Friendship Village by Zona Gale
We are one long street, rambling from sun to sun, inheriting traits of
the parent country road which we unite. And we are cross streets,
members of the same family, properly imitative, proving our
ancestorship in a primeval genius for trees, or bursting out in
inexplicable weaknesses of Court-House, Engine-House, Town Hall, and
Telephone Office. Ultimately our stock dwindled out in a
slaughter-house and a few detached houses of milk men. The cemetery is
delicately put behind them, under a hill. There is nothing mediaeval
in all this, one would say. But then see how we wear our rue:
When one of us telephones, she will scrupulously ask for the number,
for it says so at the top of every page. "Give me 1-1," she will put
it, with an impersonality as fine as if she were calling for four
figures. And central will answer:
"Well, I just saw Mis' Holcomb go 'crost the street. I'll call you, if
you want, when she comes back."
Or, "I don't think you better ring the Helman's just now. They were
awake 'most all night with one o' Mis' Helman's attacks."
Or, "Doctor June's invited to Mis' Syke's for tea. Shall I give him to
The telephone is modern enough. But in our use of it, is there not a
flavor as of an Elder Time, to be caught by Them of Many Years from
Now? And already we may catch this flavor, as our Britain
great-great-lady grandmothers, and more, may have been conscious of
the old fashion of sitting in bowers. If only they were conscious like
that! To be sure of it would be to touch their hands in the margin of
the ballad books.
Or we telephone to the Livery Barn and Boarding Stable for the little
blacks, celebrated for their self-control in encounters with the
Proudfits' motor car. The stable-boy answers that the little blacks
are at "the funeral." And after he has gone off to ask his employer,
who in his unofficial moments is our neighbor, our church choir bass,
our landlord even, comes and tells us that, after all, we may have the
little blacks, and he himself brings them round at once—the same
little blacks that we meant all along. And when, quite naturally, we
wonder at the boy's version, we learn: "Oh, why, the blacks was
standin' just acrost the street, waitin' at the church door, hitched
to the hearse. I took 'em out an' put in the bays. I says to myself:
'The corpse won't care.'" Some way the Proudfits' car and the stable
telephone must themselves have slipped from modernity to old fashioned
before that incident shall quite come into its own.
So it is with certain of our domestic ways. For example, Mis'
Postmaster Sykes—in Friendship Village every woman assumes for given
name the employment of her husband—has some fine modern china and
much solid silver in extremely good taste, so much, indeed, that she
is wont to confess to having cleaned forty, or sixty, or seventy-five
pieces—"seventy-five pieces of solid silver have I cleaned this
morning. You can say what you want to, nice things are a rill care."
Yet, surely this is the proper conjunction, Mis' Sykes is currently
reported to rise in the night preceding the day of her house cleaning,
and to take her carpets out in the back yard, and there softly to
sweep and sweep them so that, at their official cleaning next day, the
neighbors may witness how little dirt is whipped out on the line.
Ought she not to have old-fashioned silver and egg-shell china and
drop-leaf mahogany to fit the practice instead of dazzling and
wild-rose patterns in "solid and art curtains, and mission chairs and
a white-enameled refrigerator, and a gas range?"
We have the latest funeral equipment—black broadcloth-covered
supports, a coffin carriage for up-and-down the aisles, natural palms
to order, and the pulleys to "Let them down slow"; and yet our
individual funeral capacity has been such that we can tell what every
woman who has died in Friendship for years has "done without": Mis'
Grocer Stew, her of all folks, has done without new-style flat-irons;
Mis' Worth had used the bread pan to wash dishes in; Mis' Jeweler
Sprague—the first Mis' Sprague—had had only six bread and butter
knives, her, that could get wholesale, too ... and we have little
maid-servants who answer our bells in caps and trays, so to say; but
this savour of jestership is authentic, for any one of them is likely
to do as of late did Mis' Holcomb—that was Mame Bliss's maid—answer
at dinner-with-guests, that there were no more mashed potatoes, "or
else, there won't be any left to warm up for your breakfast."... And
though we have our daily newspaper, receiving Associated Press
service, yet, as Mis' Amandy Toplady observed, it is "only very lately
that they have mentioned in the Daily the birth of a child, or any
thing that had anything of a tang to it."
We put new wine in old bottles, but also we use new bottles to hold
our old wine. For, consider the name of our main street: is this Main
or Clark or Cook or Grand Street, according to the register of the
main streets of town? Instead, for its half-mile of village life, the
Plank Road, macadamized and arc-lighted, is called Daphne Street.
Daphne Street! I love to wonder why. Did our dear Doctor June's father
name it when he set the five hundred elms and oaks which glorify us?
Or did Daphne herself take this way on the day of her flight, so that
when they came to draught the town, they recognized that it was Daphne
Street, and so were spared the trouble of naming it? Or did the Future
anonymously toss us back the suggestion, thinking of some day of her
own when she might remember us and say, "Daphne Street!" Already some
of us smile with a secret nod at something when we direct a stranger,
"You will find the Telegraph and Cable Office two blocks down, on
Daphne Street." "The Commercial Travelers' House, the Abigail Arnold
Home Bakery, the Post Office and Armory are in the same block on
Daphne Street." Or, "The Electric Light Office is at the corner of
Dunn and Daphne." It is not wonderful that Daphne herself, at seeing
these things, did not stay, but lifted her laurels somewhat nearer
Tempe—although there are those of us who like to fancy that she is
here all the time in our Daphne-Street magic: the fire bell, the tulip
beds, and the twilight bonfires. For how else, in all reason, has the
Of late a new doctor has appeared—one may say, has abounded: a
surgeon who, such is his zeal, will almost perform an operation over
the telephone and, we have come somewhat cynically to believe, would
prefer doing so to not operating at all.
Thus the New shoulders the Old, and our transition is still swift
enough to be a spectacle, as was its earlier phase which gave our
Middle West to cabins and plough horses, with a tendency away from
wigwams and bob-whites. And in this local warfare between Old and New
a chief figure is Calliope Marsh. She is a little rosy, wrinkled
creature officially—though no other than officially—pertaining to
sixty years; mender of lace, seller of extracts, and music teacher,
but of the three she thinks of the last as her true vocation.
With us all the friendship idea prevails: we accept what Progress
sends, but we regard it in our own fashion. Our improvements, like our
entertainments, our funerals, our holidays, and our very loves, are
but Friendship-Village exponents of the modern spirit. Perhaps, in a
tenderer significance than she meant, Calliope characterized us when
"This town is more like a back door than a front—or, givin' it full
credit, anyhow—it's no more'n a side door, with no vines."