COBWEB CORNERS: The problem with reading!

By Mel McFarland

       In the distant past there was a problem that is still with us, but it has changed. As each generation matures, there is something that is seen as a hazard to our youth. Video games, too much television, skateboards, yo-yos… yes, even yo-yos and squirt guns have had their day as hazards to our children. I am sure you can add to the list. In my days as a teacher, it seemed as if every year there was a new one to distract the children.
       Today I want to go way back. When I saw this story, I immediately thought of the movie, "The Music Man." Perhaps you too will see the connection. This one was an order issued by several railroads to agents along the line. They were told to monitor the reading materials - particularly the dime novels with questionable titles and subjects - that were being sold in the small stores in the different train stations. It seems that the railroads were having problems with people "getting ideas" from some of these publications. The railroads were not into being critics or censors, but there were some topics they did not want available to their patrons, such as how to hold up trains. Novels of this type were becoming quite popular a hundred years ago. Some of the cowboys and bandits featured in sometimes outrageous adventures are still known to us - the James brothers and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, for example. The railroads believed that stories about Indian fighters and crime fighters were much more acceptable.
       "Why does not the public cry out against it? To banish such magazines is a step toward civilization and honor. The stories are bad enough, and to add illustrations to it - virtual diagrams showing how to go about such things - is simply unspeakable." Oh man, think if they'd had television then! Or the Internet!