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Reisler, and the County Superintendent of Schools. The
third trustee, Annanias Brown, had been offended several
years before and refused to attend. There were no sanitary
arrangements, the girls' privy lying in a ditch and the boys'
standing uncertainly over a branch of the creek. During
that conversation I sacrificed my reputation for modesty,
but achieved two modern sanitary toilets, placed the re-
quired distance from the stream, and, therefore, conspicu-
ously along the road. They had value as an example to
the community: only forty per cent of our neighbors
possessed one.

We finished our rounds of the neighborhood by the end
of August. We visited every house, met the parents and
enrolled the children for school. The grown-ups were
courteous, but beneath their politeness we glimpsed their
attitude toward "learnin'." Most of them were sincerely
glad that the school was to be opened, but a few made it
clear that should going to school affect the corn planting
or the campaign "agin" potato bugs, the corn and bugs
would come first.

We had been told that Aunt Liz had two children with
her, little Maria, daughter of a niece dead at thirty with
tuberculosis, and a boy "no kin, only the cow boy." Aunt



40



FOOT HILLS



41



Liz was glad to see us. Yes, her little Maria was a good
child. She'd learn fast too. No, that was the only one.
The boy couldn't learn. He was "dumb," they just kept
him to watch the cows and he'd be no use if he went to
school. To tell her that he must go, that the law re-
quired it, was useless. The men "gigged" and dynamited
the creek and trapped out of season. What could the law
do anyway?

The great first day came at last with an enrollment oi
24 boys and girls, from 6 to 17 years old, and theoretically
from the first to the seventh grade. They came barefoot
and curious. We spent the day getting acquainted and by
afternoon I had decided there was only one way to grade
my pupils; in two groups, those that had been in school
and those that had not. If one child should perchance
stray from one group to the other, it really wouldn't
matter much.

Those shy boys and girls in their overalls and calicoes,
many of whose grandfathers had fought in the Civil War,
had never heard of America. They thought the country
was ruled by a king and that the name of the king was Mr.
Wilson. Some were without doubt eligible for membership
in the Daughters and Sons of the American Revolution. I
soon found that they were lineal descendants of the men
who revolted against George the Third, not only in the
fact of birth but essentially in spirit. If they had had a
motto, it would have been, "We won't take nothin' off
nobody."

THE school tradition was for discipline by beating. Mr.
Muller had achieved fame as a pedagogue by making
it necessary for the mothers to sew on each morning the
buttons that had been spanked off the day before. I had
been advised by a seasoned parent, the father of three
"do less" boys and two prostitutes, to "treat 'em rough,"
and so we formed a student government, albeit with diffi-
culty. They had never heard of voting. My oldest girl
who was slow of speech and thought was unwilling to vote.
I finally got her to say that she had been told never to
"sign no paper." The two "bad boys" of the school were
elected president and vice president. One of the rules de-
cided upon by the officers was that there was to be no
spitting on the floor. When this announcement was made,
Carrie, the one who had been afraid to vote, said loudly
and without preface, "If I want to spit, I'm going to spit."
This was challenged by the new vice president who pro-
ceeded to prove forcibly that he was able to enforce rules
by beating up Carrie's brother since he could not beat her.
A teacher of a formal school would have been horrified
at many things. Much dog trading went on among the
boys, one of whom owned fifteen. It was no uncommon
occurrence to have a nice friendly dog, on his way from
one home to another, spend the day tied to the leg of his
owner's desk.

We found very early that we could simultaneously learn
and play and be of some use to the community. The
parents of the children had no recreation. We decided
to furnish it. Every month we gave a play or a party of
some sort to the grown ups. First there was an Armistice
Day celebration. The owner of the newspaper in the
nearest village gave us a flag. The trustees of the school
cut and planted a pole in the front yard. Everyone was
invited. More than half of the guests refused the printed
programs with the words "can't read." The children sang




Our house after

and recited. The minister in his opening prayer thanked
God that the teacher and the nurse had come to them.
The flag was raised with ceremony and a tow-headed boy
in overalls read the Declaration of Independence. His sister
came to me the next day. That night there had been a
disagreement at home which I was to settle, please. "That
there word, Pap he said it is 'declamation' and Maw she
said it is 'decoration,' which is it?"

Every experience taught us more forcibly that interest
is the mainspring of learning. Children who were bored
to apathy by school room routine sweated in their efforts
to learn to read their parts in entertainments or the words
of the songs which they sang so happily.

During these months Emma Burgess was sowing the
seeds that were to grow into a genuine interest in and
respect for health. A tooth brush drill was introduced.
The "chores" of the "Health Crusaders" were counted
daily by striving "pages" and "squires," and the stumbling
block for most of them was the weekly bath. The "chore"
of washing hands before meals made it necessary for towels
to be hemmed in sewing class and washed each day after
the noonday meal. Hot soup or cocoa was cooked on the
new wood stove, the sugar, cocoa and vegetables brought
by the children in turn, the milk furnished by the "commu-
nity cow," given to us by a kindly physician and the State
Federation of Women's Clubs.

Christmas, Washington's Birthday, Easter and the com-
ing of spring were celebrated by school and community to-
gether. Mothers came to school to make the boys' costumes
for the health pageant in May, the girls making their
own in sewing class. A sloping hillside above a grassy
meadow was our theatre. A sapling poplar was the May
pole and an oak stump the queen's throne.

Early in the afternoon of this festival day, streamers
of bright crepe paper were fastened to the May pole and
wrapped around it safe from the slight breeze. Consterna-
tion reigned when just before the performance it was dis-
covered that a cow, in protest against this use of her pasture,
had chewed the strings of the May pole. Safety pins soon
repaired the damage and the little health fairies slew the
dragon germs, and pie and fried foods and other enemies
of healthy children.

During these months our household had rapidly grown.
We had taken to live with us Aunt Liz's cow boy, Terence,
little Maria and her two older sisters, who had been in-
fected during their infancy by their tubercular mother. We
took them first because they needed a home, but also be-
cause we found out, even in this short time, what hap-
pened to children left without proper guardianship. My



FOOT HILLS



partner made a six months' survey for the Department of
Agriculture, which was an attempt to evaluate the "human
output" of the community during the preceding hundred
years. These findings were labelled "dynamite" and left
unpublished, but they taught us the sordid future of chil-
dren left without parents. Another reason for taking the
children was the deep seated belief that God sent tuber-
culosis and that it was useless to expect to recover. The
rapid cure of these two girls did much more than any
amount of preaching, and besides our neighbors could no
longer feel Old Aunt Carrie's contempt for "two old maids
telling us how to bring up our children."

I should like to linger over those early months. The
County Board ef Education was generous. The platform
was discarded and a new desk placed in the corner of the
room. A new roof made the pails set about to catch the
rain unnecessary. The children's desks were unscrewed
from the floor so that the room could be used for com-
munity parties. When the new desks came the old ones
were taken out and placed under the trees. There on
warm days the children studied in groups in the open air.
One day when a visitor arrived, there were only ten
children in the room; the others were out under the trees.
The student government put down deep roots. One morn-
ing our little Terence awoke with a cough and a tempera-
ture. I had to drive six miles for a doctor. My way led
by the home of the vice
president of the student
government. I stopped
and asked him to open
school without me. Re-
turning at ten-thirty, I
found the flag up, open- I
ing exercises over and
three arithmetic classes
in peaceful progress.

During the second
summer the physicians
in a nearby sanitorium
volunteered to make a
physical examination of
the school children.
We had one hundred
per cent attendance, al-
though some of them
had to be "fetched" by
old Lizette. The de-
fects disclosed were cor-
rected. This meant
many trips to the County
Seat where Miss Bur-
gess specialled four cases




Some of the pupils



of tonsillectomy at one time. A generous dentist from
"over the mountain" held a dental clinic in our house.

Gradually our work developed and extended. A reading
club and a "singing society" for grown ups met once a
week at the schoolhouse. Miss Burgess was authorized by
the County Superintendents to extend her health activities
to the three nearby schools. During the second year my
"free" school was given a setback by the appearance on my
wall of a daily schedule which divided my day in twenty-
six periods. Its presence had a depressing psychological
effect although I can truthfully say I never carried it out
consistently one single day of my teaching.



For four years we lived and worked in our schoolhouse
and on our little farm. "Manna" from interested friends
helped to keep the family together. Now the "dumb" cow
boy who had had to start in the first grade although ten
years old was ready for high school after four years' study
One of the girls, too, was ready. We knew that just over
the next foot-hill was another community exactly like ovirs
and another and another. We couldn't live in all of them
and we couldn't induce others to leave the city for such
a life as ours. (In my enthusiasm I had approached
number of colleges and talked to the seniors. This was
during my second year of teaching. With more experience
there came the conviction that much more than a college
degree was necessary, that to place in an isolated rura
school an inexperienced college girl inexperienced in life
not in teaching methods would often be fatal to her anc
probably only a degree less so to the school.)

The only solution seemed to lie in bringing these com-
munities together. The village three miles away was the
logical center and so in the beginning of our fifth year
we tore up our roots, not painlessly, and moved our family
to the village. For two years I worked in the two room
school as assistant to the principal who had taught in the
same room for forty years.

Miss Burgess was taken over by the health department
first as public health nurse for the upper part of the county

and then in charge of
the county as a whole.
After six years of class
room work I began to
feel that what I had
learned might possibly
be put to some wider
use. I did not want to
leave my chosen state so
I sought the State Su-
perintendent of Schools.
He was cordial but eva-
sive, friendly but with
a reservation. "Frank-
ly" said he, "I see no
place for you in our
system unless you wish
to train for a year or
so as a helping teacher.
But even then I doubt
if you would do. You
are interested in the
sociological conditions
surrounding the school-

r house. That's all right,

ajter two years

of course, but we want

teachers whose main interest is in classroom methods." The
vision of my daily schedule rose before me and I departed
sadly.

Almost two years have passed and I return for the Christ-
mas holidays. I find a vigorous county nursing and health
program.

In the village the community club is flourishing. It holds
a weekly meeting and dance and owns its own piano. The
consolidated school is a solid fact of red brick. Its doors
will open next week for the children of our little mountain
schoolhouse and those of the three adjacent communities.

I think this means more light in the foot hills.



Letters & Life

In which books, plays and people are discussed

Edited by LEON WHIFFLE

Italy Sends Us Marionettes




INOCCHIO is in town. That mischievous
wood-and-boy puppet who clattered out of
Italy to join Cinderella and Brer Rabbit
and Alice of Wonderland has come to life
in the tiny theater of Richmond Hill Settle-
ment House at 28 Macdougall Street in the
heart of Italy-in-New York. Remo Bufano, master of mari-
onettes and himself a graduate of an earlier venture in drama
at Richmond Hill House, has mingled puppets and real Ital-
ian children in this charming version of the gay tale by
Carlo Collodi. He, and Greenwich House that is back of
the experiment, have bigger dreams than just another little
theater wherewith to amuse the boys and give them a play
outlet. They hope to make this playhouse, grown out of
the front and back parlors of an old red-brick dwelling, into
a center of the Italian spirit in drama for the United States.
That does not mean Italian drama, for they play in English.
It does mean an endeavor to transplant and catch the spirit
of the antique, folk-born commedia dell' arte for the service
of art and the education of Americans. Richmond Hill sees
no reason why the immigrant should check his culture at
the door of Ellis Island. So the next bill will be three-fold :
Moliere's Medecin Malgre Lui, some very old folk songs
from the hills of Italy, and the puppet-show. "We seek to
translate the spirit of the Italian stage. It will do people
good to see something less sophisticated than the movies,"
says Master Bufano.

Pinocchio is certainly not sophisticated as it unfolds its
simple, unmoral tale on a stage barren save for unsteady
walls, a door, a stool or a table.
It is played in high spirits by the
youthful cast, endowed at birth
with such splendid names as
Achilles Andriola and Anthony
Oratino and Gino Innocenti
like a Pope. It is rural slap-
stick, with the color and audacity
of the carnival and country
revels, touched with the imme-
morial spirit of play through the
untutored acting and joyful
noisiness. Not even the children
are deceived when the obviously
wooden hatchet carves Pinocchio
from an unmistakable papier
mache log, but they giggle and
get their thrills. For the audi-
ence is part of this noble pretence
and that is good for an audi-




ence too long regimented into silence by the mechanical
wonders of the movies. Commedia dell' arte at root means
play, play by the actors and antiphonal play by the audience,
and if Richmond Hill makes people go to the "play-house"
to see "plays" our drama would be less artificial and fuller
of glamor and poetry.

Consider Signor Bufano's marionettes. The pragmatical
Pinocchio sells his school-book for four-pence, and gets in
the booth. He watches the wooden Arlechino, Columbina,
and Pierrot dance through one of their tragi-comic inter-
ludes of love and fighting and dear foolishness. The wires
and sticks, arms even the faces of the marionette-movers
are all plain to the audience. That's part of the show
no deception here, no dull Belascan realism. The ends are
left raw so that the audience can use its imagination to
weave a dream. It has all the elements, love, jealousy,
battle, blasted hopes, and cherished illusions, stripped bare
and symbolic. Even the problem of the cosmos resides in
this flimsy box, for what is the platform above but heaven?
And the marionette-movers, what are they as every good
poet knows but the high gods with strings that jerk us
puppets? Pinocchio jumps into the puppet dance, and
we too.

This art is too simple not to be deep; and here is the
true, the only school for dramatists. Else how explain the
everlasting charm of the puppet-show? Here is evidence
of its hold. The New York Tuberculosis Association had
a health film for children, but it looked like propaganda
and could not quite escape the goody-goody. So they got

Remo Bufano to carve some
new puppets and use the Dragon
and other characters from the
tale of Orlando Furioso (you
see he had the elements of all
good stories) and put on a
marionette show called The
Hungry Dragon with its moral
of good health. Then they filmed
the marionettes and the chil-
dren loved the picture. It cost
too much to have the real
marionettes visit all the schools,
yet even the filmed puppets were
better than the real actors in the
movie. That is a profound lesson
in dramaturgy.

Bufano himself is a lesson,
and shows that Richmond Hill
may succeed. Coming from Italy



43



44



LETTERS & LIFE



when three years old, he played
Hamlet when he was thirteen in
the first drama club at Richmond
Hill where Edward Goodman
and Phillip Moeller served ap-
prenticeships before they started
toward Broadway and the Guild
via the old Washington Square
Players. He got some education
at the Ethical Culture School
and the Sargent School of Acting.
He has played professionally
with Mrs. Fiske, at the Province-
town, and elsewhere. But in his
blood were puppets. He hardly
seems to know how he started as
a puppeteer. "Oh, just picked it
up. I used to go and watch the
real Italian shows we had in
Little Italy. Ten years ago or
more, I began to give my own
shows. I tried the small figures
worked on the hand from be-
neath and I made the large
wooden ones. But I did not
make much money. I had no
money to teach people to know
and love marionette shows. I'd take a job for six months
to get a little money for advertising and then go out on the
road. It was hard work."

Not that this slight, blue-eyed, clear-featured young artist
pities himself. He has learned poise from his puppets and
he is just stating the task of a pioneer, for that is what he
is. And he is quite at home with Dragons. Yet it would




The pragmatical Pinocchio sells his school-book for
fourpence to the Ragman.



be a happy thing if Richmond
Hill could find an "angel."
It costs money to transplant
exotics. Few Italian-American
children are tempted to the
Playhouse and the Italian grown-
ups still want melodrama in the
native tongue, as is proven by the
posters of the Teatro Italiano
up and down Bleecker and Car-
mine Streets. So the audience is
made up mostly of intellectuals
and up-town children. It's a queer
circle, with the little Italians
rushing to see a "western" at
the movies, and the little Ameri-
cans, movie-wise and weary,
brought down to get something
new and charming from an older
age. That's fair enough. The
American needs this gentle
commedia dell' arte, yet how can
it live and be filled with the
Italian spirit unless the Italians
give their gifts? And the Italians
are missing something of their
heritage unless they can be
sometimes tempted back from the movies. If this theater
begins to cater to Americans only, it will learn American
tricks. It will trim to our tastes, cock an eye toward
the box-office, and grow arty and self-conscious. That
would ruin this brave adventure of the spirit. May
the Master of the Marionettes keep pure their wooden
hearts!



Books Table d'Hote



THE book business has growing pains. Some publishers
and many book-sellers mistake these for rigor mortis.
Naturally, for having had to work so hard for so long to
sell books, they have contracted the idea that the American
public is book saturated and that if any newcomer sells a
book, he must steal the sale from some one else. The public
really is only book-damp at the edges and for some time
whatever increases the sale of books will prove good for
everybody. The United States publishes some 8,000 new
titles a year and sells about one hundred million books omit-
ting text books. European nations of half our population
produce over IO,OOO titles and sell as high as two hundred
million books.- True, we read a prodigious tonnage of news-
papers and magazines, but that is the more reason for trying
to encourage solider reading. We are strong for anything to
make more people read better books provided, of course,
the new device does not sacrifice any real good in our
present hard-won and useful system of publishing.

The nub of the new idea is to sell books by mail to a
clientele gathered in advance by the guarantee that they
will get the outstanding books promptly and conveniently,
or the best books as selected by an editorial committee of
reputation, or the significant books in certain fields. The
revolution is in sales methods, not publishing, though
some small publishing is done, and it is certain that we



shall have the large mail-order publisher in the not distant
future.

Book publishing now is too much a gamble. Based on
editions of 2,OOO one critic says 500 the publisher dare
not figure on more, for he has no certain audience, he
cannot count on the same audience twice, nor will his book-
sellers undertake to market any fixed number. They are
all dealing in intangibles. Therefore, his costs are high on
small editions and his prices, of necessity, are fixed by the
need of breaking even. True, he knows the lightning
strikes certain books (though he cannot tell why), but he
cannot pass on to the public his savings on mass production
of the big sellers. His price is fixed by costs before he
knows he has a best seller. He cannot stimulate sales by
cut-rates. Finally, some of the best seller profits have to
carry the non-selling list. For even with editions of 2,000
he may find himself left with half the copies to be disposed
of as "remainders."

But instead of seeking out a guaranteed-in-advance
audience large enough to justify big editions at low costs
and prices, or to take all his small edition on a book of
limited appeal, he has worked in reverse. He has had to
refuse to print good books because he saw no way of
breaking even ; he has spent brains and money trying to
spot best sellers; he has run up costs by advertising after



LETTERS & LIFE



45



publication to gather an audience; and he has condescended
to publish books under a subsidy from the author or an
institution willing to guarantee the dead weight costs.

The publisher has depended on the book-seller for
marketing, except for some direct-mail business on sub-
scription sets. It is the book stores now that are most



Yet he seems to have helped, not hurt, the publishers.
Many learn to read at five cents the lesson and keep it up
on two-dollar books.

I think he had something to do with the present astound-
ing sales of serious books. The more he sold, the more
everybody sold. Certain sections of Will Durant's Story of



angrily opposing any new sales methods. Yet the book store Philosophy appeared as Little Blue Books, but this did not



equipment of the nation is wofully inadequate to provide
books everywhere. One of the invaders told me that though
there were perhaps 2,500 book outlets in the nation, counting
variety stores and drug-store chains, department stores, et al,



keep that miracle book from selling 127,000 copies at five
dollars, with plans laid for 200,000 by Christmas. Books
breed books and readers. The publisher has not grasped
this yet ; nor has he sensed the implications of our new



there were only fifty first-class book stores. A publisher wealth and leisure for book consumption. He's simply



said there were only twenty-eight on his list that he would
grade as A stores. Brentano's of New York is said to do
five per cent of the retail selling in the United States:
"Multiply our sales by twenty and you have the total sale
of any book." Naturally Brentano's is not interested in
mail sales by the publisher. Finally, vast areas of the South
and West have no book stores at all. Yet these sections
contain thousands of potential readers if you can get the
books to them. They will evea take your judgment on a
book. We doubt if even the twenty-eight Grade A stores
have staffs that are able to guide their patrons in the choice



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