Doggin Americas National Parkways (A Bark In The Park)

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For the time being apprenticeship meant washing and polishing all the machinery and implements of this particular counter, to say nothing of opening and sweeping out the store at so early an hour as seven-thirty, dusting, and delivering such orders as the owner of this drug store chose to send out by him. At such idle moments as his immediate superior—a Mr. Sieberling—twenty, dashing, self-confident, talkative, was too busy to fill all the orders, he might be called upon to mix such minor drinks—lemonades, Coca-Colas and the like— as the trade demanded.

Yet this interesting position, after due consultation with his mother, he decided to take. For one thing, it would provide him, as he suspected, with all the ice-cream sodas he desired, free—an advantage not to be disregarded. In the next place, as he saw it at the time, it was an open door to a trade—something which he lacked.

Further, and not at all disadvantageously as he saw it, this store required his presence at night as late as twelve o'clock, with certain hours off during the day to compensate for this. And this took him out of his home at night—out of the ten-o'clock-boy class at last. They could not ask him to attend any meetings save on Sunday, and not even then, since he was supposed to work Sunday afternoons and evenings.

Next, the clerk who manipulated this particular soda fountain, quite regularly received passes from the manager of the theater next door, and into the lobby of which one door to the drug store gave—a most fascinating connection to Clyde.

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It seemed so interesting to be working for a drug store thus intimately connected with a theater. And best of all, as Clyde now found to his pleasure, and yet despair at times, the place was visited, just before and after the show on matinee days, by bevies of girls, single and en suite, who sat at the counter and giggled and chattered and gave their hair and their complexions last perfecting touches before the mirror.

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And Clyde, callow and inexperienced in the ways of the world, and those of the opposite sex, was never weary of observing the beauty, the daring, the self-sufficiency and the sweetness of these, as he saw them. For the first time in his life, while he busied himself with washing glasses, filling the ice-cream and syrup containers, arranging the lemons and oranges in the trays, he had an almost uninterrupted opportunity of studying these girls at close range.

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The wonder of them! For the most part, they were so well-dressed and smart-looking—the rings, pins, furs, delightful hats, pretty shoes they wore. And so often he overheard them discussing such interesting things—parties, dances, dinners, the shows they had seen, the places in or near Kansas City to which they were soon going, the difference between the styles of this year and last, the fascination of certain actors and actresses—principally actors— who were now playing or soon coming to the city.

And to this day, in his own home he had heard nothing of all this. And very often one or another of these young beauties was accompanied by some male in evening suit, dress shirt, high hat, bow tie, white kid gloves and patent leather shoes, a costume which at that time Clyde felt to be the last word in all true distinction, beauty, gallantry and bliss. To be able to wear such a suit with such ease and air!

To be able to talk to a girl after the manner and with the sang-froid of some of these gallants! No good-looking girl, as it then appeared to him, would have anything to do with him if he did not possess this standard of equipment. It was plainly necessary—the thing. And once he did attain it—was able to wear such clothes as these— well, then was he not well set upon the path that leads to all the blisses? All the joys of life would then most certainly be spread before him. The friendly smiles! The secret handclasps, maybe—an arm about the waist of some one or another—a kiss—a promise of marriage—and then, and then!

And all this as a revealing flash after all the years of walking through the streets with his father and mother to public prayer meeting, the sitting in chapel and listening to queer and nondescript individuals—depressing and disconcerting people— telling how Christ had saved them and what God had done for them. You bet he would get out of that now. He would work and save his money and be somebody. Decidedly this simple and yet idyllic compound of the commonplace had all the luster and wonder of a spiritual transfiguration, the true mirage of the lost and thirsting and seeking victim of the desert.

However, the trouble with this particular position, as time speedily proved, was that much as it might teach him of mixing drinks and how to eventually earn twelve dollars a week, it was no immediate solvent for the yearnings and ambitions that were already gnawing at his vitals. For Albert Sieberling, his immediate superior, was determined to keep as much of his knowledge, as well as the most pleasant parts of the tasks, to himself.

And further he was quite at one with the druggist for whom they worked in thinking that Clyde, in addition to assisting him about the fountain, should run such errands as the druggist desired, which kept Clyde industriously employed for nearly all the hours he was on duty. Consequently there was no immediate result to all this. Clyde could see no way to dressing better than he did. Worse, he was haunted by the fact that he had very little money and very few contacts and connections—so few that, outside his own home, he was lonely and not so very much less than lonely there.

The flight of Esta had thrown a chill over the religious work there, and because, as yet, she had not returned—the family, as he now heard, was thinking of breaking up here and moving, for want of a better idea, to Denver, Colorado.

But Clyde, by now, was convinced that he did not wish to accompany them. What was the good of it, he asked himself? There would be just another mission there, the same as this one. He had always lived at home—in the rooms at the rear of the mission in Bickel Street, but he hated it. And since his eleventh year, during all of which time his family had been residing in Kansas City, he had been ashamed to bring boy friends to or near it. For that reason he had always avoided boy friends, and had walked and played very much alone—or with his brother and sisters.

But now that he was sixteen and old enough to make his own way, he ought to be getting out of this. And yet he was earning almost nothing—not enough to live on, if he were alone—and he had not as yet developed sufficient skill or courage to get anything better. Nevertheless when his parents began to talk of moving to Denver, and suggested that he might secure work out there, never assuming for a moment that he would not want to go he began to throw out hints to the effect that it might he better if he did not.

He liked Kansas City. What was the use of changing? He had a job now and he might get something better. But his parents, bethinking themselves of Esta and the fate that had overtaken her, were not a little dubious as to the outcome of such early adventuring on his part alone. Once they were away, where would he live? With whom? What sort of influence would enter his life, who would be at hand to aid and council and guide him in the straight and narrow path, as they had done?

It was something to think about.

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But spurred by this imminence of Denver, which now daily seemed to be drawing nearer, and the fact that not long after this Mr. Sieberling, owing to his too obvious gallantries in connection with the fair sex, lost his place in the drug store, and Clyde came by a new and bony and chill superior who did not seem to want him as an assistant, he decided to quit—not at once, but rather to see, on such errands as took him out of the store, if he could not find something else.

Incidentally in so doing, looking here and there, he one day thought he would speak to the manager of the fountain which was connected with the leading drug store in the principal hotel of the city—the latter a great twelve-story affair, which represented, as he saw it, the quintessence of luxury and ease. Its windows were always so heavily curtained; the main entrance he had never ventured to look beyond that was a splendiferous combination of a glass and iron awning, coupled with a marble corridor lined with palms.

Often he had passed here, wondering with boyish curiosity what the nature of the life of such a place might be. Before its doors, so many taxis and automobiles were always in waiting. To-day, being driven by the necessity of doing something for himself, he entered the drug store which occupied the principal corner, facing 14th Street at Baltimore, and finding a girl cashier in a small glass cage near the door, asked of her who was in charge of the soda fountain.

Interested by his tentative and uncertain manner, as well as his deep and rather appealing eyes, and instinctively judging that he was looking for something to do, she observed: "Why, Mr. Secor, there, the manager of the store.

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Clyde approached him, and being still very dubious as to how one went about getting anything in life, and finding him engrossed in what he was doing, stood first on one foot and then on the other, until at last, sensing some one was hovering about for something, the man turned: "Well? I need it. He was about to turn away, but seeing a flicker of disappointment and depression pass over Clyde's face, he turned and added, "Ever work in a place like this before? No, sir," replied Clyde, rather fancifully moved by all that was about him.

Klinkle's store at 7th and Brooklyn, but it isn't anything like this one and I'd like to get something better if I could. But there isn't anything here right now that I could offer you. We don't make many changes. But if you'd like to be a bell-boy, I can tell you where you might get a place. They're looking for an extra boy in the hotel inside there right now. The captain of the boys was telling me he was in need of one. I should think that would be as good as helping about a soda fountain, any day. Then seeing Clyde's face suddenly brighten, he added: "But you mustn't say that I sent you, because I don't know you.

Just ask for Mr. Squires inside there, under the stairs, and he can tell you all about it. At the mere mention of work in connection with so imposing an institution as the Green-Davidson, and the possibility of his getting it, Clyde first stared, felt himself tremble the least bit with excitement, then thanking his advisor for his kindness, went direct to a green-marbled doorway which opened from the rear of this drug-store into the lobby of the hotel.

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Once through it, he beheld a lobby, the like of which, for all his years but because of the timorous poverty that had restrained him from exploring such a world, was more arresting, quite, than anything he had seen before. It was all so lavish. Under his feet was a checkered black-and-white marble floor. Above him a coppered and stained and gilded ceiling. And supporting this, a veritable forest of black marble columns as highly polished as the floor—glassy smooth.

And between the columns which ranged away toward three separate entrances, one right, one left and one directly forward toward Dalrymple Avenue—were lamps, statuary, rugs, palms, chairs, divans, tete-a-tetes—a prodigal display. In short it was compact, of all that gauche luxury of appointment which, as some one once sarcastically remarked, was intended to supply "exclusiveness to the masses.

Its rooms and hall and lobbies and restaurants were entirely too richly furnished, without the saving grace of either simplicity or necessity. As Clyde stood, gazing about the lobby, he saw a large company of people—some women and children, but principally men as he could see—either walking or standing about and talking or idling in the chairs, side by side or alone.

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And in heavily draped and richly furnished alcoves where were writing-tables, newspaper files, a telegraph office, a haberdasher's shop, and a florist's stand, were other groups. There was a convention of dentists in the city, not a few of whom, with their wives and children, were gathered here; but to Clyde, who was not aware of this nor of the methods and meanings of conventions, this was the ordinary, everyday appearance of this hotel.

He gazed about in awe and amazement, then remembering the name of Squires, he began to look for him in his office "under the stairs. And between these great flights was evidently the office of the hotel, for there were many clerks there. But behind the nearest flight, and close to the wall through which he had come, was a tall desk, at which stood a young man of about his own age in a maroon uniform bright with many brass buttons. And on his head was a small, round, pill-box cap, which was cocked jauntily over one ear.