Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on May 30, 1976 · Page 91
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Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 91

Charleston, West Virginia
Issue Date:
Sunday, May 30, 1976
Page 91
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SPEAKING OF BOOKS Adlai Stevenson, part 1 "ADLAI STEVENSON OF ILLINOIS, Tke Life of Adlai E. Steven- ion," By John Bartlow Martin, DMbtaUy, $15. Toward the close of the 1952 Presidential campaign and of John Bartlow Martin's definitive biography of Adlai E. Stevenson, the au- thpj^quotes a speech by Dwight D. Eisenhower's running-mate Richard M. Nixon: "Stevenson himself hasn't even backbone training, for he is a graduate of Dean Acheson's spineless school of diplomacy which cost the free world 600 million former allies in the past seven years of Truman- ism." Nixon has suffered a change or two in the estimation of his political party and country. Stevenson, as another presidential campaign arrives 24 years later, remains the beau ideal of Democratic liberalism more than any candidate since Hf^nkU'n D. Roosevelt. All the skills that Martin brought to the art of investigative reporting in the responsible years of magazine journalism following World War II are put to use in his big Stevenson biography. He is, first of all, ruthless but not careless with small details; next, he takes details and builds them into a structure of facts, finally, the interpretation of his subject, derived from many sources, becomes the property of the reader rather than of the author. This transference is quite un- like much of the new journalism and semibiography, which often depends on fixed notions, psychoanalytical justification and stylish clairvoyance. Laon Foel, Henry James's Roswell, set finer guidelines: "The biographer may be as imaginative as he pleases -- the more imaginative the better -- in the way he brings together his materi- alsi but he must not imagine the materials." Adlai Stevenson of Illinois is not ; an imaginative but a factual biography. It will do for a very long time. For the facts in it are so fresh -- especially about Stevenson's early years and his later romances -- that even the most avid followers of the Stevenson career will learn a great deal about the man who campaigned with hole in his shoe and left a hole in their hearts when he was twice defeated for the Presidency. He may be regarded superficially as the Egg of Head, this poor Yorick -- "a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy" -- but his resiliency, and accomplishments are startling when set down without sentiment. Many presidential candidates overcame poverty; Stevenson.over- came privilege. In tjhis respect he was like Franklin D. Roosevelt, a "traitor to his class." His great- grandfather was a close friend of Lincoln; his grandfather was Vice President. And his mother sent him off to college -- and followed him there, sounding like Mommy in Bruce Jay Friedman's novel A Mother's Kinei. He married inherited wealth, and when the marriage dissolved, his wife, friends quoted here report, contended that she had given him the connections without which he could not have made it in the law or politics. "I have a bad case of hereditary politics," Stevenson often remarked. But when President Truman singled out Stevenson to succeed him, Truman cited the Governor's eminent forebears. The author, who had the cooperation of the Stevenson family, but also brought his own knowledge as an adviser and speech-writer into the depth of this book, is unafraid to set down facts that appear unfavorable. At Princeton, perhaps before, Stevenson picked up a sniff of anti-Semitism; later, when the political chips were down, many of his closest supporters and friends were Jews. He also had to overcome the snobbery of the Chicago Gold Coast crowd. He flunked out of Harvard Law School, then turned around and applied.himself at Northwestern; during the 1952 campaign, his friends hid his Harvard record. The biography overcomes any accusations that Stevenson was a dilettante on the job. Her»is his full record as a New Deal lawyer in Washington. He came to be relied on as the assistant in a number of agencies who could be pragmatic and accommodating. That "assistant" tag clung to him in his wartime and United Nations activities, but, given authority, he exercised it without hesitation. For a foreign economic mission, he visited wartime Sicily and Italy and wrote the policy-making reports that led to postwar aid. With his close friend George W. Ball he contributed to an important, now for- .gotten, survey that put in perspective the extravagant claims of the Air Force about the effects of its bombing in Germany. Major sections of the biography cover his tenure as Governor and his nomination and race for president against Eisenhower in 1952. John Bartlow Martin knows Illinois politics upstate and down and, for the first time, the intricate Democratic machine is taken apart, explained and exposed. Surprisingly, Stevenson made the machine work for him. Ball says here that Stevenson was "never a real liberal" to begin with until, he began fighting Mid- wdst isolationism and The Chicago Tribune. The growth came in his associations with New Dealers and in the founding days of the United Nations. His abilities as Governor included persuading a recalcitrant legislature. To the late newspaper publisher Alicia Patterson -- one of the women he loved -- he wrote, "The exhaustion technique I learned from the Russians and it seems to work just as well in Sprin- gifled as in London." This inside view of the 1952 campaign reveals that Stevenson wavered at the start, made some strategic errors by not "using" Truman's following properly, and built up a great cadre of volunteers. Of himself, the author writes in the third person: "John Bartlow Martin, a journalist.. .stayed full time" on the staff of Stevenson speechwriters. The list of Steven- · son volunteers included the "best and brightest" from academic, legal and journalistic ranks -- a far more distinguished and mature group than those assembled later by Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. Martin says that Stevenson could not have won in 1952: Eisenhower was too much the national hero who promised surcease from an unpopular war in Korea and from any other thinking challenges. Adlai Stevenson of Illinois ends with the first presidential campaign. Martin's concluding volume of this masterly, biography will be called Adlai Stevenson and the World. It will encompass the difficulties of his ambassadorship at the United Nations and his second run for the .White House. I can't wait to see if-Stevenson makes it. By Herbert Mitaana Mr. Mitaana is a staff writer for the New York Times. Perspective Yesterday's Laughter By Stewart Marsh The "roaring" 1920's are often described as a time of prosperity, the big bull market, prohibition, gangsters, speakeasies, and flaming youth. Many old-timers feel, however, that cynical accounts of the twen- ^§5,are overdone. They'll tell you mat it was the age of Babe Ruth, Jack Dempsey, and Bobby Jones, flagpole sitting, the Eskimo Pie, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd, miniature golf, Knute Rockne and Red Grange, the Gumps, Katzenjammer Kids and Rube Goldberg. People seemed less anxiety-ridden in the days before the great depression and the atomic bomb; they laughed heartily at many things. Grown-ups in the 1920's chuckled and worried about the flappers- young women who wore short skirts, rolled stockings down below tifjeir knees, and had bobbed hair. At the time, this was a daring innovation, and the older generation was both amused and alarmed by the dress and conduct of the young people. Young men and women often looked somewhat alike in the 1920's because both usually had short h$a, and it was stylish for young women to cultivate a thin boyish figure. Today, of course, it is sometimes difficult to tell young men and women apart b.ecause they 24m CHARLESTON. W.VA. may both have long-hair. A sketch by J. Norman Hynd, popular cartoonist of the '20's -shows a young man and women walking along the beach. They are hard to tell apart, and the caption reads: "In some cases it's hard to tell whether they are boys or girls--except for the earrings." Today, earrings and necklaces are not always definitive. Male college students in the 1920's sometimes wore coonskin overcoats to the football games, and.they looked for all the world like bears ambling along on their hind legs. Older people laughed about the antics of the rah-rah boys, and were sometimes irritated too. John Held Jr., another popular cartoonist of the era, portrayed a weak-chinned, Ivy League Joe College clad in a coonskin coat. The caption reads: "One mother, one father, one tonsil expert, four general practitioners, three trained nurses, five governesses, 56 ordinary teachers, 32 professors, and three athletic trainers combined to produce this." The Volstead Act was a frequent topic of conversation and of jokes in the 1920's. A vaudeville comedian of the period could usually-bring- down the house by quipping, "Sure, I'm in favor of .Prohibition. I only wish they would try it sometime." In the early part of the 20th century, the tide of immigration accelerated, and waves of immigrants arrived from Europe. During the early decades of the centery, the jokebooks to be found in the bookstores, news stands, and five and ten cent stores contained a large number of jokes about the Irish, Scotch, Swedes, Italians, and other immigrants. These stories were still very much current in the 1920's. There was a rash of Pat and Mike stories. For example, Pat and Mike went hunting, a duck flew overhead, and Mike raised his gun to fire. "Don't fire yit, Mike," said Pat. "The gun ain't loaded." "Can't help it, Pat,' said Mike pulling the trigger, "this bird won't wait." There were stories about ignorant Irishmen, humorless Englishmen, stingy Scots, stupid Swedes, excitable Italians, ill-tempered Frenchmen, droll Russians and so on down the line. As the 20th century grew older, immigrant groups from Europe were increasingly absorbed into American society, the melting pot was at work, and the descendants of the immigrants no longer seemed strange or different. By the time Jack Kennedy, the son of an Irish immigrant, became President, Pat and Mike stores had pretty well-disappeared. Today, young people may come up with "Polock" stories, but generally jokes about European immigrants do not have the vogue they had in the '20's. At that time, too, there were still a lot of stories about city slickers and rural smart alecks. In the country, it was popular to tell jokes about city people who were ignorant of farm life and didn't even know which end of the cow to milk. In the city, a vaudeville comedian could usually get a laugh by telling jokes about rubes, hayseeds, and country bumpkins. These jokes, of course, are pretty much a thing of the past with our growing urbanization. "Politics," said Will Rogers, "is the best show in America." In the mid-1920's, the political spotlight was on silent Cal, the tight-lipped, sphinx-like Vermonter who occupied the White House. Although noted for sober terseness, Collidge sometimes came up with a wry gem. It is related that on one occasion he was having his haircut in a small Vermont barbershop. The town doctor entered and sat down to wait for the barber. Said He, "Cal, did you take the pills I gave you?" minutes went by before Collidge answered , "Yup." Still later the doctor asked, "Are you feeling any better?" Another long wait. "Yup." When the barber finished, Coolidge started to walk out of the shop. The barber then asked hesitantly, "Aren't you forgetting something, Mr. Coolidge?" "I'm sorry," was the somewhat sheepish reply, "I forgot to pay you. I was so busy gossiping with the doctor it just slipped my mind." Although some people thought him crude, Will Rogers .was perhaps the most popular and best- loved comedian of the times^He was at his best when talking about politics. Rogers felt that the United States is a great nation--it had to be to survive the politicians. "We been staggering along now about 155 years under every con_ ceivable horse thief that could get into office," he said in his droll way, "and yet we are still going strong." People in the 1920's laughed about politics and politicians, flappers and flivvers, and much more. They guffawed over the contortions called for in the dance craze known as the Charleston. They chuckled when anyone mentioned the Frenchman Emil Coue'.s self-mastery through auto-suggestion: "Day by day in every way I am getting better and better." And as in every generation, people snickered at jokes about mean bosses, dominant wives and sponging in-laws., A-fav .TO. 1976, 'Sunday Gazette-Mail'

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