The Code of Honor
Down in Danville, Kentucky, two reporters are adding another chapter to the history of journalism. For their refusal to divulge the source of information relative to a prediction that a Representative was to be hung in effigy, they are being held in contempt of court, passing several hours each day in jail. In the meantime, their fame is spreading through the nation and every newspaper will benefit through their adherence to professional ethics.
If all Kentucky is like Danville, that state must be an unhealthy place for columnists. We don't have trouble like that in this section of the country, where not only officials, but all citizens seem to realize that there is an honor code even among gossipers. When I broke into the writing game, it was monotonous to hear the question, "Where did you get that story?" But it took only a few months to get things straightened out, and it is very seldom now that anyone commits such a faux pas.
The only reason for my mentioning this subject is the lingering fear in the minds of some who would become Main Street contributors if it were not for the dread of being held responsible for articles that appear here. That same dread accounts for the anonymous communications that drop in every now and then, but there have been so few of them in recent weeks that there is no need of complaint on that score. Take heart, ye timid, this isn't Kentucky, and if anybody is going to be hanged in effigy I want to know about it.
The very trees have eyes and ears, and if you don't believe it ask George (Gyp) Rossi, who was a worried man as he hiked along the highway north of Broadalbin. It was an odds-on chance that he would get that maple syrup can from the gas station to the new car before anyone would see him. He made a nice try, but failed.
Although the average machine must be given a five-gallon drink at a time if the operator is to ride in comfort, Gyp's new gas buggy seemed to be different. Each time he stopped at a station he bought three gallons -- no more, no less. And always the gas gauge read 1/3 full. It registered this amount at the moment the motor went poof and quit cold on the Broadalbin-Saratoga road. That was the time Gyp baled out with the maple syrup can in which there was no sap to make a story that contains no sap either. The best of us make mistakes.
Even Mike Fratangelo, the Bridge Street barber, made a mistake in thinking that it would be a simple matter to cook an open-air Sunday dinner. They started for the Saratoga section in search of a place to safely build a fire. The stuff they put in the family buggy was enough to feed a regiment for a week, but an outing is an outing, and they were playing safe. However, it seemed that all New York State was cooking out that day. Afternoon came and with it the decision that it would be better to take the car-load of broilers, spaghetti, etc., back home and cook it there.
How come they were seen beside a road side stand? Well, as Jimmy Durante would say -- mutiny, that's what it was. The youngsters got a whiff of appetizing hot dogs and papa's troubles grew rapidly worse.
A blind couple sauntered, arm in arm, down the main stem. Her well-trained soprano voice of excellent quality was accompanied on a stringed instrument carried by the man -- a musical offering far above the average heard on the street. Among the listeners was a man who stood in a nearby doorway. Humming the familiar melodies of the Moody and Sankey vintage, he finally gained courage and joined the soprano with a resonant baritone. The crowd grew larger. Nickels and dimes dropped faster. Then the volunteer singer backed out of the picture and the two blind musicians continued. A kindly deed and well done, an example of the great human interest to be found along a small-town Main Street.
Another fire at Fort Johnson last night. No, the new fire department did not turn out. One very good reason why it didn't is that there isn't any new department. The villagers are still undecided whether it is safe to allow their young men to congregate and play cards in the proposed engine house -- when there would be no particular advantage except the saving of village homes in case of fire. Many homes have been burned down ... no, that's wrong, have been burned up ... hold it, that doesn't sound right, either ... have been consumed by fire during the past decade, and only one, so far as I can learn, has been rebuilt. The losses in assessed valuation, of course, are spread among the other taxpayers, but they don't seem to mind it. Toss the furniture out on the lawn and let 'er go -- that seems to be the motto of the majority. Who cares if the others are burnt up?
This was originally published August 2, 1934.