April 19, 1915

by Richard van Pelt, WWI Correspondent

Infrastructure was cheap in 1915.

The Capital Journal headline read “Paving Plant for Penitentiary Now Practically Sure.” The paper reported that the county was in tentative agreement to take 20,000 yards of paving material which would be used to hard-surface Fairgrounds Road. “This means,” the paper continued, “that Marion county . . . will be enabled to furnish all of the main traveled road out of the city for a distance of several miles with a first-class hard-surface finish at the very minimum of expense, or a mere trifle above the actual cost of production and labor in performing the work.”

In national news the U.S. Supreme Court denied Leo Frank’s appeal for a new trial. The headline read: “Leo Frank Must Hang,” and hang he did in the extrajudicial manner characteristic of swift judgment in the South.

The coming of Spring unhinged the rhetoric on the Capital Journal’s editorial page:

A Day With Nature

Man is the capstone of God’s monument of earth. When He had builded the beauty of the sky, and made it resplendent with His sun and moon, and set it in the planets and stars innumerable; when He had covered at least this planet with the goodness of green, and given it the music of the winds and the waters, and the diviner song of birds; when He had peopled the grass with blossoms and the waters with swimming forms of opal, and had banished the loneliness of the sphere by bringing into existence the beasts of the mountain and the field, He created, in the image of Himself, an intelligence which was to use all those things and make them revert to the peace and comfort of mankind, and the glory of God.

This paean to Spring continued:

In the deep voiced murmuring of the night surf, as it soothes the sands to sleep; in the morning carol of the birds, or in the full and meaning silence of the noontide, we hear the echoes of high truths, which may be applied to the every-day course of human life, and which, when so applied, are found to contain the solution of much of such stuff as we call trouble and hardship.

Coming down to earth, the editor concluded:

Perhaps by going out into the good and beautiful world of nature these days we may be able to hear and see some of all this. At any rate, we can try.

Earlier in the month, the Governor suggested a program to train Oregon’s youth in the basics of the military arts. His recommendation looked to the time when America might be drawn into the European conflict.

John B. Polk penned a passionate rebuttal in which he wrote that “It is evident that the minds of people dwell too much on the subject of war just now.” He writes: “War is an awful thing . . . beyond the human mind to conceive.” The race to war begins with the mere talk of war and swells as does “the little raindrop that falls on the mountain side [and] is joined by other little drops, and still others [until it] forms a small rivulet and trickles down the slope joining others until a brook is created.” He carries on with his analogy, describing how brooks merge into a raging river that “overflows its banks and becomes a raging torrent.”

He describes war as an effect, not a cause, and writes that war is “the destructive forces set in motion for the purpose of cleansing the moral atmosphere. But like the flood it gulls the land, maims and cripples everything in its wake.”

He expresses surprise “that our governor would suggest out little boys be trained to use firearms.” “It is not enough,” he writes, “that our fathers, brothers, and husbands be forced to take part in the slaughter of war, but the nursery must be invaded and the little boys . . . must also be organized into a great army of ‘Boy Scouts’ and trained in the use of fire arms.”

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About whclarc

We are devoted to providing information fresh from the Archives, Library and Collections of the Willamette Heritage Center in Salem, Oregon. We specialize in the history of Marion County and the greater Salem area.
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