BY-WAYS - 7/18/40 - Betty Smith is seriously ill

Sabbath Day, July 14. Can it possibly be only two weeks since I last wrote you? Why, I've lived years and years since then. Only two months ago I decided that the units with which to measure eternity are: one day and one night in a hospital when you are very ill. But I've learned this week that I was all wrong. The unit is one night of waiting when a loved friend is not expected to live through the night. Midnight long-distance calls to and from her brother (she has no home, except his - and ours), a night letter, to prepare a very dear friend for the shock, endless details to look after. But she pulled through. I cannot be glad, for she is hopelessly ill from cancer. Stoic that she is, she kept her trouble all to herself until two weeks ago today. Wishing to spare me, she went to another friend's home, and let me believe that she had gone on her scheduled vacation to her brother's farm home in southern Ohio. We found her, desperately ill only a week ago yesterday. Because she lived with us when Estelle was born, and for two and a half years after, because she shared every Christmas, but one, since then with us, because she was the one person in the world who felt free to walk into our house without knocking, we feel that she belongs to us. We had to take her to the hospital last Tuesday. I have learned this past week what it means to carry the responsibility for a dying person, without any authority. Her brother could leave his sick wife for only a flying trip up here. Why do I tell you all this? I really didn't intend to when I started to write. Perhaps it's because I, subconsciously, want to share the burden that lies so heavy on my heart. Perhaps, like Moses, I need you to hold up my hands.

The Fourth of July, which now seems so long ago, was a great occasion. The Festival of Freedom, a patriotic demonstration, was held in our Stadium, which seats 100,000 people. When I told Virgil that I wanted to take the boys, he was shocked at my temerity. Since he and I were married in the "dear, dead days" (but not beyond recall) when the wife had the word "obey" in her marriage vows, he asserted his husbandly authority and said that I couldn't go. "That mob would trample you under foot." (He hates crowds, and I love them). It took some persuasion; he went along, to take care of me. The doors were to open at 7. When we got there at 6:45, the Stadium was already more than half filled. 25,000 had to be turned away that night. Oh, it was grand. The Stadium is right on the banks of Lake Erie. Through some little windows we could see the sun, a ball of fire, sink below the watery horizon. Trains swished, chug-chugged, and whistled back of us. Airplanes and seaplanes zoomed overhead, and seemed to dip, in salute to a great American crowd. Fog-horns sounded out on the lake. It was Life. And we were in the midst of it. The orchestra began playing at 8, but the real program began at 8:30. A public address system, extended by cables to loud speakers, set in little trucks, carried every word to every corner of that Stadium. When Donald Dickson, who worked his way up from the Cleveland steel mills to the Metropolitan Opera stage, sang "God Bless America," with that vast audience joining in the chorus, it was an unforgettable experience. I tell you, we sang our songs of Freedom with a fervor that I have never heard before. Together we pledged allegiance to our flag. And what a flag! The largest flag in the world, loaned us by the B.F. Goodrich Co., of Akron Oh. The boys and I kept looking and wondering where this flag was (that is, earlier in the evening). Hundreds of Boy Scouts were there, seated in the Indians' dugout, and on the ground in front of the grandstand. At the appointed time they came out in the center of the field, and unfurled this great flag - on the horizontal, of course. You sensed the electric thrill that went through that great audience. That American flag pulled you, like a magnet, right out of your seat. You were singing "The Star Spangled Banner" as a matter of course.

The Stars in our Flag and the stars in the heavens above us gave us a great sense of security and peace. The Wings Over Jordan choir sung as only colored folks can sing. One unusual stunt was to turn out all floodlights - in fact, all lights, and on the count of three each person was to light a match and hold it close to his chin. What a sight! It looked like millions of tiny lights. Of course, the photographers made the most of this. Some writer said that it was significant that this audience could produce 75,000 matches on a moment's notice. In Europe they have to pay for every match. You may wonder why I mention 75,000 when our Stadium holds 100,000. But our bleachers were given over to the frameworks for set pieces in the most elaborate fireworks I have ever seen. There were the "rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air." There was a cop chasing a speeder. There was the inevitable elephant and donkey, headed for a clash. But I am afraid the man with the elephant set-up has Democratic leanings, for he let the poor, illuminated elephant fall over and fizzle out prematurely. The "Niagara Falls" were brilliant and most effective. There was a "battle" between two battleships, with two airplanes cruising overhead. You may be sure the Flag was there, in a blaze of glory.

It is said that the Lord takes care of children and fools. We miraculously escaped the traffic jam that so many experienced. It is said that 50,000 were up on the Mall nearby, watching the fireworks. The real jam was at Euclid Beach, our big amusement park. Must close abruptly, to catch mail.

Florence B. Taylor

Next - 8/8/40 - Building the "Hut". Betty's "City of Dreams"