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The Magpie Sings the Great Depression:
Selections from DeWitt Clinton High School's Literary Magazine, 1929-1942

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Wet Feet

By Marvin Yentes, '35

The Magpie, May 1935, p. 22.

Amid the flotsam and jetsam of the city streets, among those who have been broken by the jungle-like fierceness of our society, there are still a few of the stalwarts of another era. The hoary veterans of a never ending battle, they are retired from the fray and watch, with something akin to dismay, the vehemence with which their successors carry on. In Central Park, on a fair May afternoon, I stumbled upon, or to be more exact, I sat down next to just such an old graybeard.

He was sitting on a bench watching the governess-chaperoned offspring of the rich sail their toy boats from the concrete borders of a little pond. With a derisive grunt as an introduction, he turned to me and growled, "Used to have more fun with an old whittled plant, a willow rod for a mast, and a handkerchief for a sail." After a pause he continued, "We used to roll up our trouser legs, and launch 'em from the banks o' Brown's Creek. Made believe they were clipper ships. No pirates for us, we'd been living near the sea all our lives, and we thought a clipper was the best kind o' ship afloat. Our fathers sailed in 'em, so did our brothers, and we hoped some day to sail in 'em too.

"Did ye ever see a clipper ship, son, with her sails set an' ascuddin' afore the wind? There ain't many o' them left, what with those Diesels an' such. Not much use for sail now. Used to be able to stand on the beach down home an' watch 'em through my pop's glass. Used to charge the kids two pins to look. They'd be comin' from 'round Cape Horn, at the tip o' South America, with a load of goods from China or Australia. The sailors'd be scrubbin' or paintin' so's the ship'd look nice when they tied up at the wharf.

"Yep, they ain't got no use for the old clipper ship any more. They've taken a few and took down their masts an' made them into canal boats. I hear they got some carryin' wheat to England from Australia. Grain don't ripen 'cordin' to the calendar, an' it costs too much to keep steam up in a freighter while they wait. A sailing ship don't use fuel, so she can wait at the dock, ready to sail without using up the company's money. Swedes got most of the sailing ships still in service. They're a shrewd race, an' know a good thing when they see it. Then, there's the navy. They use a clipper ship or two, to harden up their buddin' admirals. Don't try roundin' the Horn, though. Might get their feet wet. Yep, you don't know what you've missed, son, not seein' a clipper ship in full sail . . . most inspirin' sight y'ever saw. Guess I'll have to be gain' now . . .

The Magpie Sings the Great Depression

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