Buttered Side Down: Stories
9. That Home-Town Feeling
We all have our ambitions. Mine is to sit in a rocking-chair on the sidewalk at the corner
of Clark and Randolph Streets, and watch the crowds go by. South Clark Street is one of
the most interesting and cosmopolitan thoroughfares in the world (New Yorkers please
sniff). If you are from Paris, France, or Paris, Illinois, and should chance to be in that
neighborhood, you will stop at Tony's news stand to buy your home-town paper. Don't
mistake the nature of this story. There is nothing of the shivering-newsboy-waif about
Tony. He has the voice of a fog-horn, the purple-striped shirt of a sport, the diamond
scarf-pin of a racetrack tout, and the savoir faire of the gutter-bred. You'd never pick him
for a newsboy if it weren't for his chapped hands and the eternal cold-sore on the upper
left corner of his mouth.
It is a fascinating thing, Tony's stand. A high wooden structure rising tier on tier,
containing papers from every corner of the world. I'll defy you to name a paper that Tony
doesn't handle, from Timbuctoo to Tarrytown, from South Bend to South Africa. A paper
marked Christiania, Norway, nestles next to a sheet from Kalamazoo, Michigan. You can
get the War Cry, or Le Figaro. With one hand, Tony will give you the Berlin Tageblatt,
and with the other the Times from Neenah, Wisconsin. Take your choice between the
Bulletin from Sydney, Australia, or the Bee from Omaha.
But perhaps you know South Clark Street. It is honeycombed with good copy--man-size
stuff. South Clark Street reminds one of a slatternly woman, brave in silks and velvets on
the surface, but ragged, and rumpled and none too clean as to nether garments. It begins
with a tenement so vile, so filthy, so repulsive, that the municipal authorities deny its very
existence. It ends with a brand-new hotel, all red brick, and white tiling, and Louise
Quinze furniture, and sour-cream colored marble lobby, and oriental rugs lavishly
scattered under the feet of the unappreciative guest from Kansas City. It is a street of
signs, is South Clark. They vary all the way from "Banca Italiana" done in fat, fly-
specked letters of gold, to "Sang Yuen" scrawled in Chinese red and black. Spaghetti and
chop suey and dairy lunches nestle side by side. Here an electric sign blazons forth the
tempting announcement of lunch. Just across the way, delicately suggesting a means of
availing one's self of the invitation, is another which announces "Loans." South Clark
Street can transform a winter overcoat into hamburger and onions so quickly that the eye
can't follow the hand.
Do you gather from this that you are being taken slumming? Not at all. For the passer-by
on Clark Street varies as to color, nationality, raiment, finger-nails, and hair-cut
according to the locality in which you find him.
At the tenement end the feminine passer-by is apt to be shawled, swarthy, down-at-the-
heel, and dragging a dark-eyed, fretting baby in her wake. At the hotel end you will find
her blonde of hair, velvet of boot, plumed of head-gear, and prone to have at her heels a
white, woolly, pink-eyed dog.