miss Louise Culpepper left Rockingham Sunday to spend the summer with her aunt, Cleopatra Hicks, at Tip Top, Virginia.”

How Ike Runs it

But when Ike sets out to report that eyent, it appears in his paper like this:

“Lively and sprightly Louise Culpepper left Rockingham Sunday to spend the summer with her aunt, Cleopatra Hicks, at Tip Top, Virginia, a town that is 2,728 feet above sea leyel. Rockingham is 225 feet above sea level at the Seaboard Depot. But by the way, we have always wondered whether there is any truth to that story about the original Cleopatra committing suicide by letting herself get bitten by an ass. Anyway, we hope that Louise has a good time and that she will have some interesting things to tell us when she gets back home.”

If a man has a nickname and is generally known by that nickname, you may rest assured that it’ll be tacked onto him when his name appears in print. Such as:

“Buck Johnson, from Route 1, was in town Saturday. Buck told us his youngest son, Toadface, had just recovered from a case of measles.”

“Stinky Whittaker, of Ellerbe, was in Rockingham Tuesday on a business visit.”

“Fatty Sanderlin, of Route 4, came to Rockingham Wednesday and had a tooth pulled. When we saw Fatty on Main Street, he was still spitting freely.”

If some professor of journalism wanted a horrible ex-ample of what a newspaper should not be, he probably would latch onto, a cony of the Post-Dispatch immediately and display it before his class. In every issue he un-doubtedly would be able to find at least a score of set rules that had been violated or ignored completely. And he unoubtedly could spend an entire morning session pointing these out to his students.

The thing he probably would overlook, however, is the fact that the Post-Dispatch is one of the friendliest, most cheerful papers in the state; that Mr. London knows practically all of his subscribers, and they know him; that they regard his ‘paper as a weekly visit from him personally, and that they appreciate his interest in their affairs.

When you talk to a friend, you don’t pay attention to all the rules of grammar or rhetoric: you talk to him naturally. That’s what IKE does every week: he talks to his friends through the columns of his paper. The Post-Dispatch is Ike London, and Ike London is the Post-Dispatch. They have been synonymous for 38 years.