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More About Murdoch . . . Free Nylons!

February 12, 1946

I feel a little shamefaced about this next yarn. Murdoch made me take the pledge so far as nylon stocking stories are concerned. And it was only a day or two ago that the column went on the wagon. But here we go falling right off again. It’s like a New Year’s resolution . . . vigorous but short-lived. I can make out a case for myself though. The kind of stories I foreswore were the kind that described scrimmages at the counter. This one is different.

It’s the story of Calvin McGaugh, a hosiery manufacturer in Dallas, who made the mistake of telling International News Service one day last week that he had no labor difficulties at his plant and the reason was that he gave three pair of nylon hose to each of his female employees every month. You can imagine the effect of that on the news-reading public!

When interviewed, Mr. McGaugh was able to say only one word. It was weak and whispered and the correspondent had to strain to catch it. The word was “help.” Mr. McGaugh rates as one of the most popular men in the country it you count mail pull. He’s heard from more relatives than any man has a right to have. And from many strangers. Here are a few excerpts from letters he received.

One woman wrote, “My mother said you were her second cousin. We were so in hopes you would think of us and send us one half dozen or as many as you can spare. There are three of us. Mother said she made you some very good biscuits once.”

The husband of a college professor wrote that his wife always felt she owed it to her profession to dress well . . . how about a few pair?

Another man from Port Arthur, Texas said this: “I am a man 85 years of age, in good health and able to walk and work, but no job. I have only one wife and we have one and a half dozen children.” That’s all of the letter that was cited in the account. It’s not clear whether that fellow wanted a job, nylon hose or a few more wives.

A letter from Yukon, Oklahoma, said: “My son expects to be released from the Navy soon and I should like to be waiting at the pier dressed as I used to dress before we were so rudely interrupted December 7, 1941.”

A husband said he was having to fight with his wife to keep her from applying for a job at McGaugh’s mill. In addition, quantities of money orders and cash have poured in and at least one check duly signed but with the amount not indicated.

Am I wrong or is all this a little ridiculous? Or at least, undignified? McGaugh had one letter in the back that was his favorite and he was able to wave it weakly at the reporter. It read: “I came back home to find my sweetheart maybe not as affectionate. In time to come, I hope to have the pleasure in marrying my present girl friend. But I have got to win her back with kindness somehow. I do believe a few pair of nylon hose would do the trick.”

It’s great stuff, isn’t it? We’ve labored through centuries of economic development only to wind up back in the age of barter. A girl with a few shirts can buy a husband and a man with a pair of nylons can buy a wife. And it’s extraordinary to what degree we have returned to barter. I guess you saw that Associated Press report from Austin, Minnesota about the two gentlemen who bartered their way through Florida with butter. The Messrs. Reppesaved and Kokalaris are celebrated gentlemen for having managed a trip through Florida, never once failing to get accommodations at hotels. The magic of the expedition was simply this: They carried fifty pounds of butter with them and when a hotel clerk showed a disposition to be tough, they hinted that they might spare a little and that did it.

They must have been travelling in a refrigerated car at that to have kept the butter barterable in Florida’s climate.

. . . I wonder what I could get in the open market for a shellback card, a discharge button and one slightly used radio script?