Please leave a comment on our guestbook

You are in the scripts section

Return to Index of Scripts

Checks and Balances

September 17, 1946

I don’t want to give the impression that I’m an old timer or anything like that, but I snagged an item on the newswire here that threw me for a ten or twenty year loss and it kind of gives the memory a bump that swells into middle age spread. When I say I don’t want to give the impression that I’m an old timer, I mean that literally. I don’t WANT to, but I can’t help it. Here’s a yarn about the civil aeronautics administrator T. P. Wright confessing on the newswire that he has been getting a lot of pan mail lately.

People everywhere are complaining about the excessive noise overhead. It doesn’t seem possible. It was only a few yesterdays ago that any time a plane passed within ear shot the word would zizzle around the neighborhood and all the kids would pour out of their houses and stare up at it. It was a curious spectacle. It’s possible that even in that earlier day some mildewed sourpuss shook his head and muttered, “They’d better do something about that racket. It’s going to be a menace some day.” It seemed incredible then that the glamour would ever rub off the mighty roar of a plane to where it would show through as just plain bothersome noise. And yet, here it is.

Mr. Wright gets letters in every mail protesting, wheedling and pleading that something be done about it. The honeymoon is over I guess. And that’s another thing that riffles back through the years.

Remember when there was a practically uninterrupted series of jokes and cartoon gags on the theme of the honeymoon being over? When the husband begins to complain of the burnt toast . . . or reads his paper at breakfast . . . or neglects to come across with that homecoming kiss after being away all day . . . Those were the signs that the honeymoon was over. And so it is with the drone of airplanes.

When people stop marveling at them and begin to notice what a pain in the ears the unceasing noise of them is . . . the honeymoon is over. Anyone who lives near a much-travelled regular route of some air line . . . or worse still in the neighborhood of a busy airport, knows that the noise is continuous and at times pretty hefty, especially on days of low ceiling. But . . . it’s nothing to worry about. There was a time when it was thought that the automobile would devastate the delicate ear drum. Something always compensates. I just mention Mr. Wright’s beef because it’s an indication that . . . as far as the aircrafts are concerned, the honeymoon is over. We’re starting to pick at them now.

But the man in the flying machine can’t really complain. He’s enjoyed a long and happy honeymoon at that. And it’s not really over. The plane still receives its quota of love letters.

A news note from Washington tells of another new avenue of service. Dr. Dillon Smith, who works for the weather bureau, has always wanted to know what things were like on the inside of a thunderstorm. I don’t share his curiosity, but if it’s going to help cope with the caprice of weather, I’m for it. He has found that by rigging a temperature sniffer to the nose of a plane and flying straight under the ribs of a looming storm, he gets the right score. There you are. The plane is still pioneering.

And if you think taking the temperature of a storm is a weird enterprise, what would you say about Bobby Jones, the Atlantic City bartender, who wants to know what it’s like on the inside of a cake of ice? Jones made a flight from Atlantic City to La Guardia outside New York, sealed up in a snug 500 pound cake of ice. And he’s pointing for the big time circuit. He’s preparing to fly all the way to Paris wearing the latest thing in overcoats . . . no raglan shoulders, no belt in the back . . . just a cake of ice . . . all frosting. This hop to New York was, I suppose, something in the nature of a warm up . . . If you could call it that, things being what they are. I imagine Bob Jones has the world of science pretty well enthralled. Just think, if he succeeds in flying all the way to Paris wearing nothing but ice he will have proved that . . . well . . . I don’t know just what it is he will have proved. Probably that we are returning to the lurching intelligence of the marathon dance and the flag pole sitter. But, don’t let these trivial negatives discourage you. If you’re short on sleep or have a cold in your head, chest, nose, throat and right knee cap, these things take on a lopsided significance. They get you down and first thing you know you’re resolving to get away from it all . . . and the excursions to the moon are not yet running. That doesn’t solve anything.

A few days ago an ex-GI kind of fed up with not being able to find an apartment . . . or buy a suit . . . said he was going off to Tahiti to sit it out. He’d come back, he said, when things straightened out. Before he could book passage . . . at least I hope he hasn’t yet booked passage . . . here comes a starched wire from Mr. A.C. Rowland, an Associated Press correspondent in Tahiti advising that they’re having a clothing shortage there, too. And that’s something because the Tahitians don’t need much in the way of clothes. The bare minimum in fact, and bare is the word. The chief article of haberdashery is a thing called a Pareu, which is the masculine equivalent to the sarong so gracefully exploited by Dorothy Lamour. It resembles the sarong too . . . except that it doesn’t have as much to do. The cloth from which Pareus are fashioned has not been forthcoming and the existing stocks are worn mighty thin. Mr. Rowland says they’re reduced to wearing table cloths now and the table cloths are going fast. So there’s nothing for it but to stick around and face it.

And if you search for them, there are some entries on the credit side. The current issue of Time Magazine reported in its business section that the manufacturers of trick fountain pens have shown the wit to laugh at themselves. A good sign. You know, for a time there the fountain pen had become the Buck Rogers of industry. Points fashioned to fit your personality and no doubt adjustable to suit the whim of passing moods. Pens that could write fluently under water, in the stratosphere and self-lighting points for writing in a dark closet. I’m not sure there wasn’t one on the market that claimed you could write with it even when you had forgotten to bring it along and possibly even one that enabled the writer to sign his name to a painful check without wincing. Then there might be pens guaranteed for a lifetime and forever, plus six years. Pens that could be filled once every thousand miles and those which, if your blood is type 0, can be used for an emergency transfusion. In its way it was as discouraging as bartenders flying about the place in snug fitting cakes of ice and bridal couples taking the vows atop a flag pole.

But now the makers of the pens have come to see the light of their own folly and according to Time’s reporters . . . to kid themselves about it. One of the manufacturers, in getting off a new advertising campaign, did a nifty lampoon of the extravagant claims with a mock commercial that went this way: The radium pointed pen to sell for a mere one thousand and ninety nine dollars and ninety nine cents. No other pen will do so many amazing, extraordinary things . . . It will brand cattle, spot-weld, etch letters in solid concrete, repel insects and sinister strangers, burn holes in a blanket, pick locks, remove superfluous hair, call police cars on short wave and if we think of it, we’ll construct it so that it may even write. And I liked, too, the label bold-typed over the paragraphs which reported this remarkable . . . self satire. It was . . . Ah, but will it mind the baby? You see, you don’t have to run off to Pareuless Tahiti. We are by no means at the bottom of the slough of despond. The ledger seeks a balance.

The federal security agency finds that last year was the biggest business total in marriages of all times and that the divorces totaled one third of the marriage score and is now twenty five percent higher than it ever was before . . . which is bad . . . but then . . . Fifty-one year old Mark Smith, the klickitat county farmer in the state of Washington who lost his power of speech in the first World War, had the faculty completely and suddenly restored with an application of truth serum. The serum so relaxed him that he was able to throw off the nervous yoke that had strapped his vocal chords for twenty eight years. Comes out even.

On the debit side there is a current shortage of office workers. Funny thing about that. About fifteen years ago it looked like everyone wanted to be in the white collar field. I distinctly remember the agonies of speculation when economists and educators surveyed the population and fretted about more and more workers going into clerical jobs. Who would there be they said . . . to do the jobs in overalls? But there came the great tide of union organization and bargaining for wages and working conditions and then the terrific impetus of the war industries which lured Rosie the Riveter and Knute the pneumatic drill operator right out of the office and behind a pair of goggles. And now the office managers are worried. The war ended and the office help hasn’t come back. Some day the airplanes will be so noiseless that we’ll miss the reassuring sound of them.

On the debit side . . . New York City which is currently in the grip of forty separate strikes hardly felt it when 2800 barbers and manicurists walked out to put the bite on higher wages. But don’t run off to Tahiti. Look at the credit side. Kid Pollyanna here. Get him. But no, seriously . . . well not seriously exactly . . . but meditatively. The Post Office gets in a powerful plug for peace. Third assistant Postmaster General Joseph Lawler has announced that there is to be a national letter writing week. Begins October 13th, I think. His slogan is quote, “Someone feels better when you send a letter.” Which is not the hottest slogan I’ve ever heard . . . but it has a nice sentiment. Maybe it isn’t all sentiment. Maybe it’s a matter of business, in a way. Now that families are more or less together again, the great flow of letters has slowed down and Mr. Lawler wants to drum up some activity. But it’s a good idea and it’s always pleasant to see the Post Office encouraging the friendly practice of exchanging letters. Mr. Lawler says if anyone doesn’t have a correspondent . . . to write to . . . he’ll be it.

And while we’re taking heart from the postal authorities, here’s a charming note set on the wire from Maryville, Missouri. Raymond Barry is the rural carrier there and the other morning he found this note attached to a sealed letter on his route. It said, “Mailman: I didn’t have any change this morning so would you sell this half dozen eggs to get a stamp for this letter and with what change is left bring me about six postcards and the rest in three cent stamps. Thanks.” You don’t find neighborliness like that in Tahiti or on the moon.

And Judge Robert Cannon in Milwaukee heard that Mrs. Lucille Johnson and her nine children were about to be evicted and with no place to turn. The Judge rigged up temporary quarters for the family right there in the Civil Court jury room.

But of course, there isn’t a Judge Cannon or a vacant jury room in every community . . . so latch on to this item . . . a straight commercial from the Army. Clerks and office personnel are wanted by the Army. Sounds like a nifty opportunity. Get a load of this. The principal need is for civilian workers with the occupation forces in Japan. Pay is from 20 to 40 dollars a month plus an additional twenty five percent overseas pay. Free living quarters. Meals twenty five cents each. Free recreation. Travel at government expense. Free medical care. Provisions to be made for bringing dependents along with the old Uncle footing the bill. 30 days of paid vacation and fifteen days sick leave . . . time and a half for anything over forty hours. I guess you’re waiting for the catch. So was I when I glimmed this over the wire last night. But apparently there isn’t any. I imagine you can even marry the boss’s daughter. Any one of the millions of them.