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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

 
 
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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • CARNAVAL EN LA HABANA, 1941

Neil Power: 1913

Neil Power: 1913

April 1913. Rome, Georgia. Neil Power, 10 years old. Said "turns stockings in Rome Hosiery Mill." A shy, pathetic figure. "Hain't been to school much." Photo and caption by Lewis Wickes Hine. View full size.

 

Spirit and image?

Pardon, good sir, have you mayhaps seen my older brother Shorpy?

He is part of the luckiest generation

His circumstances may seem dire to the average modern young person, but at least he has not had every whim catered to since the day he was born giving him the overwhelming sense of entitlement and ultimate disappointment of today's youth. He probably has more self-reliance and resourcefulness than the average 25 year old of today. He will be too young for the Great War as it was called, but will reach young manhood during the prosperous, booming years of the Roaring 20's. He'll be able to find a job anywhere and marry a cute flapper. He'll have to negotiate the Depression, it's true, but he won't be alone either--my parents were his age and older and were never umemployed in the 30's. He'll be too old for WW II, but will again find employment looking for him. He'll reap the rewards of the great postwar prosperity while only in his late 40's and 50's and probably stay with the same employer until he retires with a pension and health insurance, all the while enjoying all the scientific advances that parallelled his lifetime--not a bad prospect at all. Today's young people should wish they had it so good.

Only 97 years ago

I showed this photo to my 4th grade students yesterday. I was amazed at the lack of appreciation for today's lifestyle. A majority felt Neil Power was "lucky" that he didn't have to go to school. Very few understood that he HAD to work instead of attending school.

As they say in Georgia,

"Well bless his heart." The word "pathetic" has a few different meanings, i.e. (1) evoking pity, (2) moving the feelings, (3) pertaining to or caused by feelings and (4) miserably inadequate. Neil Power may have fit the first three but I'm pretty sure he was not "miserably inadequate" because he did work, he earned bread and most likely helped support his family.

Our current obsession with "self-esteem" seems to have turned us all into blithering idiots. I say this because I just read in yesterday's paper that kids in phys ed class in Massachusetts are jumping rope without ropes because it is feared that tripping over the rope or getting tangled in the rope will destroy a kid's self-esteem.

I think I would prefer my 10 year old to work in a stocking factory than to learn to jump rope without a rope. (And now we will all pretend we are driving on the interstate -- first, imagine you are in a car ... )

Turns stockings

but has none of his own to wear. Or, hain't got any of his own to wear.

Not Pathetic

I do not know why he was called pathetic. Someone can work a hard, rough job and be a good person and have a good life.

"Gap" between Rich and Poor

I think if you went to right areas of this country, you would still find poverty like this. Just because you don't see it doesn't mean it is not there. I would expect the Palm Springs people didn't know.

A hard-knock life

My heart goes out to Neil -- he looks so forlorn. A ratty, filthy sweater full of holes. A hand-me-down belt barely big enough to stretch across his belly. Mud-splattered legs. No shoes. He hasn't even bothered to cinch his knickers at the knee. And he's 10 years old. Didn't his parents care? Was there no adult at work to help him? This is the side of capitalism that most of us pretend doesn't exist.

One of the earliest

Looks like a small fanny pack the lad is wearing. Probably supposed to be used for coins, which were most likely hard to come by for this boy.

The other side

of the era. The "Dirty Job" if you will. He works at a stockings factory yet has none himself. Such a contrast from the privious picture of Palm Springs.

Lew Hine

A do-gooder, yes, but also kind of a snob.

Class Distinction

The contrast between the photo of this shoeless, scruffy, unschooled young lad and the jaunty Palm Beach tennis players in the previous photo couldn't be more striking. Thank goodness we have managed to eliminate the gap between rich and poor in this country over the past 100 years.

Stocking Feat

This lad looks shy to be sure. Would love to know what he went on to do with his life. Maybe one day we will see a photo on Shorpy with Neil's feet propped up on his desk as President and CEO of the Rome Hosiery Mill. Hey, it might have happened!!

 
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