BY-WAYS -2/6/41 - A Touch of Adolescence

Our youngest, now almost thirteen - He slouches, for there's nothing to
For years the fine quintessence Support his spinal column.
Of industry, ambition - has He scans the clock persistently
A "touch" of adolescence." When practicing his lessons;
He storms - or shuffles - to his tasks, He's had the chicken-pox and mumps -
Extremely gay - or solemn; And now has adolescence.


I want you to know that the above "poem" is being published with the full knowledge and consent of the "subject" - in the interest of child psychology, or shall we say adolescent psychology? When I assured Charlie that the poem was written six weeks ago, and that he is no longer like that (at least not right now) he gave his royal consent, though first deleting a word for which I had to substitute its synonym, "youngest." Oh, I have a whole board of censorship now - not only Virgil Sr. and the boys, but the neighborhood "gang." Bill, the dog lover, likes my poem about the dog; his honest praise pleases me more than that from a college professor. But I'll have to watch my step, from now on. To go back to the subject of adolescence, the title is Charlie's own expression, when explaining some freakish mood. That was last year, before the thing hit him hard. I really haven't known much about adolescence; so I brought home four ponderous books on the subject. The subject is too vast and too complex to sum up in one column - even if I had that gift of summarizing. So, if you will pardon the personal note, I will just write within our own experience.

In the first place, I wonder if adolescence affects any two people in just the same way. Our eldest gave signs of emotional disturbance by being quarrelsome, the second one by being tearful, or fighting tears, and the third one, by being "lazy." Charlie, the third, the serene one, seemed in a fair way to escape all the vagaries of this transition period between childhood and manhood. I write of his problem only in the hope that it might help some other parents. Charlie has had his own particular problem - congenital cataracts, which developed before he was three. In fact, he had his first operation before his third birthday. The first three were not very successful, so that when his eyes were finally clear, after the seventh, his sight had to develop all over again. Up until ten days ago he has always been in a sight-saving class. This never bothered him, or gave him any inferiority complex until he entered Junior High a year ago. Up until the sixth grade he had been a model student, ranking high in scholarship, skipping a half year. That was a mistake. He was pushed, too young, into Junior High. But here is where adolescence comes in, that period of painful awareness of what other people think, and caring so much what they think. I know now that he just couldn't bear to be in a special class. Adolescents can't stand it to be "different" in any way - from their schoolmates. To add to his misery, his band teacher indulged in the most devastating sarcasm that I have ever heard from a teacher's lips. His co-workers said that he didn't mean it; Charlie tried to believe he didn't mean it; but the destructive criticism finally wore him down. By Christmas time this year Charlie announced, flatly, that if he had to go on in this school (which has the sight-saving class) he was going to drop band (much as he loves music). A year ago his oculist and a fine optician together worked out a special telescopic lens (which has its commercial counterpart in the Univex - very expensive). With that Charlie can read everything. By sheer determination he won over the head of the sight-saving to his way of thinking; she gave her sanction to his transfer to our own High School, where his brother and special pals go. He is getting along beautifully. The buoyant happy, purposeful Charlie of old is with us again. Now I realize that this period is one of great sensitivity; that there is always a reason back of any delinquency. Dr. Harry A. Peters, head of University School, a prep school for boys in this city, and one of the finest educators that I know anything about, says that teen age boys need a great deal of encouragement. Then it is that their self-confidence needs bolstering. Wise is the teacher that recognizes this, and sees bravado as a brave but awkward attempt to cover up a sense of inferiority, and build up self-esteem. ***

Now, how is this article going to pass the junior board of censorship? Well, I imagine they would find it too boring to read beyond the second paragraph. But, just to play safe, the Saltsburg Press for Feb. 6 is going to be mysteriously mislaid - until they forget all about it. Just now Daddy - (Oh, I must say Dad from now on: "Daddy" is too juvenile) - well, Dad and I had to drop our activities and rush to the front window - to see Barney, the pup, getting a ride in a doll-buggy that the "gang" found in somebody's junk heap. No rajah of India ever sat in more royal dignity than did His Nibs, the pup. Sincerely,
Florence B. Taylor

By-Ways Column appreciated - Wilmington, Delaware

My dear Mr. Walker:

The enclosed is for The Press and Pathfinder for another year. I look forward to the Friday morning mail as I would a letter from home, for the Press does start the day right. I particularly enjoy Florence Taylor's column. It is relished by several friends of mine to whom I read that portion of the Press. In one of the articles she wrote of missions. One of my friends asked for the Press and read the article to the Ladies Missionary Society. With sincere good wishes, I am,

Cordially yours,
Virginia McQ. Morris ***

Next -2/13/41 - Joe Moffatt off to Camp Bowie TX