The Love of A Good Dog

My plans to space out my posts today went awry when the internet went down for eight hours. But here’s another post I really enjoyed, this one from a new blogger who calls herself “A Quiet Chatterbox.” If you’ve ever had a loving relationship with “man’s best friend”, you’ll understand this account of how her dog Brodie has enriched her life.

Read post here.

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The Cure for Fancy Words

In response to Judy Dykstra-Brown’s poem using oodles of impressive words, I offer the experience of Ben Franklin, an episode that led to deep contrition, when he tried to show himself wise. My apologies if you’ve read this before.

At one point in Ben Franklin’s youth he became enchanted with impressive-sounding words. One day he told his mother, “I’ve imbibed an acephalous mollusc.”

She gasped. Thinking he’d eaten some poison she promptly dosed him with a foul-tasting concoction that made him vomit. The poor boy retched for hours. Once his stomach was settled again, he told his mother all he’d done was eaten an oyster.

“You naughty boy, scaring the wits out of me like that!” And she gave him a good thrashing.

He says this experience cured him of his liking for pomposity; that day he decided he’d never again use fancy words when simple ones would do.

Baby Stars

By Marchette Chute

I once thought that snowflakes were feathers
and that they came falling down
when the moon lady feathered her chickens
and shook out her silver gown.

And then I began to look closer
and now I know just what they are –
I caught one today in my mitten,
and there was a baby star.

From the book Rhymes About Ourselves
©1932; renewed 1960 by author
Published by Macmillan Co.

Talents & Frustrations

Today is my dear husband’s 75th birthday. Quite a milestone! We celebrated officially last Sunday night after a church function, and are looking forward to a dinner out with the family tomorrow. Of course he blogs about it on his site, mentioning all the things that have changed since he was a boy.

What really scares me is the thought that the next twenty years will go by just as fast as the last twenty. Whatever happened to “old age, when the hours would drag by”? We find the flight of time incredible!

I can assure you that in his youth Bob was a studious lad just like the young fellow below. I don’t know if there was ever a “Willy Brown” in his school to be jealous of, though. Hope this poem gives you a smile.

FRUSTRATION

My teacher says that I’m the best
And smartest boy in school;
I’m never careless like the rest;
I never break a rule.
If visitors should come to call,
She has me speak a piece,
Or tell what makes an apple fall
Or binds the coast of Greece.
You might expect that since my brain
Holds such an awful lot,
I’d be extremely proud and vain;
But, oh–I’m not.
For Willy Brown’s a cleverer lad
Than I could hope to be;
Why, I’d give anything I had
To be as smart as he!
He can’t recite, “Hark, Hark, the Lark,”
He’s not the teacher’s pet;
He never gets a perfect mark
In ‘rithmetic — and yet,
Could I be he, I’d waste no tears
On foolish things like sums;
For Willy Brown can wag his ears
And dislocate his thumbs.

Author’s name unknown to me.

Here Girl, Take This Doll!

Christmas Shopping– 1934 Version

Oh, how Mabel hated those dolls! In January, as she and her fellow salesgirls packed the unsold ones away, the staff was so glad to see the end of them.

She remembered the day they unpacked the new Shirley Temple dolls. Clerks from other departments all stopped to look, all the ladies ooo-ing & aww-ing over how cute they were. And the variety of outfits they came with! Toy department workers joked about buying one for themselves and playing with it on the sly. Some of the ladies were saving their money to buy one for a daughter or niece.

By the end of November miniature Shirley Temples were lined up in neat rows on the toy shelves, waiting for Christmas gift-buyers. They looked so appealing, but were pricey for the times; Mabel knew folks on Relief would never be able to afford one. She never dreamed she’d see this sad reality played out day after day for weeks.

Child actress Shirley Temple came along in the 1930?s, in the midst of the Great Depression. She was an instant hit with her sweet voice, big hazel eyes and bouncing golden ringlets; reviewers were saying she symbolized hope to Depression-weary people. She looked like “the good old days”: she wasn’t pale; her cheeks weren’t hollow; her arms and legs weren’t just sticks. She had the spunk to sing and tap dance her way into people’s hearts.

Someone in Hollywood decided a good way to market their child star was to put out replica dolls in time for Christmas sales. And Eaton’s, a big Canadian department store where Mabel worked, stocked these dolls just like a lot of others. Thus began a month of torture for the salesgirls who worked there.

Little girls started coming as soon as the staff put the dolls on display. All children, rich or poor, made the rounds of the huge Eaton’s toy display just to ogle, but the little girls would wander back to the doll shelves. there they’d stand and stare – sometimes for an hour – at those beautiful dolls.

Mabel wondered if every girl in the city was coming in. Some of them really tore at your heart, too. She’d see a little waif straggle by in a much-patched coat, wearing rubbers borrowed from someone they actually fitted. The next day some other girl – probably a sister or a cousin – would be standing there in that same shabby coat, wearing those same floppy rubbers. Relief payments covered food and housing, but recipients were given nothing for “extras” like clothing. A lot of these girls weren’t in school because they hadn’t shoes or clothes of their own fit to wear. But they could still dream.

Maybe some of them are Maria’s sisters, she thought sadly. How many of these girls are the daughters of immigrants, surviving on whatever they can scrounge?

Mabel and Maria became school friends soon after Maria’s family arrived in Winnipeg. Maria’s father had accepted a job in the city back in the early ‘20s when city was welcoming immigrants. The economy was booming and Canada needed more workers, so the Canadian government had streamlined the immigration process for many Europeans.

Maria’s father had worked hard to get ahead. They were saving to buy a house when the Stock Market crashed. When jobs started dying up immigrants were the first laid off and he got the axe, too. Then when those same immigrants applied for relief, they were handed a form to sign…

“I’m sure glad my brother Joe went with him,” Maria told her later. “Dad can’t read English well enough to understand it all. He didn’t know he’d be agreeing to have us all sent back to Poland. We don’t want to go back! This is our home now.

“He refused to sign, but then he was told if he didn’t, he couldn’t get any Relief. Dad came home and just sat down and cried. Joe said they hadn’t had food in the house for two days before Dad was desperate enough to apply – and then he was turned down!”

Maria was married by then; she and her husband were on Relief themselves and couldn’t help much. But her Canadian-born father-in-law – bless his heart– faced the ridicule of his neighbors and allowed her family to live in his basement rent-free. Still, Mabel wondered how a family could survive on nothing.

By the first week in December every time Mabel walked down that aisle she saw the wistful eyes of a dozen little girls looking up at her. Girls who badly needed food but dreamed instead of a beautiful doll for Christmas. To see those thin little girls standing in front of the display day after day, with eyes so full of longing – dreaming an impossible dream – finally broke her heart.

One day she snapped. She managed to hold on long enough to make it to the staff room before she burst into tears. “ I can’t stand it!” she shrieked. “I just can’t do this anymore. Get rid of those dolls – every last one! I can’t bear to see them one more day.”

Pearl, one of the other sales girls calmed her down. “Most of us feel that way. But Christmas will soon be past; try and hang on just two more weeks.”

Vera was in the staff room, too. “I may have a break-down, too,” she told them. “I’m so tempted…one of these days I’m just going to start grabbing dolls off the shelves and handing them out to every little ragamuffin I see. When the police come and arrest me, I’ll plead insanity.”

“Oh, I’d love to see that,” Pearl said with a laugh. “But you need your job. We all need our jobs to make it through these times. Maybe next year things will start to look up.”

“Yeah, maybe next Christmas there’ll be jobs for dads and presents for children again,” Vera replied, without enthusiasm.

How much longer could this Depression last?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Historical note:
I’ve invented Mabel and her thoughts, but the setting was very real. According to one Eaton’s sales girl, they had all they could handle watching those starving girls wander in every day and just stare at those dolls. She’s the “Vera” in this tale.

I sis a search for when Shirley Temple dolls first came on the market; they seem to have made their appearance for the 1934 Christmas season. Whether they were introduced in western Canada that Christmas or the next I’m not sure.

To our national shame, when things got tough in Canada immigrants with odd-sounding names or strange accents were usually denied Relief. Many were whisked away on trains to Halifax, put on boats and shipped back with no legalities, not even allowed a phone call.

As to Maria’s father-in-law, I’ll quote one Manitoba politician of the time:
“When those foreigners from across the tracks apply for Relief, we just show them a blank application for voluntary deportation. Believe me, they don’t come back. It’s simple, but it has saved the city a lot of money.”

Word Press Daily prompt: Tempted