The new warden of Saint Columba's was patient and friendly and younger than his predecessor. We got along well from the start. Being an Oxford ex-Blue, he was interested in athletics, and we chatted for a while about football and our team's chances that year. But I could see he had some thing on his mind. He finally got around to the subject of my I.C.S. course. At some length I propounded my personal views on this improved system of education, whereby the years of drudgery hitherto required for the mastering of any profession could be dispensed with, and the course of study condensed into twenty-five fascinating and absorbing correspondence lessons.
The main difficulty is this," he said, when I paused for breath: "how am I going to keep track of your time—and progress?"
I said that it would be a simple matter. As I finished work on each installment I would bring it to him with my completed examination papers, including original advertising copy, designs and layouts for magazine, newspaper and streetcar advertisements, and projects for campaign planning. He was interested to learn that there were examinations, but objected that the time required to hear from America whether I had passed or not would drag out a course over a couple of years. The objection was withdrawn when I told him that the I.C.S. had a branch office in London, with American professors.
Well," he said rather doubtfully, "I hope there is something to it. Your father seems to feel there may be, of course, over here it's difficult to form an opinion, things in general are viewed so differently in the United States."
"You're right there, sir. The U.S.A. is God's own country. There's no grass growing on the people over there," I said, quoting Mezzim.
The warden looked so puzzled when I said that, I thought it advisable to clarify the statement.
"That means they're nobody's suckers," I added.
"Another 'Americanism'?" he inquired.
"Yes, sir. I use them all the time—have to, in my work. No use writing ads for Americans in English. You see, Father O'Sullivan passes me on his New York Sunday papers when he's through with them"—
"Very voluminous, the New York newspapers," he said. "But I've been thinking it would be wise to keep up some of your regular studies here. In that way I would have some control over you, and could report to your father on the progress you make."
This was just what I wished to avoid.
"But a course in advertising includes everything, sir," I said, and paused, trying to think of a convincing argument. And then I was hearing myself spieling off the required qualifications for success in the advertising field as innumerated in the foreword to the first installment of the course: "An advertising man must acquire a profound knowledge of human nature, above all, of its weaknesses....He must get that knack of catching the public eye, which reads as it runs ....When no demand for the commodity he is offering the public exists, and the wholesale houses are overstocked with it, he must know how to create that demand...."
I was not sure if I had it right, and I could not go on from there. The warden rescued me without realizing it:
"I can imagine the economic effects of such methods of exploitation on the country in general," he broke in with a smile, "—provided, of course, that they were successful. Even in America the laws of supply and demand exist, and if there is no legitimate demand—"
"Advertising men trained by the I.C.S. make it legitimate," I broke in. And then, quoting from The Brooklyn Eagle: "The resources of the United States are unlimited," I added easily.
But I realized I was getting a little mixed up, and was relieved when the warden pushed back his chair. Before I left he said he had no wish to hamper me with the school curriculum, so he would only insist on my taking one subject, English, and, nominally, I would be assigned to the sixth form—beyond the jurisdiction of the prefects.
"And don't neglect your training," he added. "I want the school
When thinking back it is the names you forget, the faces that meant anything are fresh and clear-cut. But there is nothing like the contents of an old trunk to start the memory parade. Those school-group photographs, masters and boys in academic garb posing stolidly, glumly, dumbly, self-consciously, defiantly, timidly, ingratiatingly, pleasantly or unpleasantly for lens and posterity while photographer Fry, of Elliot and Fry, calls solemnly from behind a lofty expanse of collar:
"Look pleasant, all!"
And each and all, according to capacity, complying: masters from the front row; prefects from the top of the steps, Scott balanced on his heels, albino eyes closed, Read's cowlick forelock oiled N.C.O. fashion. Our focal center, the warden, Price quintus, future World War ace between his elephantine knees. Behind his chair, Hinds major, who collected cigarette pictures of actresses in tights but discontinued this pernicious practice after confirmation and his first communion,—and died in Flanders. Bones major next to Webb, another adolescent whom retarded brain development has kept in the second form. Below them, 'Buzz-Buzz' Gahagan, contemplating life and the camera with pale absent eyes, thumbs twiddling, thoughts, if any, far, far away. In misty gown and wilted mortarboard, frowsy as an old notary. Buzz-Buzz, when distrait, which is always, whistling gently through neglected teeth: "Zzzze",—and hence the pseudonym. And Bundy Hill, the dayboy whose father is headmaster of nearby Woodtown preparatory school, and Pudding Cooper, whose moonface mirrors the openness of his heart. Between him and redhead Bate we have Crookshank major's whitetoothed grinsolent mouth and, in that tussled head of his, more brains than a lot of us together can muster. And battling McEntire who, during my last term, became my chum, but not until we had fought the bitterest bloodiest bare-fist fight in the history of the school. And Neal and Lawder and Otway and Crossdale and the Greers, and others whose names are gone, but whose failings I recall well enough, for by these are we remembered best.
And back in the trunk go these school-group and football team photographs, along with copies of the school quarterly, The Columban and a velvet silver-tasselled football cap, and stockings barred in faded red and green and white, and mouldy football boots, stiff as sheet iron, and three volumes of O'Curry's Manners and Customs of the Ancient Irish with the school arms emblazoned in gold on them: the only class prize I ever got. And an autographed photograph of Mr. Tommy Burns, world's champion pugilist, in top hat and Prince Albert and buckled shoes; and another—surrendered by her brother—of the girl with buckteeth. Sole remaining souvenirs of my school days: vivid days, good days and bad days in the lives of all of us. Days when that plastic liquid, which is character, is poured into the mould where it must set and take on the shape of the man that is to be.