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Ray Harroun won the first Indianapolis 500 in 1911, but he wasn’t alone. The automobilist will forever be crowned the inaugural winner, but fellow driver Cyrus Patschke also handled the wheel of his car, the Marmon Wasp, for a spell, a maneuver common to drivers in early auto races who wanted to take a breather. Ralph Mulford, another entrant who drove his vehicle all by himself for the race’s duration, was actually considered the more impressive driver, and protested Harroun being named winner. The complaint, though, wasn’t directed at Harroun employing a “relief driver,” but rather the fact that Mulford received the checkered flag first, and while he was running several extra laps just to be sure that he’d completed enough tours of the track, Harroun made his way to the winner’s circle. The historic moment had left Mulford in the dust.

An article about the soon-to-be-run race in the May 28, 1911 Brooklyn Daily Eagle, which featured the comments of driver Ralph DePalma:

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In 1961, Harroun appeared on What’s My Line? fifty years year after his most famous moment:

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From the November 7, 1886 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Winnipeg, Man. — A plasterer named Shules, who contemplated leaving this city for the old country, recently sold his wife and five children to a man named Williams for $70. A regular legal agreement was drawn up between the two men and the property was formally transferred. The police are investigating the matter.”

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Even by the oft-eccentric standards of your garden-variety cyberneticist, Warren Sturgis McCulloch was something of an outlier. Known for his purported diet of cigarettes, whiskey and ice cream, the MIT genius was the proud father of 17 adopted children. More than six decades ago he was extrapolating the power of then-rudimentary machines, concerned that eventually AI might rule humankind, a topic of much concern in these increasingly automated times. The below article from the September 22, 1948 Brooklyn Daily Eagle records his clarion call about the future.

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In 1969, the year before McCulloch died, his opinions on the Singularity had changed somewhat.

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From the March 2, 1949 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Seattle — Will K. Sugden said today his romance with his bride of 14 weeks, an amnesia victim, had progressed beyond the hand-holding stage.

‘She’s coming my way,’ he said. ‘She lets me kiss her now. She’ll love me again.’

Sugden’s bride, Hertis, 26, suffered amnesia two weeks ago. She forgot her husband and his two children by a previous marriage.”

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I previously posted a 1955 New York Times interview which Thomas Mann sat for near the end of his life, and below I’ve put a piece from a Brooklyn Daily Eagle article about him that ran in the April 18, 1937 edition, when he was living in America, an exile from Nazi Germany during the early days of World War II. He seemed confident about the fall of fascism. I never read before that he’d dined with FDR, though it makes sense given the writer’s Nobel stature and his social nature. The piece was written by Alvah Bessie, who a decade later was to be blacklisted and imprisoned by HUAC as a member of the “Hollywood Ten,” along with Dalton Trumbo.

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From the August 5, 1911 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Topeka, Kan. — Shaving of all cats is recommended by the State Board of Health of Kansas as a means of preventing the spread of disease.

The board charges that the cat, with its long hair, carries more germs than any other animal.

‘Shave the cats,’ said Dr. Deacon of the State Board of Health, yesterday. ‘Keep their hair short just like you would a horse’s or a dog’s. If that is too much trouble, kill them.'”

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Much of Sven Hedin’s life was lived in public, but the truth about him is somewhat buried nonetheless, strange for a Swedish explorer who spent his life unearthing the hidden. His expeditions to Central Asia just before and after beginning of the twentieth century introduced the world to invaluable art and artifacts and folkways and cities that had been lost to time.

Hedin was admired for these efforts in all corners of the world, including the one occupied by Adolf Hitler. The geographer perplexingly returned the Führer’s admiration, believing in the Nazi’s nationalistic and traditionalist tendencies, which was obviously a catastrophic misjudgement. He was highly critical, however, of the Party’s anti-Semitism. These protests brought trouble. Hitler seems to have blackmailed the famed explorer into publishing pro-Nazi tracts by imperiling some of Hedin’s Jewish friends still inside Germany. But it’s difficult to believe Hedin encouraged Sweden to ally with Germany during WWII to save a few friends. He just apparently didn’t want to recognize the evil. A disease of the eye caused Hedin to become partially blind in 1940, an apt metaphor for this period of his life.

Long before his dubious politics, Hedin penned an article for Harper’s about an unusual subterranean Tibetan custom, a piece reprinted in the September 17, 1908 Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

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From the July 19, 1942 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

London — Fresh cat meat and dog meat is now sold for human consumption in the meat shops of Holland, but it first must be inspected for disease, the Dutch News Agency Aneta said today.”

Even in the wake of the twin horrors of World War I and a global flu pandemic, the crimes of Nathan E. Leopold Jr. and Richard Loeb couldn’t be easily comprehended. In 1924, the gifted, wealthy sons of the best of everything Chicago society had to offer, kidnapped and murdered 14-year-old Robert Franks for the “thrill” of it all. It was nothing personal–they knew and liked the lad–they just desired to commit the “perfect crime.” Once arrested, the pair confessed to the premeditated brutality and were defended by Clarence Darrow, who kept them from the death house. Loeb was killed by a fellow prisoner, while Leopold was paroled in 1958 and subsequently moved to Puerto Rico, where he worked in medicine and education. Theories abounded at the time as to what drove their heinous act: poor parenting, improper moral education, overindulgence, an infatuation with science, manic depression, paranoia, sexual perversion, even too much Nietzsche. But it was likely a confluence of factors forever bound in a knot. The below article is from the June 1, 1924 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

 

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From the March 21, 1866 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

“An auction sale of hair of young girls who have taken the veil since 1810, was recently held at a convent near Paris, when 800 pounds of hair were sold for $6,000.”

From the March 2, 1911 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Wellesley, Mass. — Preparations were made at the Wellesley College farm to-day for the Institution to begin breeding its own cats for dissection by the young women students. By so doing Wellesley becomes the first educational institution in the world to raise its own laboratory victims, and makes itself independent of the exigencies of the chase which sometimes yielded fat cats, sometimes thin ones, and frequently mangy ones. The experiment is the result of the arrest and fine imposed on a Wellesley janitor for stealing valuable felines for the college dissection tables.”

Norbert Wiener’s worried vision for an automated America never was realized–until maybe now, that is. In an article in the August 18, 1950 Brooklyn Daily Eagle, the cyberneticist and mathematician explained how the second Industrial Revolution might be a mixed blessing. The story:

Cambridge, Mass. — If Russia doesn’t ruin us the robots will, a noted scientist predicted today. Dr. Norbert Wiener, professor of mathematics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said Moscow and the new mechanical brains might even prove unwitting allies in driving the United States into a ‘decade or more of ruin and despair.’

Wiener is the bearded former boy prodigy who earned his doctorate of philosophy at the age of 19 and went on to develop the new science of ‘cybernetics’–the use of communication in controlling men or machines.

Will Take Over Tasks

He said the United States is on the verge of a ‘second industrial revolution’ in which robot factories operated by so-called mechanical brains will take over all the routine tasks of production from men.

‘Short of any violent political changes or another great war, I should give a rough estimate that it will take the new tools 10 or 20 years to come into their own,’ Wiener said.

But he added that the demands of a war with Russia would speed the development of robot factories and almost inevitably see the automatic man age in full swing within less than five years.’

What happen to humans when the robots take over?

May Be a Good Thing

Wiener has a word of warning about that in a new book, The Human Use of Human Beings, which will be published Monday by Houghton Mifflin Company.

If the new machines are used wisely, he said, it may in the long run ‘make this a good thing and the source of the leisure which is necessary for the cultural development of man on all sides.

But Wiener said the depression of the 1930s will look like ‘pleasant joke’ in comparison with what will happen if the nation misuses the new machines which can calculate, remember, pass judgement and even succumb to nervous breakdowns.

‘Thus the new industrial revolution is a two-edged sword,’ he said. ‘It may be used for the benefit of humanity, assuming that humanity survives long enough to enter a period in which such a benefit is possible.'”

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From the October 9, 1911 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Memphis, Tenn. — William J. Walsh, a grocer, was killed here late yesterday in an altercation which followed his attempt to destroy the out-of-season straw hat worn by Jewel Bush, a blacksmith.”

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Keremeos Highway, 1951.

In 1951, the Children of Light commune of British Columbia believed the end was near, but the group lived to a ripe old age. In the aforementioned year, several dozen members of the sect boarded themselves up in a Keremeos farmhouse and awaited doomsday. It never arrived. They soon left town and eventually relocated in Arizona. Two stories follow: One from the 1951 Brooklyn Daily Eagle about the “end of the world” and a coda four decades later from the 1995 Los Angeles Times.

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From the January 6, 1951 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Keremeos, B.C. — Thirty-five members on an unorthodox religious sect barricaded 11 days in a five-room farmhouse waited today for the end of the world in two more days.

The sect has been in cramped, self-imposed exile near here under the leadership of a gaunt, 60-year-old farm woman, Mrs. Agnes Carlson, since the day after Christmas.

The ‘Children of Light’ sealed themselves off from the outside world to await what they predict will be ‘doomsday’ on Jan. 8.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police, worried about sanitary conditions in the barricaded house because of overcrowding, have kept a close watch outside.

The only person known to have left the house since the group went into seclusion ‘to await the end of the world’ was a widow who walked out after the group asked her to surrender her wedding ring, police said.”

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From the 1995 Los Angeles Times:

“The story of how they traveled from a Pentecostal church in tiny Keremeos, B.C., in 1951 to this isolated patch of southwestern Arizona desert, a 100-mile drive from Phoenix, is proof that they are God’s chosen, members say.

Prompted by a divine vision, a Pentecostal preacher and former businesswoman led about 40 followers out of Keremeos and on a journey throughout Canada and the United States. They preached at churches and communes about the apocalypse and the importance of repentance.

The group picked up and lost people along the way. They found a destination when the words ‘Agua Caliente’ appeared in fire-like letters in the sky to Elect Gold, the preacher.

Evidence that God was with them continued, in a donation that helped them buy the land in 1965, in a desert dotted by brush and surrounded by rocky foothills near Gila Bend.

Further proof, they say, is in the water source they found on the property, the date palm orchards and the thriving gardens of beets, carrots, cabbages and pomegranates.

The Children do nothing to recruit new members, although over the years a number of travelers have temporarily lived at the commune.

With Elect Gold said to be nearly 100 years old and bedridden by illness, Elect Star has assumed the role as leader of the sect.

They welcome occasional visitors. On a recent afternoon, three retired couples from the Midwest who drove four miles off a paved road to reach the commune were given a tour by Elect Joel, an 85-year-old former honky-tonk musician from Indiana.

Later, Elect Joel entertained the guests by playing ‘Sweet Georgia Brown’ on the living room piano. Another member of the sect handed out bowls of homemade date and banana ice cream.

‘I think the sun will stop shining before this fades out,’ Elect Philip said. ‘We may look a little worn out, but God still has work left for us to do.'”

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From the July 26, 1910 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Canton, O. — Because they wanted to be ‘bad men’ and also needed to treat their sweethearts, John Warner and Ray Metcalf, each 11 years old, committed 600 burglaries. They were arrested here yesterday and after confessing to their misdeeds led the police to a disused coal cellar where they had cached the major part of their plunder.

A diamond ring was recovered which they had sold for 20 cents, and a gold watch had been disposed of for 15 cents.

Their operations extended from East Liverpool to Lorain, and according to their confessions, borne out by police reports, in one day they entered as many as seventy-five houses.”

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From the September 19, 1911 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

San Francisco–Destitute and hungry, William Murphy entered a local grocery store last night, hoping to purloin something to eat. The proprietor was called to wait on a customer and Murphy seized the opportunity to gobble two sandwiches he found on the counter. He was seized with convulsions a few minutes later and was taken to the emergency hospital, where it was found he was suffering from arsenic poisoning. The sandwiches he had eaten had been prepared to bait a rat trap. Murphy probably will recover.”

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World War I, which started exactly a century ago, claimed 16 million lives, but there were many more casualties among the living. One of them was the brilliant baseball pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander. He emerged from battle having inhaled mustard gas and experiencing hearing loss, something akin to epilepsy and what we today would call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. A drinker before the war, he became a two-fisted one after the fighting ceased, sometimes taking the mound inebriated. So great was he, it took nearly a decade for alcohol to ground his career, but once his playing days were over, he found himself unemployable in the league he loved, no one wanting to trust a temperamental alcoholic as manager or coach.

A year after being inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1938, Alexander found himself an attraction in a raffish New York City dime museum, among the anomalies and curiosities, giving the same speech about his glory days a dozen times daily. The shell of his former self was all he had left to sell, and the press and public brought their cameras to capture a piece of what once was. From an article in the January 20, 1939 Brooklyn Daily Eagle about “Old Pete” in steep decline:

“Cameramen swarmed about the great pitcher as he stood there against the green background, both hands holding a baseball above his head as if starting a windup.

‘Hold it! Hold it!’ they chirped as they focused their cameras.

But the pitching immortal couldn’t ‘hold it.’ His arms came down and he almost dropped the ball. He tired that quickly. The great Grover Cleveland Alexander wasn’t weary from pitching a baseball game. He was starting a series of three weeks’ appearances at Hubert’s Dime Museum, on 42nd St., yesterday.

It’s a Different League

This series is in a world far different from the fresh air, sunshine and roaring crowds that the mighty right-hander knew in the old days. And the man is far different too. The posters outside the museum notify passers-by that the ‘Great Grover Cleveland Alexander’ is on exhibition within. But that’s not true. They’re exhibiting only what’s left of the man that was.

The tall man with the dusty brown hair, bulgy waistline, splotched complexion and somewhat bleary eyes is older and more tired now than you would expect of his 51 years. He is weary and bitter. He believes that the game of baseball didn’t do right by him. He feels that the pastime somehow should have warded off the necessity that is sending the great Alexander of Cooperstown’s Baseball Hall of Fame into Hubert’s hall of freaks and flea circuses and dancing girls. 

A year ago this month the Baseball Writers of America elected Alexander to the Cooperstown shrine where his name joined those of 13 other immortals. But on this January day the tall man in the wrinkled brown suit stands on a tawdry little stage downstairs in the smoky light and tells how he won the seventh game of the 1926 World Series. How he fanned Tony Lazzeri with the bases loaded and two out.

He gives this little talk twelve times a day, starting at noon and ending at midnight, to earn bread and shelter in this bleak twilight of his life. Between lectures he sits in a little wooden cubicle, below the stage–away from staring eyes. Into this little cubicle come reporters and former players to chat with ‘Ol’ Pete’ and to wonder.

It’s the same platform, cubicle and rigmarole that knew Jack Johnson, the Negro who was former heavyweight champion of the world. That was a year or so ago, when ‘Li’l Arthur’ was hard pressed.

First Time Here Since 1930

‘When the museum telegraphed me the offer of a job, I thought somebody was kidding me,’ Alexander said.  I hadn’t been in New York since 1930 and I thought a museum was a place where they keep skeletons and things. But, anyway, I took a chance, wired back and got the job.’

A reporter asked why it was that a man with his reputation never was offered a job in major league baseball after his pitching days were over.

‘Booze! I used to take a drink now and then when I played. Almost every player drank a bit then, and I guess they still do. But I made the mistake of taking my drinks openly. The word got around that I was a drunkard, which I never was. I believe that’s the reason I never even got a coaching job.’

When Alexander asked managers or owners for work, they told him he hadn’t kept pace with the game and they couldn’t use him because he didn’t know the ‘inside stuff.’

Old Pete laughs bitterly at this when he recalls his 19 years of education in the big time.

‘I was in the National League almost 20 years,’ he explains, ‘from 1911 through part of 1930–with the Phillies, Cubs, Cardinals and finally the Phillies again. I know the game inside and out.’

After his retirement in ’30 he managed the House of David team for three seasons. Last year he was out with a semi-pro club in Nebraska, but the going was tough because the farmers had been through a drought.

Despite his bitterness, Alexander seemed to get a thrill out of reliving the old days as he talked to the dime-a-toss listeners.

‘I guess my biggest thrill was in the 1926 World Series,’ he said. ‘I was with the Cardinals. We had won three games and the Yanks had won three. Jess Haines started the last game for us and along about the seventh inning he hurt his hand and they told me to go in. There were three on base and Lazzeri was up. I had pitched and won the sixth game the day before, but my arm felt fine. I only threw three times but I struck Tony out. He fouled my second pitch into the left-field stands. Then I threw him a hook and he missed it by about six inches. That proved to be the game and the series.

‘Yes, I could strike ‘em out in those days. But I kinda struck out myself after I stopped pitchin’.'”•

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From the November 30, 1910 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Upper Sandusky, O. — Mrs. Job Smith, holding her 6-month-old daughter on her lap, was watching a daughter start for school, yesterday, when her 2-year-old daughter with a pair of scissors cut off one of the baby’s fingers.”

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Back when the Brooklyn Daily Eagle was still spelling Romania as “Rumania,” the paper published a positively preposterous piece about a wealthy woman who was supposedly saved from being buried alive by unlikely liberators. From the December 18, 1932 article:

Vienna — From the village of Nagy Perente, in Transylvania, comes a story of an occurrence so remarkable as to be almost unbelievable. Its accuracy has, however, been established, according to an accredited investigator.

A rich Rumanian woman living in Nagy Perente died a short time ago–or was supposed to have died–and was buried in a little mountain cemetery not far from her home. According to the local custom all her jewelry was buried with her–gold earrings, necklaces and bangles with a number of gems, were placed in the coffin.

Bandits Open Grave

That night three bandits, lured by the prospect of some rich plunder, easily obtainable, opened the grave, pried off the coffin lid and reached in to grasp the gold and jewels. As they did so a sleepy voice murmured. ‘What do you want?’ and the eyes of the supposedly dead woman opened. She grasped the sides of the coffin and attempted to rise to her feet.

One of the bandits fainted, but his companions fled the scene.

Revived by the cold night air, the woman, still in her shroud, rose to her feet and fell out of the coffin.

Staggered to Her Home

Then, clutching at tombstones and steadying herself along the church wall, she staggered the few hundred yards to her home.

Her husband was so overjoyed at her return that he intervened with the police to secure the removal to a hospital of the bandit, who was still lying in a dead faint in the churchyard.

The woman had been suffering from sleeping sickness, and the local doctor had made out a death certificate when her lethargic condition gave her the appearance of death.”

 

From the May 18, 1910 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Philadelphia, Pa. — A man with his heart, stomach, liver, spleen and intestines all on the wrong side of his body was exhibited, last night, by Dr. G. Harlan Wells of the Hahneman College, at a meeting of the Philadelphia Academy of Medicine.

The condition is a very rare one and is called by the doctors ‘situe viscerum inversus.’ His organs being misplaced did not seem to bother the man in the least. He is 45 years old, a machinist by trade and enjoys the best of health.”

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From the December 1, 1909 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

“The policemen of Stapleton, Staten Island, station rejoiced when a pig, taken as evidence in a raid and placed in a cell, was returned to its owner, Alex Aleski, who has a saloon and hotel on McKeon Street. It was said a score of men were gambling for the pig. The animal’s squeals had kept the policemen from getting their usual rest.

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A Midwest man of marriageable age who was minus an ear made a monetary offer to purchase one to be transplanted onto the side of his head, improving his chances of wooing a wife, as reported in a grisly article in the July 19, 1924 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

“A Chicago surgeon has a patient who lost one of his ears as a result of an accident. Now the patient desires to marry and would have the missing member replaced by the real ear of another or something resembling an ear.

In his oration over the dead body of Caesar, Marc Antony exclaimed: ‘Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.’ Even in this compressed simile he did not ask for the gift or sale of an ear, but merely for its loan.

But the Chicago surgeon does not indulge in metaphor when he attempts to gratify the desire of his patient, nor does he call for a loan. In his advertisement he calls for a real flesh and blood ear and offers therefore a monetary consideration.

We are advised that the advertisement has brought responses from many sources, women being included on the list of applicants. The motives actuating those who have expressed a willingness to sell an ear are interesting. Doubtless each applicant realizes that loss of an ear would cause disfigurement and that amputation would not only be painful but probably dangerous.

Some of those who meet the conditions imposed are willing to make the sacrifice in order to secure money for treatment of their children suffering from tuberculosis.”

 

From the August 23, 1910 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Cairo, Ill.–Before Frank W. Wilson, an advertising solicitor of St. Louis, died here in a hospital yesterday, he told physicians he had swallowed several articles of a foreign nature, and that they had better put the X-ray at work. He was operated upon Sunday night on the theory that he was afflicted with appendicitis.

Three incisions were made in the man’s stomach and according to the physician, the following articles were removed: One shoe button hook, a woman’s hatpin, three keys, one lead pencil, one belt buckle, one tin toy pistol, three nails (small), one needle and one thermometer.

Wilson, according to his physician, had been in a depressed mental state for some time, during which he swallowed anything that he could get down his throat.”

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There’s something curious inside us all, a pre-program if you will, and it’s more prominent in some than others. It’s not that we don’t have free will, but it’s not absolutely free.

Harrington “Heavenly” Gates was everything his parents wanted him to be, but that wasn’t what he wanted to be. He left his excellence as a Dartmouth scholar-athlete behind one fine day, much to his family’s chagrin, and began a 72-year-old religious odyssey, something he seemed almost born to do. From an article in the November 2, 1938 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Boston–The family of Harrington (Heavenly) Gates, ‘as soon as we get our breath,’ will make a pilgrimage to his New Hampshire religious retreat and try to persuade the Dartmouth football star to go back to college and graduate with his class.

Gates’ father, mother, four brothers and five sisters will make the trip to the cult farm of the ‘Holy Ghost and Us’ Society at Amherst, N.H., Mrs. Elder Gates, the mother, said today.

Gates, after helping Dartmouth beat the Yale football team, left school for a religious colony because of the profanity of the team and commercialization of the game.

From her home at Saugus, Mass., Mrs. Gates, wife of an ironmolder, issued this statement on her son’s resignation:

Want Him to Graduate

‘Shocked as we are, we are all still proud of Harry for his splendid record as a student and athlete. When we get our breath we will all go to him and see if there is anything we can do. It has been quite a financial hardship for us, too, in spite of the scholarship and outside help that he received. We wanted to see him graduate next June with his class.’

No less astonished and disappointed than Gates’ family were members of the Saugus Lions Club and other hometown organizations which had donated to his college expenses.

Last December, when a football rally was scheduled at Saugus in his honor, he declined to attend despite the fact that the sponsors offered to pay his fare from Hanover, N.H.

Working on Cult Farm

Exchanging gridiron togs for overalls, the 24-year-old Saugus, Mass., youth, a senior student, was working today with fellow members of the religious cult, also known as the ‘Legion of God,’ on its Salem turkey farm at Amherst.

The cult believes that it alone can save souls from annihilation. Its regulations forbid the use of liquor, certain foods and contact with the outside world.”

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From the May 17, 1916 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Kansas City, Mo. — John Arnold is today recovering from an operation in the Kansas City Emergency Hospital and the cause of his trouble–a lively and well-developed frog–is hopping about in a large jar at his bedside. Some time ago, Arnold says, he drank from a spring. He cannot tell whether the frog took up its abode in his interior as a tadpole or a small frog. The physicians who operated, liberating the frog and relieving Arnold of the nagging pain amidship, say Arnold is doing well. The frog speaks for itself.”

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