Scrapbooks say a lot about what people value

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 26, 2002

Bev Jackson

Do people still do scrapbooks?&t;!—-&t;.

Saturday, January 26, 2002

Email newsletter signup

Do people still do scrapbooks?

I don’t mean the &uot;scrapbooking&uot; kind that includes acid-free pages and folders and fancy scissors for trimming. I mean real scrapbooks. Come to think of it, why are they called &uot;scrap books&uot;?

When I was little, everyone saved Valentines and birthday cards and postcards from friends and relatives who traveled. My mother clipped articles with words of wisdom and glued them into her scrapbooks along with magazine pictures of game birds (my dad loved hunting), a photograph of Father Flanagan fishing with a little boy, and the letter from Minnesota Gov. Wendell R. Anderson congratulating them on their 50th wedding anniversary. Years after my parents left this earth, looking through those scrapbooks brings them closer to me.

Sometime ago, a scrapbook was donated to the museum that contained newspaper columns by a Dr. George W. Crane, a psychologist at Northwestern University. Each column was something like a &uot;Dear Abby,&uot; except he covered a broad topic area including medicine, religion, unhappiness, death, politics, and even compliments. He was generous in his advice and in some cases went on at great lengths. I couldn’t resist sharing this one with you.

&uot;Every great building or new invention began as an idea in somebody’s mind, for ideas are the seeds from which actions sprout. If you wish to learn the five essentials for outstanding success, read this interesting story of the boy whose snappy comeback won him an education and thus altered his whole life.

&uot;CASE 0-225: Back about 1921, the late Dr. John Thompson developed the idea of having a skyscraper church in the heart of the Chicago loop. Many people scoffed at it. They said it couldn’t be done. But that’s what the contemporaries of Christopher Columbus and Robert Fulton said, too.

&uot;At present, a tremendous limestone church edifice stands in the heart of the Chicago Loop, raising the highest church cross in the world. Dr. Thompson’s ephemeral ‘idea’ is now crystallized in limestone and steel.

&uot;I left school to work in the mines when I was only 10-1/2 years of age,&uot; Dr. Thompson once informed me regarding his childhood in England. &uot;There were no child labor restrictions in those days, so I worked a 12-hour shift, just like the men. Our day ran from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. At 5 p.m. the horses always quit work, but the men continued for another hour. One afternoon when I was a little past 11 years of age, I blurted out: ‘Horses quit at five but asses work till six!’

&uot;The men around me roared with laughter. They passed my remark along the line. Next day some of the officials came down to find the fellow who was thus inciting treason. When they discovered that I was the guilty party, they told me I was through. Well, I needed my job, so I begged them to give me another chance. Some of the men working beside me also tried to intervene in my behalf.

&uot;Finally the big boss came along. When he heard what the argument was all about, he laughed it off, and said I could stay on the job. ‘We need boys who are smart,’ he added, and immediately made arrangements for me to enter night school. Later I won a scholarship to Oxford.

&uot;Two valuable psychological lessons are evident from this true story. First, you notice that the mediocre officials had no sense of humor, but were petty enforcers of rules. But the big boss was not a slave to the letter of the law, for he understood the spirit behind it. Big men are usually of this sort. The officious, loud-mouthed or vindictive men rarely occupy important executive roles. A second lesson to be drawn from Dr. Thompson’s experience is the fact that wisdom shows itself early. Bright youngsters, whether in English mines, city tenements, or on American farms, will soon stand out from the rank and file, just as Jesus at the age of 12 debated with the graybeards.

&uot;Health is also a factor in success. Dr. Thompson worked 12 hours per day and then attended school at night. He always got along on less sleep than the average. In this highly competitive age, men need at least five things to become outstandingly successful, which are: intelligence, health, morality, technical training, and applied psychology.

&uot;The first two of these assets are largely a matter of inheritance, though health can be greatly influenced by our environment, as through diet and vaccination. But morality, technical skill and psychology are a product of our environment. Modern young people, therefore, who grumble at their hard lot should remember that great men often work twice as hard as the average to gain their preeminence.&uot;

This philosophy is just as true today as when it was written more than 50 years ago. I wonder what future historians will find in our scrapbooks.

Bev Jackson is executive director of the Freeborn County Historical Museum.