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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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A Letter

By Abba Bayer, '40

The Magpie, January 1940, v. 24, n. 1, p. 74.

Dear Son:

Today war was declared in Europe. I don't know what shape events will take or in what state the world will be when you get this—but I should like to share with you my feelings now.

This morning some friends and I drove over the Triborough Bridge on our way to Jones Beach. The ride is always exhilarating. We had the top down and the wind was just cool enough to make our faces glow. They were completing work on the North Beach Airport, New York's first, and as we sped along we watched the air maneuvers overhead. All along the road men who were planting trees to beautify the way looked up, too. And I wondered what it must be like in Europe. How it must feel to have to duck and hide in an air-raid shelter every time a plane engine is heard.

The Autumn colors seemed bizarre after we came back. The vitality and flamboyance seemed to mock the peace we'd found. They're too symbolic of wine, blood and decadence. I felt then what I still feel—a great urge to insure the fact that the inevitable changes time brings will be in line with the principles of democracy so adequately prescribed by our forefathers. For in our hearts this ideal of freedom of the spirit will never die. But if we get muddled up and do not convey this to you, then seek it out yourself. Go down to Washington, watch the sunrise behind the Lincoln Memorial, remember Lincoln, who he was and what he did, and then read his life and his speeches over again. Look across at Arlington cemetery and remember the men who in one war or another found life in this country so good that they were ready to die in order to insure its perpetuity. Go over to the Congressional Library and read the Constitution, Wilson's dream of a League of Nations, the credo of the C.C.C. camps. And if these things are as ancient history, take up the work where we failed and struggle till right shall rule over might. You see we know what we do not want, but we are not yet experienced enough and wise enough to know all the means of keeping what we have, so there's a chance we will not be able to hand you the world as intact as we would like.

I pray that this pessimism is unwarranted—that we shall read together, grateful that we can talk about it objectively. And if such be the case, we'll go out and buy our World Series tickets—and maybe this time the Giants will take four straight from the Yankees!

The Magpie Sings the Great Depression

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