“I have reached the age when the strangers I accidentally jostle on sidewalks say, ‘Sorry, Pop!’ instead of ‘Watch it, Buster!’ and the pretty young women I used to help across the perilous streets now snatch me from the path of ten-ton trucks, scold me as if I were their grandpa on one of his bad days, and hurry along with the throng, never giving me another thought. This phenomenon of maturity, this coming of frost and twilight to the autumn rose, would embitter many men, but I take it in my totter. I have learned to embrace middle age, not to wrestle with it, and I accept the considerable difference between forever panting and being constantly short of breath.”
– James Thurber in “The Girls in the Closet,” collected in Thurber Country (1953)
A scouting image from 1918, by Norman Rockwell.
My thanks to Roland Sweet for this gem.
“We want something more than thrills in our patriotism – we want thought; we want intelligence – a new birth of the sentiment of unity in the nation. My dream of America is America represented in public office by its best men working entirely for the good of the Republic and according to the laws and ordinances established by the people for the government of their conduct and not for their personal or political desires and ambitions; America working her institutions as they were intended to be worked with men whose sole object shall be to secure the end for which the offices were designed. And if one will throw his personal fortunes to the winds, if he will perform in each place, high or low, the manifest obligation of that place, we will soon have those victories of democracy which will make the Fourth of July in its coming years a far finer and nobler day than it has ever been in the fortunate years of the past.”
– An excerpt from “The Meaning of Americanism,” a speech delivered by Charles Evans Hughes, the Republican candidate for President, at Easthampton, L.I., N.Y., July 4, 1916
“Aunt Wilma had black agate eyes that moved restlessly and scrutinized everybody with bright suspicion. In church, her glance would dart around the congregation seeking out irreverent men and women whose expressions showed that they were occupied with worldly concerns, or even carnal thoughts, in the holy place. If she lighted on a culprit, her heavy, dark brows would lower, and her mouth would tighten in righteous disapproval.”
– James Thurber in “The Figgerin’ of Aunt Wilma” in Thurber Country (1953)
“William Olmstead, an eccentric Cass County farmer, died last week, leaving a comfortable property. His will, which has just been probated, leaves the greater part of his estate to the Barnum and Bailey Circus. Mr. Olmstead was worth in the neighborhood of $15,000, and with the exception of the homestead of forty acres, which he leaves to his wife, it all goes to the circus. The cause of Mr. Olmstead making such a peculiar will is said to be family dissensions. Efforts will be made to break the will.”
– “A Circus His Principal Heir: Peculiar Will of William Olmstead, a Michigan Farmer.” in The New York Times, March 19, 1898
“I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends.”
– Joan Didion, “On Keeping a Notebook” in Slouching towards Bethlehem (1966)
“George S. Kaufman was probably closer to capturing the truth of the matter when he said that he would have preferred it if Irving Berlin’s song ‘Always’ had been instead titled ‘Thursday,’ so that its clincher line would go, ‘I’ll be loving you, Thursday.’”
– Joseph Epstein, “I Like a Gershwin Tune” in The Norton Book of Personal Essays
In the grass along Route 20, a damp 1953 Chinese 2 Fen banknote. You can’t make this stuff up.