What will you have this week? A journey with a soldier of fortune? Or a trip to the Holy Land? Or a visit with some authors? I could even take you to a "Hobo Convention" that Virgil and I attended last night. When 140 human beings, committed to a life of dignity and propriety by their professions and responsible positions, decide to cast aside that dignity for one evening, you may be sure that they do a thorough job of it. Especially if they're told to dress like hoboes. Our large Sunday school class celebrated Halloween in that fashion. We were given hobo sticks with a little bag tied on the end, and had to go from house to house, collecting our portions of corn candy, pop-corn, peanuts and apples. Our "convention" was held in a large school gymnasium. You wouldn't believe what infinite pains these mortals took to make themselves look ridiculous. That levelling of all ranks to the status of hobo certainly made for good fellowship. I don't know when I enjoyed the companionship of 139 people more.
To go back to the beginning of this full week: We have the McBride lecture course here, given gratis throughout the school year. These lectures, given in our beautiful Severance Hall, the home of our Cleveland Orchestra, were planned originally for adults; but so valuable have they become to the students of social science - the high school students, as well as college students, that these young folks make up the majority in these Monday night audiences. Our high school youngsters freely admit that they go because it means 15 points on the credit side of their ledger. It is thrilling to have a son old enough to go with me to these lectures. (Virgil rehearses every Monday night with his Heights Symphony Orchestra). We took Virgil Jr.'s chum along. From now on I am commissioned to run a regular taxi. "You don't mind, Mom, if I sit with the fellas?" "No, of course not, son." I noticed that the "fellas" sat right behind a row of pretty, vivacious girls from their school. It is such fun to study human nature at these places. There are always eccentrics to be seen and heard. Our speaker was a bit eccentric himself, in that he had his hair chopped off in a high, straight "bang" across his forehead. His business suit, with blue shirt and red tie would have looked all right, I suppose, if the chairman had not worn a "tux." But when Col. Charles Sweeney, professional soldier and world traveler, launched into a recital of his adventures, we forgot all about his bangs. Col. Sweeney's latest achievement has been the development of the American Eagle Squadron in England. On the last day of that dreadful eight-day air raid over London, his squadron brought down 352 German planes. I wish I had Virgil's notes here. A boy thinks in such concise terms. Unfortunately, he lost those notes. One statement Col. Sweeney made was, "Hitler's dream is the regeneration of the white race." Virgil thought that a good statement to write down - only he wrote "degeneration" - which isn't so far wrong, at that. Col. Sweeney is a deep student of world history, as well as current strategy. He says that the Germans have a plan for everything they do. We think of this war as a three, or four, or five-year affair. The Germans think of this "regeneration" as taking - maybe fifty years. They are in no hurry. The picture he painted was pretty dark.***
But you read about war every day. Come with me on a swift journey to Palestine. We will at least hit the high spots. I have seen many pictures taken in the Holy Land, but never those of a movie camera, in technicolor - until last Tuesday night - at our church. A Methodist minister, Rev. Theodore Mayer, came all the way from his home in Rocky River, which must be 25 miles away - to show these wonderful pictures, which he took in 1938. When Rev. Mayer and his wife arrived at the border of Palestine, they were warned that they came at their own risk - the Arabs are so suspicious of English-speaking people. Our Christian friends had some bad moments, when they were threatened with imprisonment. Jerusalem - the City of Zion - is built on a hill. There are many ruins there - not only of ancient days, but evidence of the recent conflict, between the Arabs and Gen. Allenby's English troops. There is a temple there - but not the magnificent one that Solomon built. There is a fine YMCA, built by wealthy philanthropists. The houses, as you know, are all flat-roofed. The roofs become the verandas in the evening. The Church of the Nativity is there, built supposedly over the very spot where Jesus was born. And at that spot where the Prince of Peace came into the world, three religious sects fight over who shall have the preference in holding mass. The Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and the Mohammedans are jealous and suspicious of each other. Armed guards from each religious sect keep order. The church seems very dark; the doors and windows are so small. One must stoop quite low to enter the door. Some say the low, small openings are to keep out wandering camels or other beasts; while the other theory is that the low doorway enforces an attitude of reverence upon entering. We journeyed, via camera, through Bethpaige, where Jesus secured the ass's colt for His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The houses are built closely together, like tiny stone terraces on a hill. Tiny, narrow streets, where merchants haul their wares on a two-wheeled cart. Their costumes have changed but little in 2000 years.
We saw Bethany, the home of Mary and Martha and Lazarus, built on a hilly slope. The land from Jerusalem to Jericho seems barren indeed. Rev. Mayer says "down to Jericho" is really down - a different climate from Jerusalem, yet only 25 miles away. The river Jordan is so disappointing - very small, and extremely muddy. No, the Holy Land is disappointingly barren and lacking in beauty. And yet the most beautiful character in all history came out of that environment. Which should teach us something. It is mail time.
Hastily, but sincerely,
Florence B. Taylor
Next -11/6/41 - Golden Wedding Party (Hallowe'en). Wedding Announcement