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Spirit of Youth and the City Streets, The

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<SPAN name="CHAPTER_III" id="CHAPTER_III" />CHAPTER III<SPAN name="Page_51" id="Page_51"></SPAN></h3> <h2>THE QUEST FOR ADVENTURE</h2> <p>A certain number of the outrages upon the spirit of youth may be traced to degenerate or careless parents who totally neglect their responsibilities; a certain other large number of wrongs are due to sordid men and women who deliberately use the legitimate pleasure-seeking of young people as lures into vice. There remains, however, a third very large class of offenses for which the community as a whole must be held responsible if it would escape the condemnation, &quot;Woe unto him by whom offenses come.&quot; This class of offenses is traceable to a dense ignorance on the part of the average citizen as to the requirements of youth, and to a persistent blindness on the part of educators as to youth's most obvious needs.</p> <p>The young people are overborne by their own undirected and misguided energies. A mere temperamental outbreak in a brief period of obstreperousness exposes a promising boy to arrest and imprisonment, an accidental combination of circumstances too complicated and overwhelming to be coped with by an immature mind, condemns a growing lad to a criminal career. These impulsive misdeeds may be thought of as dividing into two great trends somewhat obscurely analogous to the two historic divisions of man's motive power, for we are told that all the activities of primitive man and even those of his more civilized successors may be broadly traced to the impulsion of two elemental appetites. The first drove him to the search for food, the hunt developing into war with neighboring tribes and finally broadening into barter and modern commerce; the second urged him to secure and protect a mate, developing into domestic life, widening into the building of homes and cities, into the cultivation of the arts and a care for beauty.</p> <p>In the life of each boy there comes a time when these primitive instincts urge him to action, when he is himself frightened by their undefined power. He is faced by the necessity of taming them, of reducing them to manageable impulses just at the moment when &quot;a boy's will is the wind's will,&quot; or, in the words of a veteran educator, at the time when &quot;it is almost impossible for an adult to realize the boy's irresponsibility and even moral neurasthenia.&quot; That the boy often fails may be traced in those pitiful figures which show that between two and three times as much incorrigibility occurs between the ages of thirteen and sixteen as at any other period of life.</p> <p>The second division of motive power has been treated in the preceding chapter. The present chapter is an effort to point out the necessity for an understanding of the first trend of motives if we would minimize the temptations of the struggle and free the boy from the constant sense of the stupidity and savagery of life. To set his feet in the worn path of civilization is not an easy task, but it may give us a clue for the undertaking to trace his misdeeds to the unrecognized and primitive spirit of adventure corresponding to the old activity of the hunt, of warfare, and of discovery.</p> <p>To do this intelligently, we shall have to remember that many boys in the years immediately following school find no restraint either in tradition or character. They drop learning as a childish thing and look upon school as a tiresome task that is finished. They demand pleasure as the right of one who earns his own living. They have developed no capacity for recreation demanding mental effort or even muscular skill, and are obliged to seek only that depending upon sight, sound and taste. Many of them begin to pay board to their mothers, and make the best bargain they can, that more money may be left to spend in the evening. They even bait the excitement of &quot;losing a job,&quot; and often provoke a foreman if only to see &quot;how much he will stand.&quot; They are constitutionally unable to enjoy anything continuously and follow their vagrant wills unhindered. Unfortunately the city lends itself to this distraction. At the best, it is difficult to know what to select and what to eliminate as objects of attention among its thronged streets, its glittering shops, its gaudy advertisements of shows and amusements. It is perhaps to the credit of many city boys that the very first puerile spirit of adventure looking abroad in the world for material upon which to exercise itself, seems to center about the railroad. The impulse is not unlike that which excites the coast-dwelling lad to dream of</p> <p> <span style="margin-left: 2em;">&quot;The beauty and mystery of the ships</span><br /> <span style="margin-left: 2em;">And the magic of the sea.&quot;</span><br /> </p> <p>I cite here a dozen charges upon which boys were brought into the Juvenile Court of Chicago, all of which might be designated as deeds of adventure. A surprising number, as the reader will observe, are connected with railroads. They are taken from the court records and repeat the actual words used by police officers, irate neighbors, or discouraged parents, when the boys were brought before the judge. (1) Building fires along the railroad tracks; (2) flagging trains; (3) throwing stones at moving train windows; (4) shooting at the actors in the Olympic Theatre with sling shots; (5) breaking signal lights on the railroad; (6) stealing linseed oil barrels from the railroad to make a fire; (7) taking waste from an axle box and burning it upon the railroad tracks; (8) turning a switch and running a street car off the track; (9) staying away from home to sleep in barns; (10) setting fire to a barn in order to see the fire engines come up the street; (11) knocking down signs; (12) cutting Western Union cable.</p> <p>Another dozen charges also taken from actual court records might be added as illustrating the spirit of adventure, for although stealing is involved in all of them, the deeds were doubtless inspired much more by the adventurous impulse than by a desire for the loot itself:</p> <p>(1) Stealing thirteen pigeons from a barn; (2) stealing a bathing suit; (3) stealing a tent; (4) stealing ten dollars from mother with which to buy a revolver; (5) stealing a horse blanket to use at night when it was cold sleeping on the wharf; (6) breaking a seal on a freight car to steal &quot;grain for chickens&quot;; (7) stealing apples from a freight car; (8) stealing a candy peddler's wagon &quot;to be full up just for once&quot;; (9) stealing a hand car; (10) stealing a bicycle to take a ride; (11) stealing a horse and buggy and driving twenty-five miles into the country; (12) stealing a stray horse on the prairie and trying to sell it for twenty dollars.</p> <p>Of another dozen it might be claimed that they were also due to this same adventurous spirit, although the first six were classed as disorderly conduct: (1) Calling a neighbor a &quot;scab&quot;; (2) breaking down a fence; (3) flipping cars; (4) picking up coal from railroad tracks; (5) carrying a concealed &quot;dagger,&quot; and stabbing a playmate with it; (6) throwing stones at a railroad employee. The next three were called vagrancy: (1) Loafing on the docks; (2) &quot;sleeping out&quot; nights; (3) getting &quot;wandering spells.&quot; One, designated petty larceny, was cutting telephone wires under the sidewalk and selling them; another, called burglary, was taking locks off from basement doors; and the last one bore the dignified title of &quot;resisting an officer&quot; because the boy, who was riding on the fender of a street car, refused to move when an officer ordered him off.</p> <p>Of course one easily recalls other cases in which the manifestations were negative. I remember an exasperated and frightened mother who took a boy of fourteen into court upon the charge of incorrigibility. She accused him of &quot;shooting craps,&quot; &quot;smoking cigarettes,&quot; &quot;keeping bad company,&quot; &quot;being idle.&quot; The mother regrets it now, however, for she thinks that taking a boy into court only gives him a bad name, and that &quot;the police are down on a boy who has once been in court, and that that makes it harder for him.&quot; She hardly recognizes her once troublesome charge in the steady young man of nineteen who brings home all his wages and is the pride and stay of her old age.</p> <p>I recall another boy who worked his way to New York and back again to Chicago before he was quite fourteen years old, skilfully escaping the truant officers as well as the police and special railroad detectives. He told his story with great pride, but always modestly admitted that he could never have done it if his father had not been a locomotive engineer so that he had played around railroad tracks and &quot;was onto them ever since he was a small kid.&quot;</p> <p>There are many of these adventurous boys who exhibit a curious incapacity for any effort which requires sustained energy. They show an absolute lack of interest in the accomplishment of what they undertake, so marked that if challenged in the midst of their activity, they will be quite unable to tell you the end they have in view. Then there are those tramp boys who are the despair of every one who tries to deal with them.</p> <p>I remember the case of a boy who traveled almost around the world in the years lying between the ages of eleven and fifteen. He had lived for six months in Honolulu where he had made up his mind to settle when the irresistible &quot;Wanderlust&quot; again seized him. He was scrupulously neat in his habits and something of a dandy in appearance. He boasted that he had never stolen, although he had been arrested several times on the charge of vagrancy, a fate which befell him in Chicago and landed him in the Detention Home connected with the Juvenile Court. The judge gained a personal hold upon him, and the lad tried with all the powers of his untrained moral nature to &quot;make good and please the judge.&quot; Monotonous factory work was not to be thought of in connection with him, but his good friend the judge found a place for him as a bell-boy in a men's club, where it was hoped that the uniform and the variety of experience might enable him to take the first steps toward regular pay and a settled life. Through another bell-boy, however, he heard of the find of a diamond carelessly left in one of the wash rooms of the club. The chance to throw out mysterious hints of its whereabouts, to bargain for its restoration, to tell of great diamond deals he had heard of in his travels, inevitably laid him open to suspicion which resulted in his dismissal, although he had had nothing to do with the matter beyond gloating over its adventurous aspects. In spite of skilful efforts made to detain him, he once more started on his travels, throwing out such diverse hints as that of &quot;a trip into Old Mexico,&quot; or &quot;following up Roosevelt into Africa.&quot;</p> <p>There is an entire series of difficulties directly traceable to the foolish and adventurous persistence of carrying loaded firearms. The morning paper of the day in which I am writing records the following:</p> <div class="blockquot"><p>&quot;A party of boys, led by Daniel O'Brien, thirteen years old, had gathered in front of the house and O'Brien was throwing stones at Nieczgodzki in revenge for a whipping that he received at his hands about a month ago. The Polish boy ordered them away and threatened to go into the house and get a revolver if they did not stop. Pfister, one of the boys in O'Brien's party, called him a coward, and when he pulled a revolver from his pocket, dared him to put it away and meet him in a fist fight in the street. Instead of accepting the challenge, Nieczgodzki aimed his revolver at Pfister and fired. The bullet crashed through the top of his head and entered the brain. He was rushed to the Alexian Brothers' Hospital, but died a short time after being received there. Nieczgodzki was arrested and held without bail.&quot;</p></div> <p>This tale could be duplicated almost every morning; what might be merely a boyish scrap is turned into a tragedy because some boy has a revolver.</p> <p>Many citizens in Chicago have been made heartsick during the past month by the knowledge that a boy of nineteen was lodged in the county jail awaiting the death penalty. He had shot and killed a policeman during the scrimmage of an arrest, although the offense for which he was being &quot;taken in&quot; was a trifling one. His parents came to Chicago twenty years ago from a little farm in Ohio, the best type of Americans, whom we boast to be the backbone of our cities. The mother, who has aged and sickened since the trial, can only say that &quot;Davie was never a bad boy until about five years ago when he began to go with this gang who are always looking out for fun.&quot;</p> <p>Then there are those piteous cases due to a perfervid imagination which fails to find material suited to its demands. I can recall misadventures of children living within a few blocks of Hull-House which may well fill with chagrin those of us who are trying to administer to their deeper needs. I remember a Greek boy of fifteen who was arrested for attempting to hang a young Turk, stirred by some vague notion of carrying on a traditional warfare, and of adding another page to the heroic annals of Greek history. When sifted, the incident amounted to little more than a graphic threat and the lad was dismissed by the court, covered with confusion and remorse that he had brought disgrace upon the name of Greece when he had hoped to add to its glory.</p> <p>I remember with a lump in my throat the Bohemian boy of thirteen who committed suicide because he could not &quot;make good&quot; in school, and wished to show that he too had &quot;the stuff&quot; in him, as stated in the piteous little letter left behind. This same love of excitement, the desire to jump out of the humdrum experience of life, also induces boys to experiment with drinks and drugs to a surprising extent. For several years the residents of Hull-House struggled with the difficulty of prohibiting the sale of cocaine to minors under a totally inadequate code of legislation, which has at last happily been changed to one more effective and enforcible. The long effort brought us into contact with dozens of boys who had become victims of the cocaine habit. The first group of these boys was discovered in the house of &quot;Army George.&quot; This one-armed man sold cocaine on the streets and also in the levee district by a system of signals so that the word cocaine need never be mentioned, and the style and size of the package was changed so often that even a vigilant police found it hard to locate it. What could be more exciting to a lad than a traffic in a contraband article, carried on in this mysterious fashion? I recall our experience with a gang of boys living on a neighboring street. There were eight of them altogether, the eldest seventeen years of age, the youngest thirteen, and they practically lived the life of vagrants. What answered to their club house was a corner lot on Harrison and Desplaines Streets, strewn with old boilers, in which they slept by night and many times by day. The gang was brought to the attention of Hull-House during the summer of 1904 by a distracted mother, who suspected that they were all addicted to some drug. She was terribly frightened over the state of her youngest boy of thirteen, who was hideously emaciated and his mind reduced almost to vacancy. I remember the poor woman as she sat in the reception room at Hull-House, holding the unconscious boy in her arms, rocking herself back and forth in her fright and despair, saying: &quot;I have seen them go with the drink, and eat the hideous opium, but I never knew anything like this.&quot;</p> <p>An investigation showed that cocaine had first been offered to these boys on the street by a colored man, an agent of a drug store, who had given them samples and urged them to try it. In three or four months they had become hopelessly addicted to its use, and at the end of six months, when they were brought to Hull-House, they were all in a critical condition. At that time not one of them was either going to school or working. They stole from their parents, &quot;swiped junk,&quot; pawned their clothes and shoes,&mdash;did any desperate thing to &quot;get the dope,&quot; as they called it.</p> <p>Of course they continually required more, and had spent as much as eight dollars a night for cocaine, which they used to &quot;share and share alike.&quot; It sounds like a large amount, but it really meant only four doses each during the night, as at that time they were taking twenty-five cents' worth at once if they could possibly secure it. The boys would tell nothing for three or four days after they were discovered, in spite of the united efforts of their families, the police, and the residents of Hull-House. But finally the superior boy of the gang, the manliest and the least debauched, told his tale, and the others followed in quick succession. They were willing to go somewhere to be helped, and were even eager if they could go together, and finally seven of them were sent to the Presbyterian Hospital for four weeks' treatment and afterwards all went to the country together for six weeks more. The emaciated child gained twenty pounds during his sojourn in the hospital, the head of which testified that at least three of the boys could have stood but little more of the irregular living and doping. At the present moment they are all, save one, doing well, although they were rescued so late that they seemed to have but little chance. One is still struggling with the appetite on an Iowa farm and dares not trust himself in the city because he knows too well how cocaine may be procured in spite of better legislation. It is doubtful whether these boys could ever have been pulled through unless they had been allowed to keep together through the hospital and convalescing period,&mdash;unless we had been able to utilize the gang spirit and to turn its collective force towards overcoming the desire for the drug.</p> <p>The desire to dream and see visions also plays an important part with the boys who habitually use cocaine. I recall a small hut used by boys for this purpose. They washed dishes in a neighboring restaurant and as soon as they had earned a few cents they invested in cocaine which they kept pinned underneath their suspenders. When they had accumulated enough for a real debauch they went to this hut and for several days were dead to the outside world. One boy told me that in his dreams he saw large rooms paved with gold and silver money, the walls papered with greenbacks, and that he took away in buckets all that he could carry.</p> <p>This desire for adventure also seizes girls. A group of girls ranging in age from twelve to seventeen was discovered in Chicago last June, two of whom were being trained by older women to open tills in small shops, to pick pockets, to remove handkerchiefs, furs and purses and to lift merchandise from the counters of department stores. All the articles stolen were at once taken to their teachers and the girls themselves received no remuneration, except occasional sprees to the theaters or other places of amusement. The girls gave no coherent reason for their actions beyond the statement that they liked the excitement and the fun of it. Doubtless to the thrill of danger was added the pleasure and interest of being daily in the shops and the glitter of &quot;down town.&quot; The boys are more indifferent to this downtown life, and are apt to carry on their adventures on the docks, the railroad tracks or best of all upon the unoccupied prairie.</p> <p>This inveterate demand of youth that life shall afford a large element of excitement is in a measure well founded. We know of course that it is necessary to accept excitement as an inevitable part of recreation, that the first step in recreation is &quot;that excitement which stirs the worn or sleeping centers of a man's body and mind.&quot; It is only when it is followed by nothing else that it defeats its own end, that it uses up strength and does not create it. In the actual experience of these boys the excitement has demoralized them and led them into law-breaking. When, however, they seek legitimate pleasure, and say with great pride that they are &quot;ready to pay for it,&quot; what they find is legal but scarcely more wholesome,&mdash;it is still merely excitement. &quot;Looping the loop&quot; amid shrieks of simulated terror or dancing in disorderly saloon halls, are perhaps the natural reactions to a day spent in noisy factories and in trolley cars whirling through the distracting streets, but the city which permits them to be the acme of pleasure and recreation to its young people, commits a grievous mistake.</p> <p>May we not assume that this love for excitement, this desire for adventure, is basic, and will be evinced by each generation of city boys as a challenge to their elders? And yet those of us who live in Chicago are obliged to confess that last year there were arrested and brought into court fifteen thousand young people under the age of twenty, who had failed to keep even the common law of the land. Most of these young people had broken the law in their blundering efforts to find adventure and in response to the old impulse for self-expression. It is said indeed that practically the whole machinery of the grand jury and of the criminal courts is maintained and operated for the benefit of youths between the ages of thirteen and twenty-five. Men up to ninety years of age, it is true, commit crimes, but they are not characterized by the recklessness, the bravado and the horror which have stained our records in Chicago. An adult with the most sordid experience of life and the most rudimentary notion of prudence, could not possibly have committed them. Only a utilization of that sudden burst of energy belonging partly to the future could have achieved them, only a capture of the imagination and of the deepest emotions of youth could have prevented them!</p> <p>Possibly these fifteen thousand youths were brought to grief because the adult population assumed that the young would be able to grasp only that which is presented in the form of sensation; as if they believed that youth could thus early become absorbed in a hand to mouth existence, and so entangled in materialism that there would be no reaction against it. It is as though we were deaf to the appeal of these young creatures, claiming their share of the joy of life, flinging out into the dingy city their desires and aspirations after unknown realities, their unutterable longings for companionship and pleasure. Their very demand for excitement is a protest against the dullness of life, to which we ourselves instinctively respond.</p> <hr style="width: 65%;" /> <h3>
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