OLD NEWS: Would you rather read about the cute kids of 1922 or its great railroad strike?


Labor Day 1922 was busy.

Three months earlier, 400,000 railway tradesmen – maintenance crews including unskilled laborers but also electricians and mechanics – walked out of marshalling yards across the country after being told to swallow what amounted to a 12% pay cut.

This walkout deepened in the Great Railroad Strike of 1922. People died, as we read here on August 15 (see arkansasonline.com/95cops). Aside from the historical nature of it all, there isn’t much good to say about it.

But all the while, Arkansas kids were writing completely childish, unimportant stories for the Arkansas Democrat’s weekly page for school kids.

And so, I ask you, dear reader, what would you rather have this Labor Day — the railroad strike? Or the children and their bizarre little stories?

Let’s vote. I’ll count, and when I get to three, everyone speaks clearly on your iPad screen which topic you prefer. Say “strike” or “children”.

OK, let’s go. A. Of them. Three.

Good! I heard that loud and clear. Children it is.


Along with local efforts and school news, the children’s page contained syndicated instructional fiction, rhyming poems, and drawing functionality.

Editor-in-chief Kay Tallqvist (Mrs. KG Tallqvist) was deep in the pocket of the Little Rock Playground Association, which provided “playgrounds,” summer camp-type activities for city kids. In 1922, his page was part of a playground celebration that resulted in a showcase at the Allsopp & Chapell bookstore. Tallqvist’s part was an essay contest with 50 entries.

I had thought of sharing the winning essays today, but they read like press releases.

Instead, here’s a portion of a poem by an eighth grader from Illinois, sung to the tune of “Row Row Row Your Boat.”

boys and girls walk

Well armed with brush and powder,

To cleanse the realm of the tooth,

And sound the warning louder.

Brush the teeth away from the gums,

Brush the top part down;

The lower teeth that we have to brush,

Because we know it’s appropriate.

And here’s part of “Mary’s Pets” by 8-year-old Mary Jane McCarty of 4424 Lee Ave. in Little Rock.

“One morning, when Mary had just gotten up and did not feel very wide awake, she had gone into the garden to cool off, she saw a very small rabbit near the hedge, and, quietly slipping , she caught him…. After breakfast, she brother made a nice little cage for the baby bunny, and Mary picked up fresh clover, grass, carrots and lettuce, and him gave a bowl of water.

“The rabbit played all day and ate a little of everything Marie had given him, but on the second day he would not eat anything, and Marie was very distressed. On the third morning, when Marie brought the fresh clover and water in the cage, her little pet was dead and Mary cried like her heart was going to break.

“When her father came to lunch, he promised to buy her a tame rabbit, for savages very seldom live indoors. He brought her a pretty white rabbit with pink eyes, and Mary was very pleased, but she gave the poor little wild rabbit rabbit a beautiful funeral and she and the neighboring children sang songs and prayed at the bunny’s funeral, and what more could a little bunny want?”

Judging by US Census records, Mary Jane’s father, George B. McCarty, was—surprised! — a log Linotype operator. She attended four years of high school and became a saleswoman, and was still living with her parents in 1940. In 1941, she married Oscar Mercer Mayer of Michigan. After many years, of course, she passed away. An obituary in a Hawaiian newspaper, Dec. 11, 1980, Honolulu Adviser, states that the former Hawaiian resident had died in California: “She was a writer and artist who taught collage and was active in art. -therapy.”

What more could a little girl ask for?

■ ■ ■

Before I summarize “The Heroic Sheep Dog” by Lucille Gideon of Gumlog in Pope County, can someone tell me how the community of Gumlog got its name? Was there a gum tree, and was it cut down one day?

In Lucille’s story, a shepherd demands the last full measure of devotion from Shep, a mother dog. With puppies.

“A blizzard swept across the western plain, the shepherd had gathered his sheep in the sheepfold and after counting them found that three were missing. He entered his hut, where in front of the well lit fireplace his good shepherd dog was playing with her puppies. The image of warmth and comfort made him shiver at the thought of waking the dog and sending her to find the lost sheep.”

And yet he does.

“‘Shep, there are three of our vendors lost in the storm. I’m not as good as you, that’s why I’m sending you. God will get you through safely. I hate to send you but you must go! Bring back the three sheep.

“The dog looked up at her kind master, her big brown eyes showing she understood. She got up and walked over to her…the puppies and gave each one a single lick, a dog kiss… the master held the door open, she hesitated as the violent storm beat against her chest. Yet, true to her race, she went. Like a streak, she rode through the storm and after watching it until the snow hides her from view, her master entered and closed the door.”

Two hours pass, after which Shep returns with two sheep and is allowed to visit her puppies. Then his master says they’re going to have to start eating sheep if the storm continues, and he has no sheep to spare. She must find the other.

She goes out. After four hours, she is back with the sheep.

The master carries him home, then returns to find Shep lying with her puppies. She doesn’t look so good. He drops down and begins to sing “Nearer, My God to Thee”, apparently Shep’s favorite dance tune because, Lucille says, it usually gets her fidgeting. But she doesn’t, because she’s dead.

The Master feels so bad that he puts fresh flowers on his grave every day – probably after the storm is over.

What more could a poor dog ask for?

■ ■ ■

Earl Switzer, a ninth-grader, son of Dr. and Mrs. DM Switzer of 419 W. Fifth St. in North Little Rock, wrote a story advocating “animal kindness.” It features a boy named Tom Jones who asks a man by the river what he’s doing to a puppy.

“I’m going to drown him,” the man replied, tying a large rock to a rope that hung around the dog’s neck.

“‘Please don’t drown him,’ Tom replied. ‘What did he do to you?'”

The only problem with the dog, the man says, is that he kills chickens. So Tom buys the dog for a quarter and names him Stem. Earl writes, “We’ll guess how gratified the dog felt.”

Flash before two years. Tom and Rod are sailing and a storm is coming. Tom can’t swim, but luckily Rod “had common sense and remembered when Tom saved his life.” He drags the boy to shore by his collar.

That night, Tom said, “Mother, it’s certainly worth being kind to stupid animals.”

■ ■ ■

I leave you with “Kindness” by Ruth Peacock of Winchester in Drew County.

“Once two boys went hunting rabbits and squirrels… They had almost decided to go home when Jack, with one last hope, had the chance to look in a hollow tree and what had happened. he found, but two baby cubs. He took one and Fred took the other.

“They left home, but the mother of the cubs followed them closely. They however won the race and took the bears back to their parents, but their fathers made them take them back to the exact place where they had found them, and there sat the mother bear.

“When she saw the boys put the little ones back in the tree, she knew they were friends and rubbed up against them and hugged them, not too hard, to show her appreciation.

“After that, the boys went to see the bears every day and they all became best friends, and the boys were happy that they befriended them and didn’t break the heart of the mother bear.”

Happy Labor Day to you and me and the lovely children our ancestors were.


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Part of September 3, 1922, the Arkansas Democrat’s page for schoolchildren. (Democratic-Gazette Archives)

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