Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Mary Jane Down South in Birmingham

Author Clara Ingram Judson was born in Indiana in 1879 and died in 1960. Over her long career she published some 70 books for young readers. Many were biographies of prominent American men such as presidents George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. 

Nineteen of her titles appeared in the "Mary Jane" series published between 1918 and 1939. These books demonstrated lessons on how to get along with others, and some followed young Mary Jane's travels, which took her everywhere from New England and Canada to France, England, Scotland, Switzerland, Spain and Holland. Other volumes explored her activities at school, on vacation and winter sports. 

The May Jane books were published by Grosset and Dunlap. The firm was founded in 1898 and still exists today as part of the PenguinRandomHouse group. In the first half of the 20th century G&D issued numerous titles in such iconic series for young people as the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, the Bobbsey Twins, Cherry Ames, Tom Swift and many others. Back in the day I was a major fan of the Hardy Boys books. The firm continues to publish around 170 titles for children annually.

In 1919 Judson's fourth book in the series appeared, Mary Jane Down South. Since her father had a two week business trip south, the whole Merrill family went to "the tropical part of their country"--dad, mom, twelve year-old Alice and five year-old Mary Jane. Much of the time is spent in Florida, especially Jacksonville, St. Augustine and Daytona. They see lots of exotic flora and fauna such as ostriches and alligators.

Setting off on the trip, the Merrills take a night train from their home in the Midwest and sleep until the next morning. Alice and Mary Jane spend the day in the library car reading the "funnies" or in the observation car watching the landscape go by. "As long as the daylight lasted, the girls strained their eyes to see all that might be seen of the coal country. And just after the sun set behind the iron mountains leaving the darkness of a winter evening behind, they noticed flashes of light off to the south-east. 'The steel furnaces of Birmingham,' said Mr. Merrill, ' and you shall see them close up too tomorrow. But now it's time to get our things on to meet Uncle Will.'"

The rest of chapter two, "The Day in Birmingham" covers their time in the city. Alice takes a photograph of a young black boy, and Mr. Merrill gives him a quarter. The child rewards them all with a great big smile. Later the girls are impressed with the noise and confusion of a steel mill. Mary Jane likes the houses on all the hills in the "beautiful city". Yet nowhere in the chapter is Birmingham referred to as the "Magic City". 

You can read all the details below. 


All Aboard for Florida!11
The Day in Birmingham24
At the Ostrich Farm39
The Boat’s A-Fire!53
A Bit of Sunny Spain68
Whoa! Please Whoa!81
Luncheon by the Old Well94
A Day on the Beach108
At Sea in a Storm122
Walking the Plank135
Catching the Boat146
On the Ocklawaha159
Help Yourselves, Children! Help Yourselves!172
Pigs by the Way185
Home Again198


“BEG pardon, Miss?” The colored waiter in the dining car bent lower, the better to hear Mary Jane’s order.
“That’s all I want,” said Mary Jane in surprise; “just two orders of hashed brown potatoes and not anything else.”
“Oh, Mary Jane,” laughed Mrs. Merrill, “do have something else. And you must have a little fruit. Suppose you get an orange and then some cereal and then one order of potatoes—two would be too much.”
“Yes, it would if I had to eat all that first,” said Mary Jane sadly. “But I’ve been counting on those potatoes, Mother! You remember the good ones we had on the diner coming home from Grandmother’s last25 summer? And you know I ate more than one order then.”
“So you did,” agreed Mrs. Merrill, “and I promised you that you should have all you wanted next time we ate in a diner. Very well, suppose we compromise. You eat the orange and you may skip the cereal this time. But I think she had better have only one order of potatoes at the time,” she added to the waiter, “for they will get cool.”
While Mary Jane was eating her orange she looked out of the window at the changing scene. All through the night when she had been soundly sleeping, the train had carried her south through the prairies she was used to seeing, south through the wooded stretches and dull brown fields. And now, early the next morning, she found herself riding through the edges of coal lands. Long strings of loaded coal cars stood upon the railroad sidings; groups of workers stood about the tiny stations the train flew past26 and the whole country seemed strange and different to the little girl.
But with all her watching out of the window, Mary Jane didn’t miss noticing the twinkle in the eye of the waiter and she whispered to her sister, “Alice! I think that waiter man thinks it’s funny to like potatoes and I think he’s making me some nice ones, I do.”
And so it proved, for when the orange was eaten, he set before Mary Jane the biggest platter of hashed brown potatoes she had ever seen. All brown and nice they were, with bits of parsley ’round the side and a pat of butter for her own particular use.
“Yumy-yum!” exclaimed Mary Jane as the platter was put before her, “I’m so glad I came!” And there was no watching scenery till every scrap of potato on the platter was eaten up.
“Want your other order now?” asked27 Mrs. Merrill, when she saw that nothing but parsley was left on the platter.
“Well—” replied Mary Jane doubtfully, “do you suppose they’ll have hashed brown potatoes for lunch? ’Cause if they will, I think I’ll save my other order till then. I’m not just as hungry as I was.”
“Good reason why,” laughed Alice, “come on, let’s not eat any more now. Let’s go into the observation car.”
The girls found riding in the observation car almost as much fun as eating in the diner. First they stood out on the “back porch” as Mary Jane called it and got good breaths of fresh air; then they came inside and settled themselves in big easy chairs and looked at all the “funny papers” they found in the car library—that took a long time because there were so many. Next they wrote letters, Mary Jane didn’t really write to be sure, but she drew a very good picture of the28 coal cars they passed on the way and of hills and valleys and put it in an envelope ready to send to Doris; and Alice wrote a nice long letter to her chum, Frances. And then, much to every one’s surprise, the dining car man came through the train calling, “First call for luncheon! Dining car third car in front!” and it was time to wash up ready to eat again.
In the afternoon the country they were passing proved so interesting that Mary Jane and Alice didn’t even try to look at books or magazines. For the mountains had grown higher and more interesting every mile of the way. Now they passed great holes in the ground out from which came little cars full of freshly mined coal, and Mr. Merrill explained to the girls all about how coal was dug out of the earth, loaded on those queer little cars and sent up to the sunshine ready to be loaded into railroad cars to take away for folks to use. And they29 passed mining villages tucked down in the valleys. Some had great, rough barracks where all the miners lived. Some, and those were the most interesting to the girls, had groups of tiny little shacks where the miners lived with their families. They saw children playing, women working at their house work, and here and there a miner, his lamp on his head, going off to the mine for his work. Mary Jane and Alice had never realized till they saw those funny little lamps, fastened to the miner’s cap, how queer it must seem to work hours down, down, down, deep in the darkness of the earth.
“I do believe,” said Alice thoughtfully, “that I’ll always notice more about coal now that I can guess better how hard it is to work down in the ground.”
As long as the daylight lasted, the girls strained their eyes to see all that might be seen of the coal country. And just after the30 sun set behind the iron mountains leaving the darkness of a winter evening behind, they noticed flashes of light off to the south-east.
“The steel furnaces of Birmingham,” said Mr. Merrill, “and you shall see them close too, to-morrow. But now it’s time to get our things on to meet Uncle Will.”
They hustled back to their own car to find that the porter had carefully picked up their things and that everything was ready for them to slip into their wraps and get off the train. So there was still time to watch out into the darkness and see more of those brilliant flashes of light that made the sky glow so mysteriously.
Mrs. Merrill’s uncle was at the station and hurried them into a big “boulevard bus” which would quickly take them home where aunt and cousins and a good dinner were waiting.
“There’s just one thing I don’t like about31 this city,” said Mary Jane later in the evening.
“So?” exclaimed Uncle Will, “why we think it’s a pretty nice sort of a place.”
“I ’spect it is,” agreed Mary Jane politely, “but what I don’t like is the dark—I can’t see anything!”
“We’ll soon fix that,” said Mrs. Merrill, “I’ll put my little girl to bed and then the time till daylight will vanish.”
And sure enough it did. It wasn’t any time at all till Mary Jane sat up in her sleeping porch couch and looked across the hills of the beautiful city.
“Oh!” she exclaimed delightedly, “I like having houses on hills, ’cause you can see so many of them!” Then she looked down at the street nearby and saw a little negro boy, not so very much bigger than herself, who was carrying on his head a great, big, heavy basket of washing.
“Boy! Boy! I don’t know your name32 but please wait a minute!” she called. “My sister wants to take a picture of a boy like you—she said she did!”
Fortunately Alice, who was in the house making the closer acquaintance of her cousins, was dressed so it didn’t take but a minute to get her camera and take the picture Mary Jane so hastily arranged for her. The poor little boy didn’t quite know what had happened to him, but he did understand the quarter Mr. Merrill handed him. He went on his way with such a broad smile on his face that Alice wished she had another picture just to get that smile in.
While the picture was being taken, Mary Jane washed and dressed. She came down the front stairs just in time to hear the plans for the day discussed.
“Yes, I wish we could stay more than one day,” Mr. Merrill was saying, “but I have to be in Jacksonville to-morrow morning. So I think we’d better make up our minds to33 visit all we can to-day and let the girls see as much as may be of your city. Then perhaps on our next trip we won’t be so hurried.”
“If that’s the case,” said Uncle Will as they responded to the breakfast bell, “I believe we’d better plan to get right off. We’ll go way out to the steel plant first so as to be sure to get in there. Then if we get back in time, we can take our lunch at the Terrace Restaurant—I know the girls will like that—then we’ll have the afternoon for an auto ride.”
Mr. Merrill agreed that was a fine plan.
“Only I hope there isn’t any doubt about that lunch,” said Alice.
“Well-l,” said Uncle Will teasingly, “do you eat three times a day at your house?”
“My no!” retorted Alice promptly, “not if I can help it! We eat four times!”
“Then you’d better have another helping of this fish,” laughed Aunt Mabel, “because34 with all that sight seeing to do, you’re not going to have time to eat any four meals this day—I know that!”
In a few minutes they were off for the steel mills and Mary Jane and Alice found it one of the most interesting rides they had ever taken. Through narrow streets they went and then along boulevards; through tiny villages and a larger “model village” where industrial workers by the thousands made their homes. And finally great piles as high as houses of grayish looking stuff that looked like cinders but which Uncle Will said was “slag,” told them that they were approaching the mills.
When they stepped off the car Alice exclaimed, “This looks exactly like a picture of a mining town that’s in my geography!”
“Of course it is,” laughed Uncle Will, “because this is a mining town. All the mining isn’t done in the West you know. The iron ore and the coal for the furnaces35 are mined right here on the spot—that’s the reason these mills are just where they are, my dear.”
They walked along the narrow street where men, women and mule carts mingled together in busy confusion, till they came to the company’s office. There was some delay there because children were not usually allowed in the plant but on the firm assurance from Mr. Merrill and Uncle Will that each would take a girl under his especial care, permission was granted.
“But be sure you watch ’em, Mr. Cole,” warned the guard as they started and Uncle Will promised.
Mary Jane wondered at all this fuss because she and Alice had been through factories at home and didn’t think much of it. But half an hour later, when they were in the middle of the great plant, she stopped wondering and clung to her father’s hand without being told. For the noise and confusion36 and wonder of it all was beyond anything she had ever dreamed of. Engines tooting and screeching, whistles blowing orders, men shouting, great kettles of red hot iron sizzling and smoking, clanging hammers pounding on metal, the clatter of tumbling scrap iron and the clang and clank of the finished steel rails as they were loaded on waiting freight cars made it a wonderland of sights and sounds.
Mary Jane held tight to her father’s hand and bravely went everywhere the big folks did. But she wasn’t sorry when, an hour later, she found herself seated on a quiet terrace on the fifteenth floor of Birmingham’s biggest office building, ordering her lunch.
After luncheon they walked all around the terrace and looked at the rows of mountains and the long stretch of valley dotted with huge smoke stacks of the various steel mills.
“And there,” said Uncle Will, pointing37 off into the distance, “is the place you were this morning.”
“Well,” said Mary Jane looking at it gravely, “I think I like it better over there than when it’s right here—it isn’t so noisy, far away.”
Uncle Will laughed and suggested that if he and Mary Jane went down stairs ahead of the others, it was just possible, just possible of course, that they might have time to buy a box of candy before the auto came around. And that settled sightseeing from the terrace.
All through the long beautiful afternoon they drove, seeing the busy streets of the city, driving up the winding roadways lined with beautiful homes and leading toward the mountains, and spinning along the ridge roads that took them over the mountain crests.
It was almost dark when they stopped at Uncle Will’s for their bags and they had to38 drive fast to get to the station in time for their train.
“Well!” sighed Mary Jane, as she dropped down in the broad seat of the Pullman car a few minutes later, “I think that’s a city where you do a lot!”
“And I think,” replied Mrs. Merrill, reaching down to kiss her little girl, “that I know somebody not so very far from here, who’s going to have dinner and go to bed just about as quick as a wink.”
“And I think,” added Mr. Merrill, “that I know somebody who’d better get to sleep as quick as they can, because to-morrow’s the day we see flowers and—something else.”
And just then, before Mary Jane had a chance to ask a question the porter came through the car calling, “Last call for dinner! Dinner in the dining car! First car in the front of de train!”

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