“A Big Job for a Boy”: In this editorial cartoon in the Star-Telegram of one century ago today, the new year personified sits in his office at “F. Time and Co.” and rolls up his sleeves as he prepares to face the challenges that lie ahead in 1917: “Mexico,” “social unrest,” “peace negotiations,” “high cost of living,” “preparedness,” and “after the war what?”
America was not yet at war as the new year began, but much of Europe was, and that war is what the “peace negotiations,” “preparedness,” and “after the war what?” on F. Time’s to-do list referred to. And the Star-Telegram’s first front page of 1917 was not a hopeful one. News of the war dominated. The “U.S. Note” in the banner headline refers to a note sent in December 1916 by President Woodrow Wilson. Seeking a diplomatic end to the war, Wilson dispatched a note to the governments of the belligerent nations asking from them “an avowal of their respective views as to the terms upon which the war might be concluded and the arrangements which would be deemed satisfactory as a guaranty against its renewal . . . in the future.”
The news brief reports that England suffered 37,165 casualties (roughly the population of Hurst today) during the first twenty-three days of December.
The “Mexico” on F. Time’s to-do list referred to the problem of Mexican revolutionary leader Pancho Villa. By January 1, 1917 the United States had spent $17 million (1.3 billion today) as General John J. Pershing and ten thousand American regular army troops and national guardsmen tried to catch Villa.
They never did.
By June Pershing would be in Europe, leading the American Expeditionary Forces after America entered World War I.
In January 1917 you could sail from Galveston to New York City or from Miami to Havana on the SS Henry R. Mallory, named after the president of the steamship company. But you’d have to hurry: In May 1917, after America entered the war, the Mallory would be drafted: It served as a transport and troop ship for the Navy and Army in both world wars. In 1942 German U-boat 402 sank the Mallory with the loss of 272 American sailors.
The comic opera The Princess Pat and the Viennese operetta The Blue Paradise were performed on stage at the Majestic Theater.
Showing at the Hippodrome Theater at 1106 Main Street was The Matrimoniac, a silent comedy short starring Douglas Fairbanks. Note that although these theaters showed movies, they also presented live music.
Poster from Wikipedia.
Back in the classified ads section of the January 1 Star-Telegram, these houses all had a screened or sleeping porch. A sleeping porch was a screened private porch as distinguished from the public front porch of a house. A sleeping porch could be on any floor of the house. Before air-conditioning, sleeping porches were popular in the South because of our hot summers and mild winters.
Don’t let the wording of this report mislead. The phrase “were charged with offenses” means charged by a mob, not by the legal system. Most of the lynchings occurred in the South. In fact, more than 25 percent of the lynchings occurred in Georgia, which in 1915 had been the birthplace of the second incarnation of the Ku Klux Klan.
In 1917 America was still adjusting to the changes wrought by the age of the automobile. Jitneurs were drivers of jitneys, which were free-lance taxis. Jitneys usually traveled a fixed route, as buses later would.
The rise of jitneys was the result of two developments: the economic recession of 1913-1914 and the increasing used-car market as America shook, rattled, and rolled through its second decade of flivver fever. Men who were out of work could buy a cheap second-hand car and earn money as a jitneur.
In the beginning jitneys and their drivers were not regulated—no safety inspection, no licensing or bonding. Then municipal governments hurriedly began to regulate jitneys, partly at the urging of streetcar companies, who feared the competition.
The term jitney to mean “free-lance taxi” derived from the slang term for a nickel, which was the fare charged by jitneurs.
The Twenty-Fourth Amendment, ratified in 1964, would abolish the poll tax as a precondition for voting in federal elections.
On Jennings Avenue on the near South Side, Central High School Principal R. L. Paschal announced that thirty to thirty-five students would graduate in the midwinter class. Ernest Parker was vice principal (the building would later become a junior high school named after Parker). Among the Central High teachers in 1917 was Lily B. Clayton.
On the East Side, two hundred merrymakers ushered in the new year at Glen Garden Country Club.
And on Rosedale Avenue, at the home of Mr. and Mrs. S. S. Dillow members of the Woman’s Missionary Society entertained their husbands. Meanwhile, two Polyites suffered from la grippe (influenza). La grippe would soon become a killer of epic proportions: The flu pandemic of 1918-1920 would kill 50-100 million people (3-5 percent of the world’s population) in one of the deadliest natural disasters in history.
But if you believed the ads for patent medicines, a swig or two of Miller’s Antiseptic Oil (previously labeled “Snake Oil”) would cure what ails you. Despite the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, patent medicines still flourished in 1917.
These Boomers got there sooner: An Oklahoma couple was the first issued a marriage license in Tarrant County in the new year.
No marriage license for this couple. Rumors were that Edward Albert, prince of Wales, twenty-three, would marry Princess Yolanda of Italy, sixteen. That did not come about. Instead, Edward Albert would play the field into the early 1930s. Then he would fall in love with Wallis Simpson, a married American socialite. In January 1936 Edward Albert, with Mrs. Simpson now his mistress, would become King Edward VIII. In December the king would abdicate the throne so that he could marry Simpson, who was still married. All this made Wallis Simpson the Kardashian of her time on both sides of the Atlantic. In fact, in 1936 Billy Rose offered Simpson $100,000 ($1.6 million today) to appear for four weeks at Fort Worth’s Frontier Centennial.
That, too, did not come about.