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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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Reminiscence

By Leonard Neuwohner, '36

The Magpie, May 1935, p. 42.

Several years ago I had the extreme pleasure of being jolted and shaken across the country, for our means of transportation was one of Henry Ford's oldest and most dilapidated Model T's. However, such are the beauties and wonders of the scenery of this country, that not even the most violent shakings could distract my attention from the rolling hills, many hued flowers, blue rivers, foaming rapids, steep grades and detours, shining highways, and the dirty, dusty, dry Badlands. Although five years have elapsed since those joyous three months I spent traveling, I can lie back even now and close my eyes and relive those glorious days. I can see again the scenery that takes one's breath away . .

Now, I am riding along a road in Northern California. It is early morning and very cold. But I do not mind that, for I have just "put away" a hot breakfast back in the tourist camp, and my blood is raging through my veins with a "joie de vivre." Suddenly as we round a curve there breaks into view majestic Mount Shasta. Directly in front of us it lies, towering high, high into the sky. Its snow covered summit does not dwell with us mortals. Rather it chooses to penetrate the white fleecy clouds and enjoy the serenity of the unseen heaven. What an imposing sight he is,—this grand old fellow who has stood there, a sentinel, for ages! I cannot draw my eyes from him. I stare and stare, until we have gone miles onward. Mount Shasta is now only another mountain among the many.

We are in Oregon now. High up along a mountain side we go. Below us lies the Columbia River, a rhapsody in gold, a symphony of glimmering sparkling lights. In the middle of the slow, calm river we see a little islet. It is covered with green trees and from high up it appears like a little emerald set in a glistening, golden ribbon. Then it is lost from sight as we are swallowed, suddenly, by a long, black tunnel which cuts through the mountain.

We come to Montana and the Badlands. It is a hateful prairie to some, but a poet's paradise to others. For hours and hours, over miles and miles of roads and fields we travel. Up hill, down hill, through mire, humping over stones, and dried up river beds we go, sometimes not even knowing whether we are on the right track. Nowhere do we see a human being, or even an animal. No towns, no ranches, just dry desert as far as the eye can reach. We pass a memorable spot. Up on that high flat mesa, a desperado and his gang fought it out with a posse for days, only to die in the end, of heat, thirst, and starvation. That was long ago. Today the mesa stands silent, an immense rock, black, menacing, holding its secrets and tales to itself.

From here we go on across the Dakotas, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. We see the cool, blue waters of Lakes Michigan and Erie. We ride through the ugly coal towns of Pennsylvania to the factories of Jersey City. From here we see the city skyline of New York, the impassive symbol of home. We enjoy those who, seeing it for the first time, find it almost a terrifying spectacle.

Such are the sights one sees on a trip across the United States. Each is more beautiful than the last. But this is not all. What of the camp-life? To sit at a fire at night and listen to the millions of insects chirp their songs, to lie in a tent and hear the rustle of the leaves on the trees, and then to awaken at sunrise and watch that immense burning ball as it rises in the sky, to sit down to a ration of bacon and eggs and of hot coffee,—that is the life! Do not sit in a hot, stuffy, train and rush across the country in five days if you wish to see America.—Put on a pair of old pants, a shirt, boots, hop into the old car, and amble for twelve or fifteen weeks. Then you will see America—"America, thou half-brother of the World!"




The Magpie Sings the Great Depression

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