They Saved the Trucks KENEDY I was looking around town for someone to do some plowing after Hurricane Carla, for at last we had had some rain in Karnes County after a dry summer, when I spied a redoubtable first citizen of Rungea hunter of frogs and a friend of a Bohemian who had done some plowing for me before. “Where’s your frog hunting buddy?” I asked him. “Oh, he done lit out running from the hurricane. He ought to be back today or tomorrow. Say, you heard about the Runge fire department?” “No, I haven’t,” I replied. “It burned down last night.” Naturally, I couldn’t restrain a chuckle. “Why, you’re a fireman over there, aren’t you?” “Yeah, and I was night watchman last night, too. We tried all we could but the damn thing burned down anyway. ‘Course, it’d been condemned for two years.” RUNGE, for the benefit of those who haven’t been there, is a small metropolis on the east side of Karnes County. I don’t know what the population is. In fact, I don’t know that anyone ever mentioned that it had a population. 1 remember one time a large Negro woman walked out in front of my car while I was driving down main street. I threw on my brakes and the screech brought her out of her lethargy. “Lawsy, Lawsy,” she exclaimed, “Gittin’ run over in Runge!” Its major claim to fame was that it had a candidate for the U.S. Senate in the last election. He sells calendars for a living. I recall he was bitterly disappointed over not being elected, but he attributed that to not being on the cover of Life, which had been around to interview him. It seemed that the fire the frog hunter told me about was caused by a short circuit in the roof of the Runge Fire Department, which also serves as the city hall. Earlier in the day the short had turned on the fire alarm and it had taken a considerable time to cut it off. Still later there was an electric failure in the city which was poorly repaired. A couple of firemen had stayed at the fire house that night. In fact, the fire chief was one of them and he had his whole family there. It was raining lightly or the whole town probably would have burned up. The fire alarm wouldn’t work this time, because of the short circuit, so they had to go out and round up the firemen by automobile. The phone system in the town was also out of order. They radioed the Kenedy and Karnes City fire deparements, and they made it over in time to watch it burn down. They saved the fire truck and most of the equipment, but the fire station and city hall and all the records were burned. MY INTERVIEW with the Runge fire chief was somewhat terse. I found him lying down on the floor of the garage. Runge is not a bustling metropolis. He was a volunteer fireman and his regular job was being a mechanic at a local garage. I walked in and asked him if he were the fire chief. He gave me a hostile look and admitted that he was. I asked him about being at the fire station. “I was there to be ready for any emergency,” he said. “There was some people around there that said they smelled the smoke, but they didn’t say nothin’. They oughta know’d there was a fire. They was a whole half hour before anybody done anything about it and then they had to see the fire.” I asked if the fire truck was in the station. “Shore it was,” he replied. “They ain’t no use in leavin’ a good fire truck outside if you got a good roof to put over it, especially during a storm. They wasn’t nothin’ we could do to put it out, what with 70-mile-an-hour winds and no fire alarm.” DAN STRAWN Fire Chief Tells What Happens RUNGE For further coverage an one of the hottest episodes to come out of Hurricane Carla, the burning of the Runge fire station, the Observer telephoned Runge fire chief Johnny Buesing. He explained it this way: “Well, see, there was a short in the wiring, in the siren on top of the station. Early in the evening, the siren blew on its own. Then, at 10 til midnight, we noticed flames, but this time the siren was dead and we couldn’t get the volunteers as fast as we needed ’em. We had to go around and pick ’em up in an automobile. “I was in the station when it started burnin’. A buddy of mine and I. tried to round ’em all up right away. But lots of ’em \(the the next day.” Was the fire chief asleep when it started? “No sir, I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t rest during all that.” Damage, he said, was estimated at $35;000. The fire trucks, fortunately, were unharmed. “We had two trucks in there,” the chief said. “We got ’em both out. You see, that’s all we had to fight the fires with.” Sophisticated and Lively CLOSE HIS EYES, by Olivia Dwight; Harper and Brothers; 179 pages; $3.50. AUSTIN One might say Olivia Dwight’s Close His Eyes will be to the University of Texas what Sir John Masterman’s Oxford Tragedy is to that older and slightly less presumptuous academic community. Or, more aptly, Close His Eyes does to the VT English faculty what The Gay Place did to Texas liberals. Miss Dwight, whose pseudonym disguises her real identity as the wife of a University English professor, has given us a full-fledged murder mystery, and the events and landmarks, not to mention some of the people, are unerring enough to place it in the geographic center of the Forty Acres. The plot, which revolves around the supposed suicide of a visiting lecturer and noted novelist named Andrew McNeill \(“famous for interrupting his poetry readings with dirty jokes and for pinching faculty wives and lady professors sometimes get lost in the mischievous asides on faculty politics, departmental intrigues, and the techniques that foster academic ambitions, but that is more than all right. In fact, one wishes Miss Dwight had ignored the murder and concentrated on the UT English faculty altogether. It is her SUMMERHILL, by A. S. Neill; Hart Publishing Co., New York; 392 Pages; $5.75. AUSTIN A review of a child psychology book may seem an improbable sort of subject for a journal like the Observer; but as politics offers only one way to change society for what we hope will be the better, one hopes that liberals are open to the possibility that other ways may be as necessary and perhaps even more effective. A. S. Neill, author of Summerhill, is not strictly a theoretician. He writes of 40 years’ experience as master of a school in England, and his thoughts should certainly be understood in an English context. One must keep in mind the famous English public schools where children frequently receive corporal punishment for a mistake in Latin derivations, where there is strict segregation of the sexes and often rampant homosexuality, where drab uniforms and conforming modes of civility are part and parcel of the tradition. On the other hand, the context should not be allowed to obscure the fact that Neill is a radical: he bases all his educational ideas on complete faith in the fundamental goodness of the child, on the wholehearted belief that “the aim of life is to find happiness, which means to find interest.” At Summerhill, where enrollment is usually about 50 boys and girls, no coercion is used. Classes are not compulsory, though they are held regularly, and there are no exams. The social virtues of obedience and manners are viewed with distaste. Neill believes, realistically, that a child is not altruistic, that he has no regard for property, that he should not be expected to show gratitude to his parents or to anyone, that authority and criticism are a disguise for hate, that intolerance is the outcome of fear. The school is run by decisions made in weekly meetings, at which students and faculty members alike have one vote. humor that carries the dayand it is light, sophisticated, and sparkling. HAVING HAD my own frustrations in being identified by a local campus daily as a character in a recent Texas novel, I shall keep my seething speculations in this instance to myself. It is to be noted, however, that the lively sport of character identification has apparently become, overnight, the favorite parlor game at UT faculty parties. The central figure is a Columbia graduate student who spends most of his time reading Agatha Christie, Nero Wolfe, and John Dickson Carr in German to pass his language examination. His name is John Dryden, and he is suddenly drawn away from New York to edit the McNeill papers by Dr. Horace Wooten, president of a state university which has recently come into a great deal of Spankings or beatings have no place there, the ordinary procedure when property is destroyed being merely the necessity of replacing it. Bribes, lies, possessiveness, threats, rewards, lectures as punishment are strictly forbidden. IT IS A SCHOOL dedicated to a maximum of unorganized play. It offers no religious training, which Neill believes instills in a child a false sense of fear and guilt and may give him the opportunity of ridding himself of necessary feelings of responsibility for his own actions. He is opposed to sex prohibitions, though conformity to the laws and mores of England demands that intercourse be forbidden. He believes that the child must set his own pace of learning and development, and must be allowed to discover and develop his own interests. “It is the idea of noninterference with the growth of the child and non-pressure on the child that has made the school what it is.” Imposed values or knowledge have no virtue; force begets either rebellion and hate or will-less submission. However, Neill makes a genuine distinction between freedom and license, between a free child and a spoiled brat. One of the only effective ways he has found to deal with the problems of children, he writes, is simply to let them live them out, to allow the neuroses to run their course without the burden of moral disapproval. Often he uses private talks. Through an understanding of the child, he says, he gets to the fear which lies beneath his anti-social actions. The child is given almost infinite responsibility, with due regard for his physical safety, though Neill carefully distinguishes this from some Victorian concept of “duty.” I understand the distinction to lie in the child’s responsibility to himself, as opposed to a duty to other people or to abstract ideas. The essence of it seems to be that the children are free to do as they like so long as they are not trespassing on the wealth from the uranium discovered on its lands, and which now devotes much of its energies to buying prized collections, hiring bright young scholars, and renting famous lecturers. “It seemed to be an oddly generous university,” Dryden notes at the outset. Poor John Dryden \(“I’m not the only person with this name problem. In summer school I once knew ‘a man named Alexander Pope. We didn’t get along, though everyone thought we should. We tended to avoid each other like two women wearing the same dle of a most suspicious situation. With the assistance of a pretty young secretary from Dr. Wooten’s office, he finally cracks the mystery behind McNeill’s death, though it takes time and several faculty cocktail parties to do it. DRYDEN has other, more mundane, troubles in the interim. The campus cops threaten on occasion to haul away his car for not bearing a campus parking permit. At one point he makes the mistake of assigning a theme to his freshman English classes on “Beautiful Objects” and is sur,_ prised to find “how much loyalty the ‘University had already managed to instill into its firstyear students.” After a lengthy physical description of the university tower and the fountain freedom of others. \(“Obedience should be social courtesy. Adults should have no right to the obedience of children. It must come from withinnot be imposed from without. . . At this point the incredulous reader has the right to demand an accounting: what have been the results over 40 years of such freedom and trust? To Neill, the children seem happy and selfconfident. \(This feeling was reiterated in a report by the British tend to ‘be creative and imaginative; there is an occasional intellectual. Most of them like going to class. Children who want to go to an English university have to pass rigid entrance exams. At Summerhill such children begin working seriously at about 14 and do the necessary work in three years which children at the ordinary English public schools have done in more than three times that. I found it fascinating that they are not social conformists and do not tend to be mass-minded, as one might expect of children governed primarily by their peers. The author’s experience has been that they are quite sensitive to the needs of others, with a real consideration rather than superficial gentility. There have been no problems of neurotic stealing, no bullying or practical jokes. Children who come there from other schools show an increase in charity, a lessening of aggression. They have never had a confirmed liar or a homosexual, never a child to “mock a stutterer or jeer at one who is lame,” none interested in filthy sex jokes or sadistic genital play. They are less inclined to pornography than those more repressed in childhood. Yet, Summerhill children curse. They masturbate. They ask embarrassing questions. And all with impunity. The great point is that they are open to life, open to experience. They are not nay-sayers; and they say yea to the fundamentals rather than to the superfluities of life. at the end of the mall, he observes: “The reason I am telling you about these two things is that they turned out to be the Beautiful Objects described by more than half my students. But it was worse than that; most of the girls chose the tower, and the boys chose the fountain. I have done only enough reading in Freud to hope that he was wrong, but I was embarrassed. I wondered if any of the students would remember this assignment next year when they hit Sophomore Psychology.” John Dryden also has his difficulties over professional prefixes. “Evidently they use their titles here,” he complains, “even outside the scientific departments. At most places in the East you have to call them all Mr. unless you want to be considered naive. Besides, lots of them are poets or
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