North Country Girl: Chapter 32 — Bamboozled at East High

For more about Gay Haubner’s life in the North Country, read the other chapters in her serialized memoir. The Post will publish a new segment each week.

As if we were still in elementary school, we teenagers delighted in anything that was a disruption in the school day. One poor kid, not the brightest light in the harbor, made a series of phone calls to the East office, claiming he had placed a bomb in the school, freeing the rest of us outdoors into the grey chill of a Duluth spring, no time to fetch coats or mittens from our lockers. Standing where somebody decided was a safe enough distance from a bomb, we kept warm by huddling in our little cliques, reveling over being sprung from chemistry or French II or metal shop.

Since the fake-bomb-threat miscreant had been spotted at the school’s one and only pay phone immediately before each evacuation, we all knew who he was, but our lips were sealed. The last time he called in a bomb threat, he must have been unhinged by the many thumbs up shot his way by passing students; he stuttered out to the school secretary, “And this isn’t (miscreant’s name)!” We never saw him after that.

Assemblies also broke up the school day; unlike the thunderous pep rallies held in the acoustically challenged gym, during assemblies you could have a whispered gossip or flirtation with the person next to you or even go to sleep.

One morning the crackly voice of Mr. Srdar, the principal, came over the ancient mesh loudspeakers mounted in every classroom. “Attention students: There will be a special assembly at ten o’clock tomorrow. All students are required to attend.” Rumors flew: was a friendly policeman in uniform coming to talk to us about drugs? Did they finally figure out which teacher was sleeping with his students? The worst scenario was yet another visit from Junior Achievement, touting the virtues of capitalism and on the prowl for future Titans of Industry. If that were the case, at least we could all catch an hour nap.

Auditorium. (pxhere)

The next day we trooped into East’s auditorium and reverted to rowdy eight-year-olds; the big room rang with shouts, laughter, and whistles. The principal shushed us down into a quiet roar, and we jostled for seats, seats whose wooden bottoms had been worn so slick and shiny by generations of teenage bottoms that if you slumped or fell asleep you were in danger of sliding to the floor.

Mr. Srdar stood at the podium someone had thoughtfully placed on the left side, where it caught the watery spring light. He introduced the day’s special guest, who would speak to us about the famine in Africa.

This was unexpected and shut us up. We looked from side to side, acknowledging that every single one of us, even kids who couldn’t find the world’s second largest continent on a globe, had been implored to “Think of the starving children in Africa” when staring down a plate of grey meatloaf, calf’s’ liver, or boiled-to-death broccoli, which was supposed to make the disgusting mess more appetizing.

An earnest young man in khakis stepped up to the podium, introduced himself, and spoke about the war in Biafra, waving around a copy of National Geographic. He described the starving children he had seen, their stomachs bloated, their eyes dull. He said when the children’s hair turned red it was a sign that they were dying. Their bodies were not taking in enough nutrients to create the dark hair pigment: a little red-haired African child was a walking corpse.

He was good, so good that no one questioned why he had no photos, only a copy of a magazine, or why, if he was just back from Africa, he was as pale as any Minnesotan in March.

When he made a little choking noise in his throat, and dropped his head, girls all around me started to weep, searching in their bags for Kleenex to blot their tears and blow their noses. Even a few of the boys were squirming and blinking. This went on for a while, the young man droning on with his dramatic descriptions of dying kids and keening mothers. I wondered what the hell is going on here?

Then came the pitch. This nice young man was raising money for the starving children of Africa (no, we still couldn’t just send them our spinach and fish sticks) through a brand new kind of fund-raiser: a Walk-A-Thon, a 20-mile trek through Duluth. To participate, we had to ask our parents, parents’ friends, aunts, uncles, grandparents, any available adult with money in pocket, to sponsor us at so much a mile — preferably a dollar.

He said, “Imagine you’re holding a little African in your arms. Imagine that baby’s scrawny limbs, the distended belly barely covered in rags, the head that seems too large topped with a scruff of tightly curled, rust-colored hair. That baby is looking at you with big brown eyes, pleading for help. If you do not participate in the Save Africa Walk-a-Thon, you are dumping this poor dying baby out of your lap and letting that baby die.

Even the football players were sniffing now, and some girls were red-faced from bawling. Mr. Srdar dabbed his own wet eyes with a big white hankie, congratulated the young man on the noble work he was doing, and assured him that he could count on East High students.

The Walk-A-Thon was scheduled for that Saturday. We were told the meeting place and instructed to bring our sponsors’ money with us. We were not given sign-up sheets, collection envelopes, buttons, pamphlets, or t-shirts. None of us thought this was odd as we went about pestering parents, family friends, and relatives for money.

I knew better than to ask my own mom, certain what her response would be to giving away money to perfect strangers. My dad and one set of grandparents were Missing In Action, the other grandparents hundreds of miles away. I walked over to Lakeview Avenue, my old block, and knocked on the McCauleys’ door; they were an older couple who were always good for a couple of boxes of Thin Mints or Samoa Girl Scout cookies. I was not nearly as eloquent as the young man and had a hard time explaining why Mrs. McCauley should give me the immense sum of twenty dollars so I could go on a walk. She pulled a crumpled one from a change purse, I took it, thanked her, and headed over to Michael Vlasdic’s house.

Michael was not walking. He had no interest in any extracurricular activities besides listening to records, taking drugs, and screwing me. Always a good sport, Mrs. Vlasdic gave me a twenty and told me I was a gutes Maedchen.

On a bright spring morning, a sympathetic mother delivered me and a passel of my friends to the Walk-a-Thon starting point, where the young man stood with a clipboard, writing down kids’ names, taking their money, handing out blurry mimeographed maps, and thanking us for saving all those babies’ lives.

We were somewhere in West Duluth, a neighborhood I hadn’t been in for years, and then only to visit the small and smelly Duluth Zoo, where an irate, aggressive and way too close squirrel monkey had once tried to snatch my mom’s beehive hairdo off her head. As I squinted at the blurry map, trying to make sense out of all the random rights and lefts, the young man blew a whistle and we headed off en masse.

West Duluth. (Wikimedia Commons)

The first five miles weren’t so bad, we were with our friends, we were outside in the fresh sun of spring, joking and laughing, and extremely proud of ourselves. We were the better angels, the generation that was going to save the world. The next month, on April 22, a bunch of us do-gooders would be down on Park Point beach, celebrating the first Earth Day, saving the planet by creating rickety sculptures of driftwood while tripping on LSD.

By mile 10, there was no more laughter, only silent plodding. We wore flimsy sneakers and carried nothing; running shoes, bottled water, and energy bars had yet to be invented. I don’t know if anyone made it past the fifteen-mile mark. At that point I hobbled home, fell on the couch, and gingerly took off my Keds and ankle socks to reveal swollen, throbbing, blister-covered feet, while my mom yelled at me for being gone all day without calling.

What hurt even worse was finding out that our nice young man was not saving babies, but lining his own pockets. Too late Mr. Srdar got a phone call from a high school in St. Cloud, telling him to be on the lookout for a traveling flimflam man, who like Professor Harold Hill in The Music Man, went from one innocent small town to the next, selling us nothing, not even big trombones or ratatat drums.

Even though I had watched Michael Vlasdic tear up during that hornswoggle of a speech, now he was miffed that I had given away his mom’s twenty dollars, which would have bought four hits of acid.

Since my father had left, my own cash flow had trickled down to nothing. My mom did not have a bank account in her name. It took several phone calls and several weeks before my dad would reluctantly show up to place some actual cash in my mom’s hand. She would then, almost as reluctantly, peel off a few bills for me. From that pittance I had to pay for my share of gas and booze on Friday nights with my pals, and for the drugs Michael and I took on Saturday.

But suddenly it was summer, school was out, and I was sixteen, old enough to find a job. The Flamette, a diner that was swarmed with tourists in the summer, hired high school girls. My friends Nancy, Betsy, and Debbie waitressed there, I looked on, jaw agape, as they competitively counted up their tips after work. I filled out a Flamette application, leaving the “Experience” section blank, and was shown the door.

I next applied to be an A&W carhop; the manager took one look at my scrawny arms and knew that I would immediately dump a tray laden with those heavy glass mugs of root beer and ice cream over myself or a customer.

I lowered my sights to restaurant kitchen work. When we were still a family, my father had spent enough money at the Bellows Steak House that the manager recognized me as I sat in the waiting area on a June afternoon, clutching my application form. He hired me as a salad girl. I would work four nights a week and make $1.90 an hour.

My work night started at four o’clock. My primary duty was preparing the mix for the big salad that came with every dinner and that was ninety percent iceberg lettuce. In the basement prep kitchen I’d give each head of lettuce a good thunk on the bottom and twist out the core as instructed by the scary chef. He had also shown me how to operate the electric lettuce shredder without losing a finger, but I was too terrified of that whirling, deadly contraption to put a hand anywhere near it. Instead I stood across the room and tossed heads of lettuce towards the blades, again and again, gathering the bits that went all over the floor and adding them to the giant plastic salad bin.

I assembled salad after salad so that they could be delivered, cold and crisp, to diners who would smother them with French, Thousand Island, or Roquefort. It was my job to keep the tripart salad dressing servers filled; I never washed those servers, just gave them a quick wipe with a kitchen rag to clean off the crust along the sides of the silvery cups and the top of the ladles.

My other task was making shrimp cocktails, and boy, Duluthians loved their shrimp cocktails. After the eight hundred salads were made and chilling, I pulled a huge bag of shrimp out of the freezer and dunked it in a sink filled with lukewarm water. I spent the next hour peeling and deveining shrimp, stopping to pull out salads for early bird diners and hoping that they wouldn’t order the shrimp cocktail as basically they would get shrimp-flavored ice cubes.

The nadir of my night was when some brave or deluded soul ordered a platter of oysters or clams on the half shell. While unordered shrimp ended up in the next night’s scampi, the restaurant had no use for leftover bivalves, so I could not defrost them in advance. I had to struggle with each frozen shell, holding it under running water, attacking it with an oyster knife, and cutting my own hands to pieces. Then I had to slice a lemon.

Finally, towards the end of the night, with a few hateful customers lingering in the dining room trying to decide if they should have one more Grasshopper or Golden Cadillac or Brandy Alexander, the kitchen would quiet and slow. The cooks scraped black squares of pumice up and down the grill while the waitresses snuck back to my little area to grab a forbidden smoke. I was in awe of these creatures, with their elaborate updos, kabuki eyebrows and eyeliner, and pockets bursting with ones. They paid me no attention at all, I was a mere salad girl, covered in shreds of lettuce and smelling of shrimp.

Every week I cashed my paycheck at the Bellow’s and immediately set out to buy drugs, a task that pathologically shy Michael Vlasdic had relegated to me. Even with my onerous work schedule, the freedom of summer meant that Michael and I could trip several times a week. There were kids from East High who could be counted on to have acid, my old admirer Stan now one of them. I could call John Bean; although I was always afraid that he would bring along Doug Figge, he never did. If no one I knew had LSD, I took the bus downtown to the scary, sinister pool hall, where the greasers from Central and Denfeld High hung out, a place that was so forbidden to a nice East High girl that it went unmentioned.

Pool hall
Pool hall. (Wikimedia Commons)

Fortunately, I never had to actually go into that dimly lit den of perdition. I’d poke my head in the doorway, and some long-haired guy in a white tee would nod, follow me out, and lead me to the back alley.

I hated buying drugs at the pool hall, convinced that I was going to be raped, robbed, and murdered by one of the dodgy seventeen-or eighteen-year-old dealers. I pleaded with Michael, “I’ll give you the money, but please, can you go make the buy?” Michael blanched at the idea of talking to a stranger, even one who sold drugs; but I was tired of risking my life. He reluctantly took my money and I felt like the worst girlfriend in the world.

That evening I let myself into the Vlasdic’s house. Michael was lying on the living room floor, staring at the ceiling. I shook him, “Michael. You bought acid right?” He nodded. “Ah, can I have mine?” He shook his head, pointed at his open mouth, and closed his eyes. I disgustedly left him there to trip on his own, went back home straight as a stone, and kept control of the money and the drugs from then on.

A Father Remembered: The Acting Coach

Theater was my father’s religion, and Shakespeare’s works were his Bible. Using Hamlet or Othello or King Lear as a moral compass, Dad set me up with some precise ideas about how a person should behave in the world.

As a young man, my father studied at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago. He came to New York at the height of the Depression, but within months he landed parts in daytime radio serials such as Myrt and Marge, Valiant Lady, and The Goldbergs. He was sometimes doing two or three live performances in a day, zipping across town from one studio to the next in taxis.

His dream was to perform on Broadway, and he would brim with emotion as he described the great stage actors he’d seen, such as the Lunts and a young Olivier. As for his radio work, that was just something he had to do to pay the bills.

By the time I was born, he had exited show business for a more stable career, but, as far as we kids knew, that was just a technicality. He would always be an actor at heart. Where other dads might sing in the shower, ours would recite from Hamlet. “What is Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba, that he should weep for her?” he would declaim in his stage voice — big enough to carry to the cheap seats, but in this case echoing through our New York apartment and, if the bathroom window was open, into the courtyard as well. He was bigger than life.

At a young age, I decided that I, too, would become an actor. My first big performance was in a school play. Our fifth-grade class had spent the whole semester studying the ancient Greeks. We had read young-adult versions of The Iliad and The Odyssey, and now we were performing an adaptation of an Aristophanes play, in which a farmer travels to heaven astride a giant dung beetle to discuss the follies of war with, well, you know, the big guy, Zeus. I was the leader of the chorus, and one day during rehearsal I slipped and fell. Amazingly, this got a big laugh.

Dad had left the theater early. It wasn’t until I got home that I had any inkling there was a problem.

We performed the play for the entire school — parents, too. I mugged my way through my scenes and, for my big finale, I upended myself spectacularly to roars of laughter. I was ­hilarious!

Mom came backstage to give me a hug, but Dad had left the theater early. It wasn’t until I got home that I had any inkling there was a problem. Still aglow from my smashing success, I rushed into the living room, only to find him seated in his chair, wearing his reading glasses and holding a large volume on his lap. He didn’t look up when I came in. A frown creased his forehead.

“Sit down,” he ordered, beckoning me to a second chair he had pulled up beside him. Seems I had violated just about every code of conduct in the actor’s book, from scene stealing to shameless overacting. He opened up The Complete Works of Shakespeare and turned to Hamlet’s advice to the players, Shakespeare’s master class on the actor’s craft.

He began reading: “Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue. … O, it offends me to the soul to hear a robustious periwig-pated fellow tear a passion to tatters. … I would have such a fellow whipped.”

This, my friends, is the short version. The soliloquy actually goes on a bit. He read me the whole thing. Then he had me read it — the equivalent in our house of being taken to the woodshed. Finally he let me go.

I was deflated, but it was a lesson that would stick with me, and, as I would realize in later years, Shakespeare’s words apply not just to the stage, but to life. In short: Be funny, but don’t be a clown; be smart, but don’t be a smart aleck.

I can’t say I’ve always followed this wise counsel, but when I feel the urge to show off, Hamlet’s advice to the players is always right there on my bookshelf.

Steven Slon is the Post’s editorial director. Follow him on Twitter.

This article is featured in the May/June 2017 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives. 

Being in Love

In 1930s, humorist J.P. McEvoy wrote the Post column “Father Meets Son” presented to readers in the form of letters filled with advice for navigating life’s rocky road. Employing a mix of wry humor and tough love, Dad doled out life lessons on everything from work to women. Readers loved it.

His son’s relationship with the boss’s daughter is getting serious! Dad encourages his son to talk to the boss about turning him into a father-in-law — but to find the emergency exit first.

Father Meets Son: Being in Love

By J.P. McEvoy

Originally published on June 5, 1937

Dear Son: So you love the boss’s daughter and the boss’s daughter loves you, and where do you go from there? She wants you to go right to the boss and tell him the good news. You are not so sure he will think it is so good. And a lot of other things are worrying you. You have no money, no prospects, and the only job you have is driving the family car — her family. What will the old man say when he learns the family chauffeur wants to marry his daughter? And if he says, “Okay!” won’t people say you married for money, or just to get ahead? Quite a situation, but hardly a novel one. The movies would go out of business without it.

Suppose we sit down together and go over the situation bit by bit, like a couple of inchworms. First, there is this marriage question in general. Boss’s daughter or no boss’s daughter, should you get married at your age and in your economic spot? You are 23, you have no money saved up, you have a college education and a liberal arts diploma, you have had a few months’ experience at making your own living, you are ambitious, healthy, moderately good-looking, and in love. Not an impressive capital with which to start a business as difficult as marriage, unless you plan to put “good will” in at a handsome figure. Which has been done, and many times with great success. The girl is young and beautiful and spoiled, and her father is rich, and she is in love with you. It would take a smarter man than I am to analyze that statement and give you a trustworthy picture of the assets and liabilities in it. As a business proposition, the partnership you propose is not necessarily doomed to succeed. Neither is it bound to fail. A number of factors that do not appear on the balance sheet will decide the issue. Let us take them up, not necessarily in the order of their importance, because we don’t know what that order is.

You. Are you too young? You will have to find that out for yourself. Some boys are men at 18; some men are boys at 80. Do you want to grow up? Do you want to mature? Then you certainly are not too young to start. Holding a job matured you a little, but holding a wife will mature you a lot. If for no other reason, I would be in favor of an early marriage because of that. It’s a hard school, but you can’t go through it without acquiring a lot of valuable knowledge you can never get from books. You will learn patience and tolerance, and patience and cooperation, and patience and more patience.

The girl. You started out thinking she was a spoiled brat. Now you know she is an angel. The chances are she is both. Being a spoiled brat doesn’t mean she hasn’t plenty of good qualities hidden away. Being an angel doesn’t mean she can’t be spoiled again. Her love for you apparently has brought all her best qualities to the surface, where they shine like beaten gold. You say her parents are genuinely surprised by the change that has come over her. She has become serious where before she was giddy; she has become thoughtful where before she was thoughtless. And love has wrought this wondrous miracle! Is it a real miracle or only the appearance of one? Is this new Gloria the substance, and the old Gloria the shadow? Or vice versa? Or are there two inextricably mixed Glorias awaiting your magic to bring out the better one and make it the dominant personality? You’ll never know until you have to work at it.

Her mother. From what you have told me about her, you need expect very little assistance from that quarter. She is and always will be Gloria’s natural ally. Proudly she carries a banner on which you may read this illuminating slogan: “My daughter! May she always be right, but right or wrong, my daughter!”

Her father. He seems to hold the key position just now. You are working for him — and what will he think when you tell him you have nominated him to be your father-in-law? From what I gather so far, he seems to be a pretty reasonable, sensible, practical fellow; so maybe he won’t be so surprised as you think. Whether you work for him or somebody else should make little difference, so long as you do your work well. Why should he care whether you are driving his car or somebody else’s car or your own car, if driving a car is the job? Being sensible, he probably doesn’t care a hoot. He will undoubtedly want to know if you are honest and ambitious and intelligent; if you have a good mind and a sound body; if you are willing to work, and work hard; if you have intestinal fortitude and the yeast of growth in you.

What more can a young man hope to bring to marriage these days? Money? He hasn’t had the time or the opportunity to make it himself, and any other kind comes too easy not to go the same way. Position? The only position that does you any good in the long run is what you make for yourself, and that again takes years of hard work. If a young man needs only capital or an opportunity and has all the other assets, I see no reason why he should not accept, or the prospective father-in-law should not extend, such assistance. There was sound economics in the dot, or dower, system in the older countries. And isn’t it just as sound today in your own land, if the dot takes the shape of opportunity for the young man to marry and get started rather than force him and the girl to wait for years, until the bloom has been taken off their romance?

If I were your prospective father-in-law instead of your father, I would look at it something like this: I have a daughter who is young and attractive and full of beans. She is better off married to someone she loves than batting around hunting for thrills and winding up a few years from now jaded and too hard to please. I have no son, and this young man, if he has the right stuff in him, could be a son to me. Why, then, shouldn’t I give him the chance to work his way up in my business and learn how to handle it, so that eventually I can turn the reins over to a young man who belongs in the family, instead of to some stranger? Why should I expect him to wait until he can support my daughter in the manner to which she is accustomed? That is much too rich for her blood, as it is, and she would be better off starting all over again at the modest scale on which her mother and I started.

At the same time, this may be one of those puppy-love infatuations. How do I know? How will I find out? Time is a subtle ally. Time will tell if they really love each other; time will tell if the young man has the makings in him. I will ask them both to wait one year. In that year I will give the young man every opportunity in my business to show what he can do. If he makes good and proves to me that he has the potential capacity for business and social success, I will give them my blessing and help them on their way. If he doesn’t make good for me or the girl in that time, nobody has lost anything, nobody has been hurt, and we can all sit down together then, discuss the new situation, and come to a reasonable decision based on experience instead of guesswork.

That’s what I would say if I were the girl’s father. I find it even easier to say since I am not her father, but yours. What will he say? Go and ask him. But first look around for the nearest exit, and, in case of emergency, be prepared to run, not walk.



Previous: The Boss’s Daughter

Coming soon: Separated from Love

Leap Year Role Reversal

According to a 1606 tome Courtship, Love, and Marriage quoted in 1884 leap year articles across the country, the leap day was once reserved as a time for women to propose to men. Imagine that! Furthermore, some sources claimed a man couldn’t refuse such a proposal without paying a hefty fine to the spurned lover, variously described as a large sum of cash, enough fabric for a silk dress, or 12 pairs of gloves. With that background, the following is a collection of leap year stories from the pages of the Post:


Civil War Personal Ad

March 12, 1864

A Chicago girl, tired of waiting for the young men who don’t “propose” — probably on account of the expense, or the preponderance of the girls since the war broke out — takes advantage of the season, and speaks out boldly in her own name in the “Wants” column of the Chicago Tribune, as follows: “This is leap year. I’ll wait no longer. So here I am, twenty-one years of age, prepossessing, medium size, healthy, educated, prudent, large sparkling eyes, long black flowing hair, and as full of fun as a chestnut is full of meat, born to make some man happy, and want a home. Does anybody want me?”


Nowhere to Hide, April 12, 1864

A man, in order to avoid the annoyances of leap year, wore a card on the breast of his coat, with this inscription: “I am engaged.” Despite this, a woman tackled him and married him inside of two weeks.


Mother Knows Best, July 2, 1892

Here is the story of a servant girl, who has not found leap year a failure. She lives in Portland, Me.

A Boston paper says the girl told her mistress that she was going to get married, and showed her some wedding clothes and a hat that she had bought. “What does the young man do?” asked the mistress. “Shure, an’ I aint seen him yit,” was the reply, “but me mother says I must git married this year, anyway.” The two had actually arranged everything before the man was even thought of.

Soon after the girl told her mistress that she met a young man and was going to make him marry her. She began to send him various little presents, boxes of candy, etc. She couldn’t read or write and got the children of the household to direct the parcels for her. So well did the girl and her mother manage that, contrary to the wishes of the young man’s family, he was courted and married and settled down in less than three months from the time he first met his bride.


Ladies’ Night Etiquette, March 2, 1872

The following are the leap-year ballroom regulations established by the ladies of St. Louis: “Gentlemen are expected to be as lady-like as possible, therefore, no gentleman will be allowed to enter the ball-room except on the arm of his escort or one of the managers; no gentleman can dance unless invited to do so by a lady; no gentleman can enter the supper-room unless escorted by a lady; the lady managers will see that no gentleman is neglected.”


St. Valentine’s Day in Leap Year — A Solemn Warning to Single Men
leap year valentine
February 12, 1876

Bachelors all, of St. Valentine’s Day beware!
This year is Leap Year: the ladies may choose!
How then you get in the fair sex’s way beware,
Or both your hearts and your freedom you’ll lose.
Curly or straight tresses,
Fond hearts or traitresses,
Short ones or tall;
Deceitful or truthful,
Unfeeling or ruthful,
Beware of them all!
Theirs is the question this year; and for popping it,
No opportunity will they omit.
They may propose; and you’ve no chance of stopping it;
“Please ask mamma” does not answer a bit.
They’ll grant no truces,
Delays or excuses;
Resistance no use is
To Leap Year’s mad freak,
That one chance of Hymen.
For nervous and shy men,
(The girls can’t think why men
Are frightened to speak.)
As for myself; I am terrified awfully—
“No” to a woman ne’er yet have I said,
So run a great risk of behaving unlawfully
Marrying all who may ask me to wed.
In fear, dash my wig, am I
Standing of bigamy,
Not to say trigamy;
Oh, what a fix!
There is no hope escape of;
I’m in for the scrape of
My fate, in the shape of
The year seventy six.
Then bachelors all, be advised-take warning,
There’s a great deal more danger than many suppose
Who are treating my sad admonition with scorning,
And make bosom friends of their poor bosom’s foes.
Of their dreams they will wake out,
And find the mistake out.
When the fair ones they break out
On Valentine’s day.
And kneeling before us,
Declare they adore us,
And sing in a chorus-
“Be mine, love, I pray!”

Dick Clark: Rock’s Clean-Cut Champion

In 1959, rock music was still young and revolutionary. Adults were attacking it because, they believed, it was stirring up rebellion among teenagers.

Rock’s greatest defender in those days was Dick Clark — a young (29), polite, well-groomed spokesman who was successfully defending the future of popular music.

As we say goodbye to him today, here are excerpts from his interview with Post writer, Pete Martin.

He firmly and continuously defends that amorphous group known as “teen-agers.”

He is quiet, smooth-voiced, neat in appearance. Obviously he has been brought up to be polite.

In spite of his mannerly attitude, he has had applied to him such titles as The Czar of the Switchblade Set and The Kingpin of the Teen-age Mafia

He has also been labeled The Elder Statesman of the Young People.

“Unfortunately,” he told me, “as we grow older our minds close in certain areas, music among them. The real truth is that adults are more preoccupied with rock ‘n’ roll than the teen-agers.”

“To [adults], short hair means cleanliness, neatness and honesty— obviously the right kind of young man for a bank to hire. The minds of older people are inclined to run in grooves. One of those grooves is that a ducktail haircut means its wearer is a potential juvenile delinquent; a crew cut means that a young man is likable, dependable, bound to succeed.

“As far as the kids are concerned, rock ‘n’ roll is just a portion of their musical knowledge. Youngsters today have a widely varied musical background. Someday they’ll sift some things and be more discriminating. In the meantime they’re having a little bit of everything. I think it’s a very healthy situation.

“A teenager can turn on a phonograph and listen to any kind of sound he wants during one sitting. You can have a Fats Domino record, a Perry Como record, a Frank Sinatra record, or he can listen to the Chordettes, the Everly Brothers, Johnny Mathis, Ricky Nelson, a Tony Martin or a Dean Martin record.

Dick Clark on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post
Dick Clark. July, 1995.

“[American Bandstand] originated locally at an ABC station, WFIL in Philadelphia. It was invented to use up some afternoon time. Somebody asked, ‘What can we do to fill a couple of afternoon hours?’ Two guys in the studio got together and decided to play games, show short films of musical stars and persuade people to telephone in and request their favorite recordings. They also thought it would be a good idea to invite an audience in to watch them. The only audience conveniently located were highschool kids on their way home from school. They discovered that when they played recordings, the kids got up and danced. It became apparent that the show’s future lay in getting on with the dancing. That’s how the Bandstand was born.

“Shortly after I took over it started climbing und soon achieved ratings it had never reached before. That helped make me solid with the studio.

“In about a year’s time the station executives and I persuaded the American Broadcasting Company, who was affiliated with our Philadelphia studio, to let the Bandstand go national on a network basis. The ABC had been running old English movies during that afternoon time slot, but, being young and impetuous, I told them, ‘Put us on for four weeks and if we don’t better those ancient British films, toss us into the ash can.’

“They said O.K., but they made it clear that the only way I could fill that time satisfactorily was by not costing more than the old English movies. Fortunately I met their qualifications.

“I’ve never been able to understand why people who’ve never met me write unkind things about me in their columns or in their newspaper or magazine stories. I’ve tried to get used to criticism, although it’s not the easiest thing in the world to bear, but I am always puzzled as to why anybody should dislike me apparently because I am associated with young people, and because I defend teen-agers’ musical likes and dislikes. The only way I can explain it is that controversial writing, which is usually destructive, must have more newsstand appeal than constructive writing.”

The Boy in the Box: Still Unsolved After 57 Years

February marked the 57th anniversary of one of America’s great unsolved crimes. We say ‘month’ because no one has ever known the exact date. We don’t even know who the victim was.

He is referred to as “The Boy in the Box,” and his death continues to haunt people because there is so much we still don’t know. Over five decades of inquiry, we still don’t know why this boy was beaten to death. Or why the evidence didn’t offer a single, good lead. Or how a child could disappear without anyone noticing.

As the Post reported it, the case didn’t appear so baffling at first. The crime scene—an empty field beside a country road near Philadelphia—offered several promising pieces of evidence.

Acting on a tip, police drove to a stretch of country road in the countryside near Philadelphia on February 25, 1957. There, just as the informant had described it, was a cardboard packing box that had once contained a bassinet. Inside, wrapped in a blanket, was the body of a young boy, who had died from several blows to the head.

No one believed … identifying the victim would be difficult.

The box not only bore the name of the store it had come from, it also carried a manufacturer’s serial number, so that it could be pinpointed to one specific shipment.

[And] there was yet another hopeful item. Fifteen feet from the box, near the path leading in from the road, searchers found a distinctive cap… with a leather strap and buckle across the back.

Yet, amazingly, none of the evidence—the box, blanket, hat, or boy himself—lead investigators any closer to a solution.

Markings on the cardboard box showed it had been shipped to a J. C. Penney store just 15 miles away from where the body was found.

But Penney’s practice is “Cash”—and although a dozen were sold from that shipment, the store had no records of the purchasers.

With the help of newspaper publicity, the detectives got calls from eight buyers, all of whom said they had either put the box out for trash or still had it in their homes. [Local] trash collectors said they had long since burned their loads of refuse [which might have contained the other boxes]. The four other purchasers of the white bassinets were never found.

The blanket also yielded no information. Investigators could find no identifying marks on it, or anyone who recognized it, or even other blankets of similar make. As for the cap, detectives took it to the shop of Mrs. Hannah Robbins where it had been made.

Certainly, said Mrs. Robbins, she remembered the cap. Several months earlier a man between twenty-six and thirty years old had bought it. She recalled him because he’d asked her to add the leather strap and buckle. He was in working clothes, spoke without an accent and was alone. It was a cash sale, so she hadn’t taken his name. [She had never] seen him before or since.

With the cap and a picture of the boy, detectives then painstakingly visited 143 stores and businesses in the area. Not one person recalled either boy or cap.

Most remarkable was the complete anonymity of the boy. The investigators never found a match for the perfect set of fingerprints they obtained from him.

Detectives printed flyers showing a photo of the boy’s face, and images of him dressed and seated in a chair.

The police sent out 400,000… to  police stations, post offices and courthouses all over the nation. The FBI’s Law Enforcement Bulletin alerted investigators.

The American Medical Association circulated a complete medical description in the hope that some doctor, somewhere, might recognize the boy.

In a dozen states, from California to Maine, promising leads have developed—and all proved futile.

The police found no witnesses, no identity for the boy, not even any record he had ever existed.

This is a mystery almost without parallel. How is it possible for a murderer not only to escape justice but even to shroud the identity of the victim?

It… would seem impossible for a child to be murdered and have no persons come forward to claim him as their own or, at the very least, identify him.

Somewhere in his life the boy must have been known, not just to his parents, but to their friends. Somewhere he must have had playmates. Somewhere there must have been neighbors who knew he was alive—and now is around no more. Somewhere there must be a person who neatly trimmed the nails on his fingers and toes. Somewhere there must be a barber—professional or amateur—who gave him a bowl-like cut shortly before his death. Somewhere the boy’s fingerprints—or footprints—must be on file.

That is, all these people—and these things—”must be” in the logical course of events.

But this case defies logic.

The investigators couldn’t even determine the day of death.  The young man who found the body waited a day before coming to the police with the information. In fact, he was the second person to find the body; another young man who had seen the boy in the box two days earlier, but preferred not to get involved. With the cold February weather, and these delays, there was no way to determine just how long the body had been lying in the field (or how many other people had seen it and said nothing.)

The case was never closed. Some of the detectives originally assigned to the case continued following leads for years afterward. One detective stayed with the case well into his retirement.

A few people have come to the police claiming to be witnesses.  Ten years ago, a woman told the police her parents were responsible for the boy’s death. She offered a detailed, consistent account, but there is no way to corroborate her facts.

The boy's original tombstone. The body was re-interred at Philadelphia's Ivy Hill Cemetary in 1998.

Hard evidence is still needed. It may come from the sample of DNA that was extracted from the boy’s remains in 2001. But a DNA match will only confirm a relationship between the boy and his parents or siblings. It can’t lead the police toward any suspect.

So the case stays open, and the boy remains the illustration of how Thomas Hobbes described life outside of society: “continual fear and the danger of violent death—solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”

Therapy Dogs and Healing

The small shapes lay motionless, each cocooned in a protective sheath of wires and tubing as a team of nurses ministered to their needs. On this day, the pediatric intensive care unit at UCLA Medical Center was filled to capacity. Above the low hum of voices and the occasional squeak of a rubber shoe on polished floors floated the hypnotizing bleeps of monitoring equipment. A blue fluorescent light washed over everything and seemed to magnify the smallest detail—a few drops of blood here, a splash of yellow fluid there, the pale skin of a seriously ill child farther on. Parents hovered in corners, not wanting to get in the way, but fearful to leave.

Into this sanctum stepped Laura Berton-Botfeld with her therapy dog—a 70-lb blond poodle named Apollo. The father of one of the patients spotted them and came quickly to her side. “Over here,” he said, tugging on her arm. Laura and Apollo moved to the bed of his 10-year-old daughter, whom we’ll call Sophia to protect her privacy. The delicate, wan figure under the sheets had bacterial meningitis—an inflammation of the brain that can be fatal. By the time Laura and Apollo arrived, the girl had been in a coma for seven days, and things were not looking good. Doctors had told the parents to prepare for the worst.

Sophia’s dad propped his daughter up with pillows. Her unseeing eyes were wide open, a beautiful blue, framed by lank blond hair.

Normally, with a patient’s permission, Laura has Apollo jump up on a chair beside the bed then onto the bed itself. He’s trained to sit with his broad back to patients so they can stroke him and nestle their fingers in his fur. In this case, because Sophia was not conscious, Laura urged Apollo only to sit on the chair, a position that left him practically nose to nose with the patient. “It was the weirdest thing,” says Laura. “Sophia’s eyes seemed to just lock onto Apollo’s, and the dog’s gaze was so intense I thought he was going to kiss her—something therapy dogs are trained not to do.”

Eventually, Laura moved Apollo to the foot of the bed where he continued to watch the patient intently with his intelligent, poodle eyes for a good 20 minutes. But Sophia was unresponsive, and eventually Laura and Apollo moved on to other patients. A few hours later as she sat in a parking lot waiting to pick her daughter up from school, Laura’s phone rang. It was Jack Barron, director of UCLA’s People Animal Connection (PAC), the volunteer organization responsible for Laura, Apollo, and 49 other therapy-dog teams at UCLA.

“He said, ‘Sophia just woke up,’” recalls Laura. “‘And her first words were, “Where’s Apollo?” How fast can you get back here?’”

In hospitals across the country, stories like Laura’s are common. “I see miracles here every day,” says Barron as he talks about the PAC program in the medical center’s cafeteria. “People who just wake up. People who start eating. People who finally take their meds. People who are paralyzed and then suddenly move a couple of fingers to wave at a dog.”

But if the healing associated with these dog visits is stunning, so are the sheer numbers of dogs and their humans now certified to provide Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT), the technical term that refers to using trained dogs intentionally as a therapeutic healing tool. The Delta Society, a non-profit organization that evaluates and certifies teams across the U.S., has gone from 700 AAT teams to a staggering 10,000 plus in less than 20 years while Therapy Dogs International, a non-profit that also credentials dogs, reports that it has fielded 20,000 teams in the U.S. and Canada.

Although dogs have been used for therapeutic purposes around the globe for years, today, particularly in the U.S., their use is driven by mounting evidence that dogs truly can heal. One look at a therapy dog strolling into a hospital room and a patient’s blood pressure drops, heart rate slows, and the corrosive hormones generated by stress that damage arteries and play a part in so many diseases and disorders plummet.

In a study at the University of Southern Maine researchers found that therapy dog visits calmed the agitation of patients with severe dementia. At UCLA another group of researchers found that therapy dog visits had a significant effect on heart patients. The study looked at 76 patients with heart failure and their responses to a 12-minute visit from either a therapy dog or a volunteer, then used blood tests to compare the patients’ responses to other patients who had no visit of any kind. The results were unequivocal: There were essentially no changes in those who did not receive a visit. Visits from volunteers lowered anxiety levels around 10 percent, and didn’t do much else. But visits from therapy dogs reduced pressure in the heart and lungs by 10 percent, reduced stress hormones by 17 percent, and lowered anxiety levels by a startling 24 percent. A similar study at Massachusetts General Hospital supported those results and extended them. In this report, visits from therapy dogs markedly reduced patients’ pain levels as well.

“Blood levels of endorphins generated by the body increase dramatically after dog visits,” says University of Pittsburgh neurologist and pain specialist Dawn Marcus, M.D., author of The Power of Wagging Tails. “That’s why pain levels go down. Endorphins block stress chemicals—the body’s natural narcotic.”

Nor are the physiological effects of a therapy dog visit fleeting. Other studies have found that the benefits last a full 45 minutes. “It’s not just that the dog walks in and does its stuff,” says Marcus. “Even very brief encounters produce a helpful effect. There’s a profound, biological change. And the change is associated with better health. So when you see changes in someone who connects with a therapy dog, something’s really behind it. We’re not just crazy dog nuts. Real science proves the dogs make a difference.”

To get a sense of just how therapy dogs work their magic, this reporter pays a visit to the UCLA medical center early one morning where I meet Charley, a personable, 79-pound “goldendoodle” (golden retriever/poodle mix) therapy dog and his handler, Ellen Morrow.

It takes me about two seconds to fall in love with them both. Charley has long, straight, creamy-beige fur that falls in shaggy lines from the top of his huge head to the bottom of his equally huge feet—and a sparkle in his eyes that suggests he’s up for anything. At the other end of his leash—complete with ID badge and carrying a navy cloth bag stuffed with everything from treats and collapsible water bowls to doggie-wipes, balls, biobags, hand sanitizer, and a brush—his teammate Ellen is a tiny powerhouse of positive energy with hair about the same color and cut as Charley’s.

The three of us take the elevator up to the 4th floor to visit the adolescent psych unit. There, on an outdoor triangular roof patio sheltered on two sides by the medical center and on a third by 20-foot, clear, shatter-proof panels, a dozen kids between 14 and 18 are gathered in the sun. Some lounge in twos and threes on benches, others pace back and forth, and a few simply wander around. One kid stands alone up against a wall, looking down at his feet, shifting his weight back and forth from one foot to the other. Tall and thin, with creamy café-au-lait skin and beautiful dark curls, he is completely withdrawn, isolated as if alone on a desert island.

Except for this one young man, the kids light up when they see Charley. Ellen calls out, “Do you want to see Charley do some tricks?” and the patients gather around the two, petting the dog, shaking his paw, answering Ellen’s questions about their own pets, and asking questions about Charley. Eventually they perch on benches while Ellen folds her legs under her and sits on the ground, nose to nose with Charley.

She puts Charley through his paces—speaking in his regular voice, his quiet hospital voice, his big voice, and finding a circular cut-out on the ground as kids shift it around. But his big crowd-pleaser is the way he shakes hands, literally curling his paw around the kids’ hands and squeezing. “It’s like he’s holding your hand,” chuckles Ellen. “It’s a very personal connection. They just light up!”

The kids bond instantly with the dog. As Ellen draws kids, dogs, even staff into the interaction, each begins to open to the other: kids to dog, then to Ellen, then to staff. The process is beautiful to watch.

But the quiet young man by the wall never looks up.

Then something happens. Ellen asks Charley to give her a high-five, and the dog joyfully leaps straight up into the air, smacking both of Ellen’s raised hands with his shaggy front paws.

The kids squeal with delight, and suddenly the silent young man is paying attention. His eyes come into focus and he stops rocking back and forth. A few minutes later he rigidly stretches out a hand in Charley’s direction. Ellen, seeing the invitation, moves the dog closer. For the next 10 minutes, the young man is anchored to reality by a shaggy dog.

In the psychiatric world, breakthroughs are often made from far less.

“I love these dogs,” says unit nurse Coleen Moran. “They know when someone needs love. And that’s better than any medicine.”

Charley, Ellen, and I walk down another corridor toward the neuro trauma unit where Charley and Ellen are scheduled to visit Lois Kearney who recently had a stroke. When we arrive on the otherwise sunny unit, Lois’ room is pitch dark except for the red, white, and green lights of monitors measuring every sign of life.

Ellen checks with a nurse to see what’s going on. The nurse enters the room and quietly asks Lois if she’d like to see Charley. “Oh yes,” a faint voice murmurs from the bed.

“Come on in,” the nurse calls as she opens blackout drapes and flips on some lights.

Lois is sitting propped up on a high bed, wires taped to her head and neck, a tube taped to her nose, an oxygen mask dangling to her shoulder, IVs and other tubes running every which way to more computers, monitors, and wires than I’ve ever seen in my life. Her eyes are dull, her face pale, and she is clearly a very sick woman.

Ellen quickly surveys the situation, approaches the high-tech bed with Charley, and asks if Lois would like Charley to lie on the bed with her. The woman nods, a small smile taking shape as she looks at Charley. She watches as Ellen carefully spreads a fresh sheet over the bed where Charley will lie. Her soft “Oh!”s of amazement and delight as Ellen helps Charley onto the bed are a gift to Charley, Ellen, and the smiling staff clustered around the door, peeking in from the hall.

It’s nothing short of a love fest. As Charley lies next to Lois, she gently strokes his head and begins to tell Ellen about a dog she had for 12 years. Ellen listens, Charley connects, and Lois talks, her voice gaining strength and energy with every word.

“He’s such a love,” she says in wonder.

From floor to floor, room to room, patient to patient, the story’s the same. Charley comes in, he and the patient connect, and someone’s healing process gets a boost.

But exactly how and when did this human-dog connection happen?

Part of the answer may be rooted deep in our shared past. One theory holds that when people stopped hunting and began forming villages, early dogs—descended from wolves—started hanging around the edges. “The dogs were attracted to the trash people threw around,” says Alan Beck, D.Sc., director of the Center for the Human-Animal Bond at Purdue University. “Dogs were useful. They ate the trash, alerted residents when predators were around, helped with hunting, and provided companionship. And people found the puppies fascinating so they kept them around.”

As time passed, the connection between dog and human evolved with each growing more tightly attuned to the other’s needs. The bond between therapy dogs and the humans they visit may be the next step on that evolutionary journey, says Beck. But, in effect, the dogs are only doing what they’ve been programmed to do for centuries: help us out.

Although the theory behind the dog-human bond is plausible, there’s a real, measurable explanation for the healing that occurs, says Rebecca Johnson, Ph.D., director of the Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction at the University of Missouri, Delta Society board member, and president of the International Association of Human Animal Interaction Organizations. She points to studies defining the neurochemical changes in our brains triggered by the dog-human connection. “The vagus nerve that runs from brain to gut is stimulated when you see, hear, touch, and smell the dog,” she explains. “That triggers the relaxation response.”

The result: the amount of the stress hormone cortisol drops and oxytocin and prolactin—two feel-good hormones—increase. “When that happens,” says Johnson, “the body can switch over from a deterioration state”—a state of illness—“to a growth state” in which healthy new cells emerge that can promote healing.

“It’s the magic of animal-assisted activity,” she adds. “Actually, it’s not magic at all. It’s medicine. Good medicine.”

Classic Covers: New Year’s Resolutions

Dozens of Saturday Evening Post covers show that self-improvement — from reading more to saving money — has been a popular topic for decades. Do any of these look similar to your own New Year’s resolutions? Share your plans for self-improvement with us in the comments below.

Resolution No. 1: I Will Lose Weight

No Desserts
Constantin Alajolov
March 12, 1948

Probably the New Year’s resolution on everyone’s list is to lose weight. That’s what this lady is working on and she’s obviously none too happy about it. This is from 1948, but we’ll tell you something, lady: Dieting today is no more fun and — with all our pills, online programs and progress — no easier.

Reduce to Music
Frederic Stanley
August 2, 1924

The gentleman in the 1924 cover below is taking up an exercise program. It looks like early aerobics, before the days of “The Biggest Loser” and celebrity spokespeople looking svelte after losing weight due to the Brand “X” weight-loss program. With no such inspiration to spur him on, he’s trying it the roaring ’20s way.

Resolution No. 2: I Will Save More $

Saving for War Bonds
Preston Duncan
May 2, 1942

Saving money is always a big New Year’s resolution. This is a photographic cover, rather than an artist illustration, which was rare for the 1940s. But everyone was being encouraged to buy bonds for the war effort and this handsome young man was doing his part.

Resolution No. 3: I Will Read More. I Will Improve My Mind!

Mom’s Helper
Norman Rockwell
January 29, 1921

This 1921 cover by Norman Rockwell shows a young man with two resolutions: to help mom with the chores and to be well-read. Actually, peeling potatoes was probably mom’s idea. Combining the tasks, however, is not safe, as the bandaged thumb indicates. Sometimes a good story is hard to put down. But, dude, when the chore involves a knife…

Resolution No. 4: I Will Not Gossip

Fall Gab Session
Constantin Alajolov
November 7, 1953

Resolved. Did you see the way that Smith boy and that Jones girl were looking at each other? Why, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were wedding bells ahead. (This is strictly confidential, of course.)

Resolution No. 5: I Will Keep the House Clean

After Dinner Dishers
Stevan Dohanos
January 8, 1949

I will keep the house looking like something out of a magazine. Only not this magazine. What is more discouraging than a pile of dirty dishes? We’ll tell you what – a pile of dirty dishes and a husband who thinks it’s his time to relax with the papers. The editors thoughtfully suggested she close the door while she’s cleaning up so as not to disturb him. This was said tongue-in-cheek. We think.

Resolution No. 6: I Will Get More Sleep

Sleeping at the Opera
Charles A. MacCullan
March 24, 1923

Last, but not least: I resolve to get more rest. This is a noble goal, since experts tell us that most Americans don’t get enough sleep. But perhaps not at the theater, mister. Wives are known to have sharp elbows. It doesn’t look as if the glaring technique is going to work. This cover is from 1923.

“Lafayette Is Here”: The Post Covers A Hero’s Return

In the 43 years since he’d helped America win its independence from Great Britain, the Marquis de Lafayette had become a symbol of the revolution. Fighting alongside Washington, he had forced the British army to surrender, then sailed back to France to transplant liberty in European soil.

Early in 1824, President James Monroe invited Lafayette to return to the nation that still revered him, and the Marquis accepted. And so began a thirteen-month tour across all 24 states, covering 6,000 miles of miserable roads, bone-crunching carriages, and sluggish riverboats, one of which nearly drowned him when it sank in the Ohio river.

For older Americans of the revolutionary generation, Lafayette was a living connection to the great cause in their lives. To see the living hero, after all this time, would help bridge the gulf they felt between the early republic and the modern United States.

For younger Americans, Lafayette’s tour was an opportunity to celebrate the success of their nation. They would see for themselves one of the last founding fathers — a representative of all that their nation stood for.

As for Lafayette himself, this tour was one last chance to see his aging comrades-in-arms and to witness the state of the country he had worked so hard to create.

The Saturday Evening Post reported his arrival on August 21, 1824:

The Marquis Lafayette, the only surviving General of the seven years’ war of our revolution, was conducted from Staten-Island on Monday morning, and landed in New York city, amidst every demonstration of joy and admiration could be bestowed. The news of the General’s arrival had spread though the surrounding country with the rapidity of lightning; and from the dawn of day until noon, the roads and ferry boats were thronged with people who were hastening to the city to participate in the fete, and testify their gratitude for the services, and respect for the character, of the illustrious “National Guest.”  Our citizens also turned out in immense numbers at an early hour, and, together with the military, presented the most lively and moving spectacle that we have witnessed on any former occasion.

As a young nobleman, Lafayette has been inspired by all the talk of liberty he heard buzzing about in the salons and Masonic lodges of Paris. When the news arrived that Americans had risen up against Great Britain, he leapt at the chance to fight for the rights of man. And, because he was French, to humble Great Britain. And, because he was a young man, win glory on the battlefield.

He stole away to America, expecting to be given an army to command but, upon his arrival, found he would not be given any troops, or even a military rank. At this point, Lafayette proved he was more than just a priviliged adventurer. He volunteered to serve without rank and even donated his own money to the war effort. Impressed by the sincerity and enthusiasm of this young man and fellow Mason, Washington appointed him to his headquarters staff.

Within a month, Lafayette proved the wisdom of Washington’s judgment. At Brandywine Creek, he stepped in to act as a division commander when American soldiers broke and ran from an assault by British and Hessian troops. Though shot through the leg, he remained on his horse to rally the soldiers, mount a rear-guard defense, fight off another British attack, and skillfully withdraw the Americans to safety.

General George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette at Valley Forge.
General George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette at Valley Forge.

He remained at Washington’s side throughout the bitter Valley Forge Winter, and helped thwart a congressional plan to replace Washington with General Nathanial Greene. He led troops at the battle of Gloucester and was instrumental in the victory at Monmouth. By now, Washington and Congress regarded Lafayette as one of their best generals. Even Lord Cornwallis, commander of the British forces, recognized his importance and launched several attacks on the colonials to capture the Marquis.

In 1779, Lafayette sailed back to France to beg King Louis XVI for more soldiers and boats, then quickly returned to America, where he was given command of his own army. In 1781, the young General drove Cornwallis back across Virginia until he and Washington trapped the British at Yorktown and forced their surrender.

Now, at age 67, he was being showered with honors and crowded by the ecstatic veterans of that long-ago war.

Decidedly the most interesting sight was the [New York] reception of the General by his old companions in arms: Colonel Marinus Willet, now in his eighty-fifth year, General Van Cortland, General Clarkson, and the other worthies whom we have mentioned… He embraced them all affectionately, and Col. Willet again and again. He knew and remembered them all. It was a re-union of a long separated family.

After the ceremony of embracing and congratulations were over, he sat down alongside of Col. Willet, who grew young again and fought all his battles over. “Do you remember,” said he, “at the battle of Monmouth, I was volunteer aid to Gen. Scott ? I saw you in the heat of battle. You were but a boy, but you were a serious and sedate lad. Aye, aye; I remember well. And on the Mohawk, I sent you fifty Indians. And you wrote me, that they set up such a yell that they frightened the British cavalry, and they ran one way and the Indians another.”

No person who witnessed this interview will ever forget it; many an honest tear was shed on the occasion. The young men retired at little distance, while the venerable soldiers were indulging recollections, and were embracing each other again and again… Such sincere, such honest feelings, were never more plainly or truly expressed. The sudden changes of the countenance of the Marquis, plainly evinced the emotions he endeavored to suppress.

When a revolutionary story from the venerable Willet recalled circumstance long passed, the incident… made the Marquis sigh; and his swelling heart was relieved when he burst into tears. The sympathetic feeling extended to all present. The scene was too affecting to be continued. One of the [veterans], anxious to divert the attention of the Marquis, his eyes floating with tears, announced the near approach of the steam ship. The Marquis advanced to the water railing, where he was no sooner perceived by the multitude, than an instantaneous cheer most loudly expressed the delight they experienced.

Through this dense and towering host, (for the doors, casements, railings, windows, chimney and turrets of the buildings were hung with spectators,) the General was conveyed in a barouche and four horses, followed and proceeded by the Lafayette Guards, through the whole distance to the City Hall, which is near a mile.

The General rode uncovered, and received the unceasing shouts and the congratulations of 50,000 freemen, with tears and smiles that bespoke how deeply he felt the pride and glory of the occasion. The ladies, from every tier of windows, waved their white handkerchiefs, and hundreds loosed by their fair owners were seen floating in the air.

Several attempts were made by the people, both in going up and returning through Broadway, to take the horses from the General’s carriage, and draw him in triumph themselves.

This action, which was repeated in other cities, drew a stern disapproval from the Post’s editors.

We regret to see that in New Haven the populace took off the horses and dragged General Lafayette in his carriage. This is not the offering it becomes a free People to bestow upon a friend of Liberty. It is ill suited to the character of Republicans, and only fit for the slaves of some military despot who are willing, both figuratively and literally to wear the yoke. For the honor of the Nation, and, more than all, for the respect due Lafayette, we trust it will not again occur in the progress of such a man through a nation of free men. [Sep 4, 1824]