The Ghosts of 1910: Reading the “The Daisy” and the Young Now Dead

43B40530-A185-443C-8D3A-D3FB7343BEBFHalloween is coming, the holy day that reminds us that the young will soon be the old and the old the dead. All this new will become ancient and much will be forgotten. The lads who wrote the November copy of The Daisy were the future in November of 1910. The school paper for the urban Euclid School urges you to see Dr. L.H. Kramer who notes that your eyes (!) are “a pillar in the foundation of your future. Their neglect means a mortgage on your life.”

Whether they saw Dr. Kramer or not, the boys of Euclid see the future clearly now, though I do hope that before they slipped the surly bonds of Earth that they had a “fresh lunch and confessions, sandwiches, cocoa, soda and coffee at moderate prices” with Mrs. Ferns. She only asked that “they give us a test.” Mrs. Ferns paid one dollar for that ad.

The Thanksgiving issue is dominated by a long piece called The Shrine of Psyche by Hyman M. Shulman, Class of ‘11. It begins:

“‘Swear it, boy, swear it. With God as a a witness, sw—�-‘ The elder Durgan feel back, seized with a fit of coughing as he vehemently spoke the words.”

Somebody at the Euclid School was still reading Sir Walter Scott for sure.

The lads of Euclid are worked up, because though they got a few into Cornell last Fall not enough applied. Where was the love for alma mater? Let me quote the thundering editorial:

“In vain have we sought for the last couple of years, in announcements such as those mentioned above, for the slightest mention of Eastern as a recipient of any part of the honors. How deplorable, that no longer does Eastern “come in” for her share of the honors of the borough! How sad that no longer do her sons and daughters strive to make her name renown from place to place so the days of old when the progress of Eastern it was that all Brooklynites watched with the keenest of interest and looked forward to the future as do enthusiastic parents to the future of a promising child.”

This is awkward, wordy, but shows an enviable vocabulary and a school culture that was based in honor: for the school, for Brooklyn, and for community. Such lads were growing up in a world where the rules were clear: be square, clean, and study hard. Why? You owe it to your parents and society.

The lads and lassies of Euclid/Eastern look to the past and the future. They show no sign of being discouraged or hopeless: they know what has been and so will make things better than they were. We know that by 1914 their world would be gone: utterly gone. Yet the ancient wisdom they learned made as much sense in Soviet Russia as Tsarist Russia. The trendy, and there is some “cool” in The Daisy, would be out of date the moment the guns of 1914 began to fire.

And so now as students prepare for choosing a college, heed the lesson of The Daisy. They were preparing in 1910 for a world that would not last until they were out of their earlier twenties. Young T Rex, the energetic politician of their youth, would soon be an elder statesman trying to understand a world that no longer said “bully!” as praise.

Don’t be sad for them, because oddly The Daisy shows men and women ready for rapid change, if anyone can be. They had grounding in the community, family, and dear old Euclid. They made it.

Ask yourself:

1. Are you literate? Words help us distance ourselves from terrible times. The high schooler of The Daisy had the world to distance themselves and try to grasp the horror of the world that was coming.

2. Are you tied to the past and to a present community? Do you cry when you hear the school song? If you are too cynical to love alma mater, then you are too cynical or you go to the wrong school. These ties will serve you well in changing times.

3. Do you know the wisdom of the past? The boys and girls of Euclid were willing to learn and only then pass judgment on what came before they lived. They assume that they had something to learn. This gave them some roots so then when things changed (that had to change), they had some ground that did not shift. The Bible and Shakespeare endured the influenza and revolutions. They will again.

4. Are you doing your best? The writers of The Daisy are not very good, but they are striving for greatness. They know that a standard exists and so strive to equal that standard. They fail, but the effort is lovely in children.

The world of The Daisy was not perfect or it would not have destroyed itself, but it had virtues we lack. We cannot (thank God!) go back to the problems, but we can read this little magazine and see virtues we have long forgotten.

 

 


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