Got respect for an old era?
Here are various notes to complement last week’s essay, entitled Baden-Powell’s Era is Gone, about the life and times of (back then) the only living man to have founded an international organization.
Understanding Boy Scouts
From Chapter one of Scouting For Boys, (1908) after explaining chivalry, and how the code of chivalry is like the Scout Law, comes this passage:
You Scouts cannot do better than follow the example of the Knights.
One great point about them was that every day they had to do a Good Turn to somebody, and that is one of our rules.
When you get up in the morning, remember that you have to do a Good Turn for someone during the day. Tie a knot your handkerchief or neckerchief to remind yourself of it.
Last week, dear reader, I quoted about serving your country. It was from a larger section that began under the subheading Love Your Country:
My country and your country did not grow of itself out of nothing. It was made by men and women by dint of hard work and hard fighting, often at the sacrifice of their lives—that is, by their whole-hearted patriotism.
In all you do, think of your country first. Don’t spend the whole of your time and money merely to amuse yourself, but think first of how you can be of use to the common good. When you have done that, you can justly and honestly enjoy yourself in your own way.
Perhaps you don’t see how a mere small boy can be of use to his country, but by becoming a Scout and carrying out the Scout Law every boy can be of use.
Understanding Writers and Speakers:
~ Newspaper reporters can shorten a piece to fit on a page by simply lopping off the last paragraphs, but essay and fiction writers, in contrast, have to shorten their piece by plucking out adjectives, sentences, half paragraphs and more. Such a fun challenge. As Stephen King said, “(Second draft) equals (first draft minus ten per cent).”
Last week’s essay was written after I gave a five to seven minute speech at toastmasters: “Sean took seven minutes, fifteen seconds; perfect” said the club timer. It was both fun and frustrating to take out ALL the nonessential stuff as I was timing my speech. (I put back only a little for my essay) People could tell I had lots more I could have said.
Two listeners said:
“I want to know more about your knowledge/experience!”
“Your authentic way of sharing was engaging especially because you really know the history. Would love to hear more of your personal stories. You started with one at the start of your speech.”
Expanding the opening story:
I had met the New Zealander at the Japanese Garden (no flowers) in Lethbridge. He informed me he had been to another Japanese Garden southwest of Edmonton that I had not known about—I’m going there! An international photographer, he had noticed me standing still, sometimes, to take in various angles—Soaking in the garden artistry is part of the meditation.
As part of his being “being struck by B-P being from another era,” he said his grandfather could not remember the Boer War. Neither could mine, I guess, as Grandpa’s war was World War I. My dad was born during the year after the Armistice, in 1919. B-P died of natural causes during the second world war. According to Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, he was to be killed if the Nazis had occupied Britain. But as you know, the Nazis’ Operation Sea Lion failed because they failed to first win the Battle of Britain.
I told my toastmasters club how the statue of the man on horseback at Memorial Park, wearing the Scout hat, was from the Boer War. Incidentally, Canada sent mounted soldiers from the Mounted Police. As best I can recall: The statue comes from a man found dead in a ditch, friendless, homeless, with no known relatives when he died. In his pocket was his Boer War army paper. People thought this ignoble ending to a man’s life wasn’t right. Eventually his relatives were tracked down in England, while Calgarians decided to honour Boer War veterans with a statue.
~A blanket pin, like a scotsman’s kilt pin, was rather like a giant silver safety pin.
~A billy tin was when you took a big empty can for coffee powder, or tomatoes, and punched two holes, then attached baling wire, (like for bales of hay, or newspaper bundles) so that you could hold the wire on a stick over your campfire. Better than borrowing your mum’s pot and getting it all black.
~I am old enough to have seen baling wire replaced by frayed brown twine, replaced by blue and white plastic twine. In the barn, after we undid a bale to feed our dairy cow, we would throw the twine over a post to be thrifty, for in case we found a use for it. During my adulthood, our university newspaper used flat white plastic for our bundles.
Nostalgia for Public (Boarding) Schools
I wonder: Baden-Powell was from a boarding school, which in Britain is called a “public school.” Were the poorer boys from regular schools, who went on to work in the factories, equally enthusiastic about serving their country? I have a few tiny doubts, but I don’t see how we can ever know. History is written by the literate class.
I believe it was common for “public schools” to have rifles, and train the boys in parade drill. I have that impression from George Orwell, from when he joined thousands of civilian volunteers going to Spain…
—Another era: The big Spanish Civil War was some years before the ebbing guerrilla struggle in the movie Pan’s Labyrinth. Various brigades of international volunteers—brigades socialist, brigades communist, brigades anarchist—tried to stop General Franco’s army. The general, assisted by armed forces from Italy and Germany, sought to crush the republic and impose fascism. This was the war in Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls. And in Nicholas Monsaratt’s novel of a student going communist, This is the Schoolroom (link)—
…Orwell said that when he arrived, due to his public school experience, he was made a leader right away.
~In the second part of the Doctor Who story (in the previous essay) the boys in school uniforms, with their strict teachers in flat academic caps, break out the school rifles: They mean to shelter innocent townsfolk, and defend their school against some murderous aliens. It was a nostalgia episode, showing sterner days.
…Sad to think those boys—along with their whole generation—would all be gone to Flanders in a few years…
…Strange to think entire societies, like individuals, can have blind spots… Orwell, who came of age after the war, wrote that his generation of schoolboys was a rebellious one, but they never knew why, not at the time. Like how my American generation, in the late seventies, would ask each other, puzzled, why we had less creativity and political involvement than our peers of ten years earlier. “Maybe because we have a less affluent economy” was the best I could reply, blindly, back in those post-Vietnam years.
Once an army corporal,