BY-WAYS - 4/16/42 - Tragic fire of London. For the Birds

The Week's Gleanings

Here I come - with my little rake - and let's hope there is not too much chaff with the wheat. I hope you will enjoy looking over the week's collection with me. First comes Easter Sabbath, with all the glorious meaning of the Resurrection. "Blessed are they that mourn (in this devastating war, or because of any other bereavement), for they shall be comforted." This is not the end; we shall live again.

Monday - A perfect day; a housewife's delight. The smell of freshly laundered clothes, dried in God's fresh air, is soothing to a woman's olfactory nerves. This evening a group of us went out to Brush High (our boys' school) to see moving pictures of the worst air raid on London, and to hear one of London's auxiliary firemen tell about it. Three of these firemen are making a tour of important industrial centers which need to be well guarded. Capt. Kirby, the regular speaker, was ill, but his buddy carried on to our delight and edification. The third one of the gallant trio was seriously injured to this devastating air raid, when he was buried under hot bricks. He spent months in the hospital, his face undergoing extensive plastic surgery. The King and Queen of England visited him in the hospital, and thanked him for his heroic rescue work on that awful night of December 29, 1940. You wouldn't believe what an inferno the heart of London became that night. Great buildings - six to ten stories high - were roaring, crackling furnaces. You could hear the whistle of an incendiary bomb coming down - and they seemed to come every five seconds. There was the awful boom of a demolition bomb, and beautiful statues would topple. You could see firemen, firemen everywhere, dragging huge fire hoses that looked to be six inches in diameter. Four hundred firemen lost their lives that that particular raid. But, oh, the unquenchable spirit of those English! They don't know the word "despair." When I asked the one with the scars of heroism if he ever makes speeches, he flashed a boyish smile, "Oh, dear, no! I'd rather go through a blitzkrieg." The last film showed just what to do in case of an air raid - and, more specifically, if one of those bombs should find its way into your attic. Many brand new fire wardens were present, and were introduced. Yes, we are prepared for the worst, yet hope for the best.

Virgil (Sr.) went tonight with his father to see and hear the lovely opera, "Lohengrin." We have made progress in the last 25 years, in that we do not bar beautiful German music from our stage and concert hall, as we did in the first World War. We have learned that the inspired music of Wagner has nothing to do with Naziism.

Wednesday. - A certain Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal must be nursing a tummy ache tonight. I had to throw out a big chunk of angel food cake that, for some reason, was sour upon opening. (What's the cause, you expert bakers?) I took my sewing (darning) to the window seat so that I could watch our feathered friends. They eyed the white lump suspiciously, finally took a nibble, and remained to gorge - especially the cardinals. The sparrows, because of numbers, got the lion's share; but two robins did right well. To the cardinals the cake was ambrosia of the gods. This was bird day, indeed, for at the Wednesday evening service at our church some films in technicolor were shown, revealing the nesting habits of two types of birds - quite extreme in manner - the Blue Jay, and the Humming Bird. There is at least one woman in Cleveland who will never grow old. For, at the age when women used to sit and rock and knit, this charming woman has taken up the fascinating hobby of studying and photographing birds in their native habitats. It started with a pair of robins building a nest on an upstairs window-sill. With great subtlety she photographed them through the window. Now she has a larger camera, and complete equipment, the most important of which is infinite patience. She CAMOUFLAGES herself with a cloak of green branches. We saw Mr. and Mrs. Blue Jay and their big nest, with six eggs, then five scrawny babies - all mouth - eternally reaching upward for food. The father and mother were certainly kept busy. As the birdlings grew, they were so crowded in that nest, we wondered how they stayed in. The setting was one of the loveliest I have ever seen. This woman has a summer home and a passion for beautiful flowers. The Humming Birds made their tiny nest in a tree on Mrs. Newton D. Baker's estate. The male bird is so elusive that our Mrs. Seeley was not able to photograph him. He is thoroughly selfish and lazy, for he left the raising of the family to his wife. Two tiny eggs, the size of a bean, hatched into two sleepy creatures, who soon stretched their tiny beaks into the air. The mother, whose wings have the amazing speed of 75 flutters per second just stays in the state of suspension while she reaches her slender beak into the chalice of a flower that is full of nectar. The Humming Bird can fly backward as well as forward - the swiftest creature on wing.

It is time to close - with so much left untold. The greatest thrill was the telegram at 10:45 Friday night, saying that Estelle and Tommy would reach Cleveland by bus the next morning. Our hearts have two parts - one part that makes us sorry our loved ones are homesick; the other part makes us secretly rejoice that they care enough to be homesick. The boys and I took them to the bus depot at 1 o'clock today, Sunday - (Virgil had to work) that is why this letter is a bit ragged but full of joy.


Next - 4/30/42 - THE AMERICAN RED CROSS - Blood Donor Service

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