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Garters And Amen Groans Post by :frankcrowhurst Category :Essays Author :William Cowper Brann Date :July 2011 Read :2810

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Garters And Amen Groans

On one page of the Houston Post for Sunday, December 12, I find several columns devoted to "Our Boys and Girls," on the next the following advertisement prominently displayed by a Houston haberdasher:

"Our Ladies' Garter Department: We can give you an All- Silk Garter for 50c. with nice buckles with such reading on them as 'Private Grounds,' 'Stop, Mamma is Coming,' 'Look Quick,' 'Good Night, Call Again,' 'I Am a Warm Baby,' 'Take Off Your Things,' etc."

The paper contains the usual Sunday morning quota of church notices, religious news and editorial moralizing-- constituting a delectable olla-podrida calculated to turn the stomach of a self-respecting yaller dog. Doubtless many purveyors of garters keep in stock those peculiarly adapted to the trade of the "tenderloin"; but this is the first time that I have seen such truck advertised in any paper permitted to pass through the mails or enter the homes of respectable people. Imagine a Houston parson rising from family prayers on Sunday morning and placing in the hands of his young daughter a "great moral daily" which sets forth in display type that, for the small sum of fifty cents, she can secure a pair of silken garters that warn the great he-world that she's "a warm baby," and bid it "look quick" at her shapely legs! Think of a modest old mother in Israel watching the face of her youthful son as he learns for the first time of garters that invite him to "take off your things"! Fine Sabbath morning reading that for the so- called Christian people of Harris county! Such an "ad." would forever damn even the Nashville Banner, or show in the feculent columns of the Kansas City Star like a splotch of soot on the marble face of Raphael's Madonna. The Police Gazette and Sunday Sun are debarred from the mails, yet neither ever contained aught one-half so horrible. We keep the "Decameron" and Daudet's eroticisms under lock and key; yet they are only "suggestive," while this is frankly feculent, a brazen bid for bawdry. Should the ICONOCLAST publish such a thing it would be promptly denounced from ten thousand pulpits as a pander to pruriency; yet against the iniquity of the Daily Chippie Chaser, alias the Houston Post, not one preacher has raised his voice in protest! Why? Because the dirty rag does not attack their religious dogma--does not strike at their bread and butter! The shortest route to the heart of the average parson is through his pocket--hit him there and you raise a howl that startles high Heaven. Print his church notices, report his foolish little sermons, kneel with him in prayer, slander agnostics and atheists, serve the ICONOCLAST as the foul yahoos did Gulliver, flip a plugged nickel into the contribution box, and you may safely flaunt the patois of the nymph du pave in the fair face of every honest girl between Cape Cod and the Golden Gate. And as it is with the average preacher so it is with the bulk of his parishioners. The Post introduces the language of the prostitute into the parlors of its patrons. It boasts a boys' and: girls' club--"The Happyhammers"--of more than six-hundred members, and to these children it carries the first knowledge of sexual perversity, gives them their initial lesson in social sin. Were this the paper's first offense we might attribute it to the carelessness or stupidity of a clerk in its counting-room and the incompetence of its business; manager; but it is an old, a shameless, a persistent sinner against all life's decencies and proprieties. Its "personal column" was for years the most revolting thing known to yaller journalism. Its counting-room was an assignation post-office. The paper was the recognized organ of "Happy Hollow," the Hell's Half Acre of Houston. It was a pander to all the worst passions that run riot in the "tenderloin," a procurer of young girls to glut the lust of godless libertines. Its sign was the ligniyoni, its ideal the almighty dollar. Through its feculent columns Muckle- mouthed Meg and Doll Tearsheet made assignations with forks-of-the-creeks fools, while blear-eyed bummers and rotten-livered rounders requested respectable women to meet them at unfrequented places and wear camp-meeting lingerie. The ICONOCLAST compelled its unrespected contemporary to purify its "personal column"--and this service to society has never been forgiven by the bench- legged hydrocephalous grand panjandrum of that paper. The Post next proceeded to publish a directory of Houston's red-light district, giving names and addresses of the "madames," the number of their "boarders" and the condition of the merchandise thrown upon the market. All that was necessary to make the Post's Bawdy-house Guide complete was the addition of rate- cards. On that little bit of journalistic "enterprise" the ICONOCLAST put a kibosh also, much to the satisfaction of every decent family in Harris county. Now the fecular sheet has found a new road to infamy--is advertising garters fit only to adorn the crummy underpinning of negro prostitutes. It does seem that the Post will do anything for a dollar-- except be decent. Owing to the mental perversity of its management, respectability is for it impossible. It is a social leper, a journalistic pariah. It is devoid of political principle as a thieving tomcat of conscience. It has no more stability than a bad smell in a simoon. It has deified and damned every statesman by turn. It has been on every possible side of every public question, and wept bitter tears of regret because further change of policy were impossible. It is a perfect maelstrom of misinformation, the avatar of impudence, the incarnation of infamy--a social cesspool whose malodor spreads contagion like the rank breath of the gila-monster or the shade of a upas tree. Yet its editor, I am told, aspires to the lieutenant-governorship of Texas. Verily, he's "got his gall." He will indeed be "a warm baby" if elevated to that inconsiderable office and permitted to monkey with the scepter while the governor is doing the elegant elsewhere. Texas may certainly consider herself fortunate if he does not pawn the fasces of power and blow in the proceeds of the erstwhile John Bell's variety joint. Should he do so, he will probably be permitted to "take off his things." The Post "ad." is worse than that of holy John Wanamaker, who once announced in the Philadelphia papers that "Parisian thoughts are sewn in our underwear." With such lingerie I should imagine that "call again" garters would be the proper caper. Such a combination would suggest the patent medicine certificate of the happy husband who joyfully testified that "My wife was so nervous that I could not sleep with her, but after taking two bottles of your remarkable, etc., she has so far recovered that anybody can sleep with her." Just what effect the "Parisian thought" underwear of holy John Wanamaker had upon the preeminently respectable people of Philadelphia I shall not assume to say, but I should consider such goods contraband of war when found on a Sunday-school bargain counter. Imagine the result of introducing "Parisian thoughts" into the unbleached muslin lingerie of a lot of single-standard-of-morals old maids! There's really no telling for what Harrison's professional Sunday school superintendent is responsible. He's a rank conspirator against the Seventh Commandment. The Post should be abated as an incorrigible nuisance--it is a standing menace to the morality of the community. It has never been a legitimate journal. Its chief sources of revenue have been fake voting contests and unclean "ads." that range in sphacelation from abortion pills to garters for prostitutes. What this country seems to need is a press censorship. The second-rate newspapers are mistaking liberty for license. The dogma that public opinion can be depended upon to correct the evil is an "iridescent dream"--the public will stand almost anything so long as its religious theses and political confessions of faith are let alone. Men claiming to be quasi-decent, if not altogether respectable, will carry home day after day and suffer to be read by their young daughters such a paper as the Houston Post--with its "w. y. o. d.," and "take off your things" advertisements, its puffs of abortion pills and syphilitic panaceas--who would have a conniption fit and fall in it should a copy of Bob Ingersoll's eloquent lecture on Abraham Lincoln creep into their library. The stench of such a paper creeps abroad like the malodor of a cloaca, beslimes the senses like the noxious exhalations of an open sewer. How in God's name men can be found so debased as to work on such a sheet is beyond my comprehension. I once undertook to hold down its editorial page; but soon "got sore at myself," cursed everything connected therewith, from the pink-haired president of the company to the peewee business manager, got out, purified myself and have been sick at the stomach ever since. Should a man lay a copy of the foul sheet on my parlor table, I'd blow his head off with a shotgun. All that I now see of the paper is the clippings sent me by disgusted Houstonians, and I take those out behind the barn to read-- then bury them lest they poison the hogs. I regard my temporary connection with the sheet much as Jean Valjean must his tramp through the Parisian sewers. It is a ten- legged nightmare, an infamy that I can never outlive. I strove manfully to make the foul thing respectable, but the Augean stables proved too much for my pitchfork. I managed to occasionally inject into the sphacelated sheet a quasi-intelligent idea, to disguise its feculence with a breath of sentiment that by contrast seemed an air from Araby the blest; but the stupid ignorance and dollar-worshiping of the management soon dragged it back into the noisome depths of hopeless nescience and subter-brutish degradation. Poor old Houston! A morning newspaper should be a city's crown of glory, an intellectual Aurora ushering in the new- born day; but in Houston's case her chief newspaper is a sorrow's crown of sorrow, her inexpungeable badge of shame.


(The end)
William Cowper Brann's essay: Garters And Amen Groans

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