THE OPEN ROAD FOR BOYS magazine added a remarkable, feature to educational life when it established international correspondence for American boys. The credit for this is due to Mr. Clayton H. Ernst, editor-in-chief of the magazine and president of the publishing company of the same name in Boston, Massachusetts. Guided by his vision, the MY FRIEND ABROAD director has conducted a world-wide correspondence as a regular feature in its columns.
Who would imagine that boys, ranging from fourteen to eighteen years of age, would ever want to correspond with boys abroad? It is well known that small children have been induced to do it, spurred on by enthusiastic teachers, and that older students, particularly girls, have been encouraged to improve their language studies by an exchange of letters; but since 1926, thousands of regular boys have done it---boys scattered all over the United States in cities, towns, villages, and on isolated farms, where a copy of The Open Road has been on hand. They have been boys of all kinds, of all ages, and often older than the ones for whom the plan was intended.
Every mouth a list of from one hundred to one hundred and fifty names of boys abroad has been published, with their ages and residence addresses----during the six years a total of approximately fifteen thousand names. Often so many American boys have taken advantage of the lists that each foreign boy has received a couple of dozen letters, in some cases up to a hundred letters. Of course, it was impossible for a single boy to reply to so many; so he would distribute them among his friends, and in this way they obtained correspondents in the States. Thus thousands of boys whose names have never been published in the magazine have participated in the correspondence plan. Moreover, a boy, for instance, in Austria would obtain from his correspondent in the United States the name and address of this American boy's "pen pal" in Japan, and the Austrian boy would write to the Japanese boy. It is estimated that more than one million letters have been crisscrossing between sixty nations.
What has prompted the boys to write? It cannot be denied that a great number have used the correspondence as a cheap way of adding to their collections of stamps, post cards, match-boxes, or coins. No one could prevent them from doing that, and no one wanted to, as long as material gain plays a legitimate part in the lives of boys.
Many, however, used it as it was intended, as a practical and direct way of getting information on foreign lands and becoming acquainted with foreign people. That it would fulfill its final purpose of winning them friends abroad was hardly expected, and consequently great was their surprise when they could record, "I have found a friend abroad," and thus reach the goal which is expressed in the very name of the plan.
The boys whose names have been published in the magazine have all expressed a wish to correspond with American boys. Their desire is to learn something about America, of which they know nothing more than what they have picked up in books or in newspapers. They want to get acquainted with Americans and, if possible, make friends with them. Names from sixty different countries have been listed: Albania, Argentina, Austria, Barbados, Belgium, Bengal, Brazil, British Guiana, Bulgaria, Canada, Capetown, Ceylon, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Czechoslovakia, Danzig, Denmark, Ecuador, Egypt, England, Esthonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hawaiian Islands, Holland, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Java, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mexico, Natal, New South Wales, New Zealand, Norway, Orange Free State, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, Porto Rico, Portugal, Queensland, Rhodesia, Scotland, Siberia, South Australia, Sumatra, Sweden, Switzerland, Tasmania, Uruguay, Victoria, Virgin Islands, West Australia.
Any reader of The Open Road for Boys was free to write to them. There were no restrictions whatever, and it is highly probable that. many letters were purely commercial. Many such letters have been disregarded by the boys abroad. They would not be inclined to reply to them, nor would they be encouraged to reply to letters which just said: "I am so and so. I want to correspond with you. How are you? Sincerely yours, Jim." Good letters most often received good replies, because the boys abroad would want to tell a great deal in return for a lot told to them. By this process what was weak was eliminated and what survived proved in many cases to be strong enough to last for years.
A few samples of letters and replies show the trend of the correspondence:
GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN.
My Friend Kosturi Nexhet:
I am a reader of The Open Road magazine, and on seeing your name in the list of Albanian boys I thought it would be nice to let you know something about America and American boys, as I suppose you would like to know how we live over here.
My name is Jack Englebert. I live in the town of Green Bay in Wisconsin, one of the United States of America. Wisconsin is one of the northwestern States and was founded in the year 1673 by Father Marquette, a missionary priest. He came over to this country to convert the Indians to Christianity. With one other white man and several Indians in two canoes, he sailed down the St. Lawrence River, crossed the Great Lakes, and came into Green Bay, where he had the honor of being the first white man to ever put foot on its shores.
The Fox River, that has its head waters in Lake Winnebago, flows through the heart of the city and empties into the Bay, which is situated about one mile from the mouth of the rivet. To the east of the city a portion of the town is divided by the East River. Along both of these rivers large paper and fiber mills are located; large coal docks that supply the needs of the surrounding country, grain elevators, warehouses, and many more things of interest are lined along these rivers. Because of the large mills and factories here, there must be hundreds of men to fill these jobs. Therefore the population has increased rapidly, till the present census is close to forty thousand.
Besides being a great manufacturing city, Green Bay is also a river port. Large coal boats come in with their cargoes; every three days a boat comes in with automobiles for the towns and cities about Green Bay; and about once a month a boat of paper pulp comes to our mills from Sweden.
The country around us is owned by well-to-do farmers. They raise cattle, grain, potatoes, and many other things that are sold at the markets in the city. They have fine orchards of apples, cherries, and plums. About forty miles from Green Bay are the famous Sturgeon Bay orchards. They are owned by private companies, but are all in one union. They ship thousands of tons of cherries all over the world, which are picked by boys and girls who come from many States to have a holiday in the beautiful country around Sturgeon Bay.
On looking at the map I see that your country is very mountainous, but here in Wisconsin it is very flat and has but few high hills. In summer one can go swimming, fishing, or picnicing on the Bay. When it gets too cold to swim, we take long walks through the woods that are near the cottage and look for hickory nuts. In the winter there are a great many sports on the Bay. We go ice-skating on the smooth ice, or skim across it at the speed of the wind in an ice-boat. There are also four ice rinks in the city for those who do not want go out on the Bay. When there is too much snow for skating, we take toboggans and skis and go out to a group of hills about three miles from the city and coast down them to our heart's content.
I attend school for five days during the week, and I will tell you about that in my next letter if you will answer this one. I would like you to ask me lots of questions about America and especially about Green Bay, and I would also like you to tell me about how you live in Albania, as I would like us to become good friends even if we are so many thousands of miles away.
Your sincere friend,
* * *
Dear Unknown Friend:
I found your name among a list of names of boys who wish to correspond with boys in America. I should like very much to correspond with you., as I am anxious to have a friend in your country.
In this letter I shall tell you about a special interest of mine: corresponding with boys in all parts of the world.
I started this correspondence a little over a year ago. I am taking part in a contest called "My Friend Abroad." This contest is conducted by Dr. S. V. Knudsen., and the names of boys who wish to correspond are published in a magazine called The Open Road. This contest is for the purpose of helping to make friends in other countries, and the promoting of international understanding.
I have written to all countries published and have received replies from twenty countries. I have not yet heard from your country. Not only is this correspondence carried on between American boys and boys of foreign nations, but also between the boys of different foreign nations. Many of them secure the names from The Open Road, and many of them ask their American friends for names of boys in other lands with whom they can correspond. I myself have given several of my European friends, and friends in other continents, names of my friends in different parts of the world. I know that some of these boys are already exchanging letters.
Another result of this contest was the trip one hundred American boys took to Denmark this last summer. Through the Rotary Club and the American Club of Denmark, one hundred American boys were invited by the Danish people to visit their country, and to spend a mouth as guests in the homes of Denmark. The choice of these boys was left to Dr. Knudsen, who selected part of the boys from those who were taking part in the MY FRIEND ABROAD correspondence, and the others from different American schools. The trip was a huge success
The boys visited many of the interesting sights of Denmark, made many friends among the Danish people, and also showed the Danes some of our American sports and activities.
I also have a little correspondence aside from the contest. I am a student of the international language, Esperanto, and correspond with a Hungarian Esperantist. I also correspond with a Japanese boy in Hawaii, and with several American boys who are interested in national correspondence.
I must also say that a number of very nice prizes are offered to boys who take part in this contest.
I must close now, hoping to bear from you soon. If you are getting too many letters, please give my letter to a friend. You may write in your own language if you wish, though I understand English best. Friendly regards from
Your sincere American friend,
CLEMENS C. KESSLER.
* * *
My dear Salak:
I received your very interesting letter December 18, 1927. It was so well written that I enjoyed it very, very much. I cannot express my joy with words. I might have expressed my joy if I had you near me. I thank you very much for your interesting sketches. I wish you success in your line. You told me that you were interested in Nature Study and that you have not succeeded with your pets. My dear friend, be patient and keep on and you will succeed. Whatever experiment you do, please write me because your experiments make we very interested. I am from the southern part of Albania, from the prefecture of "Argjirokastra," from the, subprefecture of "Permeti." The name of my village is "Radovicka." If you will get an Albanian map, you will locate very easily the above places. You like to know some more about my life, home, etc. It will take a very long time to tell you in detail, but I will try to tell in general and short. In the year 1910-11 Albania was under the Turkish dominion. These years are the last years of her. The Turks have ruled Albania for four hundred years and they left us without schools. They did that so that they may use us as they wished. The people of the Balkans did not bear the bad rule, so they made revolutions. At last they put the Turks out of their country. In the Balkan war all the Balkan states won except Albania. Albania did not have organized armies so they could not protect the country. The Greeks rushed to the south territories and Serbs to the north.
At that time I was small, though I remember very plainly the sufferings. I did not worry at all; I did not think of the danger. There came many guests in our house from the places very near to the Greeks. They told the sufferings to my mother and my brothers. They had left all the cows, sheep, goats and all the house property. With great difficulty they had escaped themselves. One man whose name I forget told us the danger he had. He was from "Hormova." This village was surrounded at once and the people could not escape. The Greeks gathered all the people, babies and grown-ups, girls and women, with their bayonets. They put them in a barn where straw was found. In all this crowd only the man who told us the happening escaped, and the others were burned next day. What do you think of this misery? I think this passes even the happenings of the "Dark Ages." We became very much afraid of this. My mother and my big brothers with the guests could not sleep during the night, though the guests were very tired. Next day what did we see---the villages in front of my village about one hour far were set to fire. The news came that we should leave the village and start for the journey. We left everything. I remember very plainly the big precious wall watch, the good home-spun cloths and many other things. We got only some home-spun woolen blankets. We loaded well the donkey and ourselves and got the two cows and the bull and started on our way. On the way we were so numerous that we had to be near the mother and brothers. My mother and brothers were afraid of losing Ferid (my smaller brother) and me. All the way there were heard guns and the Greeks always were approaching. Many mothers lost their babies from the big danger and many mothers threw their babies on the way. I became very tired and sick. My mother and my brothers loved me very much, so they let me ride on the bull. The cows were lost and now we had only the donkey and the bull. In the evening we came to a monastery. The guns were not heard any more. The Greeks were faced by some brave Albanians. The leader of the Albanians called Sali Butka yet lives. In the monastery I was very sick and the lovely bull became sick too. My mother was very much afraid of my danger and that of the bull. One of our neighbors dreamt that the saint of the monastery told her that my mother should not be sorry for the bull because she would have lost me too. She did not care any more for the bull, and when he died they did not become sorry, they said to me. After two days I became all right. Again we heard the terrible guns and again started on our way. The Greeks approached so near that we left everything we had got with us. We left even the donkey with the good load. At last we came to Berat, an ancient city of Albania. We were exhausted in everything. We did not have money, and in those days you could not find work also. My father, that lived in Salonique (a famous city on the coast of the Agean Sea), had heard all the big dangers we had. He sent us money and a letter. He wanted us to go there. We came to Valona and got a passport and started on our way to Salonique. My mother had been another time in Salonique, but we had never seen seas and boats and we boys were very surprised with the big waters and the big house walking in the sea!
My mother and big brothers were sorry for the friends and for our lovely country. They cried in the boat and they made me and Ferid cry too. After a journey of five days we came to Salonique. Our father was waiting on the sea shore. As the boat stopped he came and got us with a small boat. From the joy we could not keep ourselves, we cried. Our father took us to a restaurant. We ate good there. Then we rode in a carriage and went home. We lived very peacefully for four years. It was the year of 1914 when we went there. When the world war started we were with our dear father. For some time we were very good, but my mother's brother died. He died from the sufferings of the Greeks. She worried much and at last died.
My dear friend Salak, I think you will be tired with my long letter. If you. wish to know more about my life in the next letter, I will tell you. This year I do not have much spare time because of the school work. I am in the last class and I am trying to get well on with my work. The director told me that he is going to keep me next year as an assistant teacher in Nature Study. This year too I am giving Nature Study, but I am not so independent. Next year I suppose I will have the class altogether free on me.
This time too I am not sending my photograph, because of not having a chance to have one. But I am going to send you one. I am expecting yours with the next letter. I am sending you one of my drawings. Will you tell me what you had blackened the backs of the sketches for?
I am sending you some rare Albanian stamps. Now they are not used. Whenever I get better ones, I will send them to you. I cannot oblige you to send me anything, but whatever you send I will be very obliged to you.
The letter becomes over long, so no more at present from your Albanian friend,
N. H. RADOVICKA.
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BARBADOS, B. W. I.
It is my great delight to say that I received your very friendly letter. It came as a surprise to me from so far-distant America, as you are the first to have written to me. I have neighbors and friends who have traveled and now live in America, but they are all my seniors and of course would have no time to correspond with the "small potatoes."
And now with regards to myself, I am 14 years of age and 5' 5" tall. I have just gone through seventh standard, which is the highest class in the Elementary School. My subjects are English, Arithmetic, Geography, History, Drawing, Painting, and other manual subjects such as Carpentry, etc.
In Barbados, like in the mother country England, our most popular sport is cricket, which is played extensively. There are several clubs in the island and a regular competition for the championship, both in the first and second class. A competition also goes on once a year between the islands of the West Indies which are up to standard; that is, Barbados, Trinidad, Demerara, and Jamaica.
George Challenor is the best bat in the West Indies and in Barbados, and when the West Indian team toured England in 1924 the English Cricketers classed him as one of the six best in the world. He is a member of the N. C. C. and, being a Barbadian, I have had the honor and pleasure of seeing him bat often. A year ago a strong English team toured the islands, and in 1928 a West Indian team will be going to England and will play three test matches on the same footing as Australia and South Africa. Our other popular sports are football, tennis, and horse racing.
I am very interested in radio, but unfortunately do not possess a set. There are really very few in Barbados, and to get one it would have to be specially imported as there are no dealers here, and so it would be very expensive. I suppose you must have lots of fun listening to concerts, etc. I often read about it in magazines and it is wonderful.
You have asked me to write the last part of this letter in my native language. But I am even doing more for you---I am writing the whole of it in my native language, as English is all the language we speak out here. From your letter I can see you are very much mistaken as to the condition of life in Barbados and perhaps the whole West Indies, and that is because our islands are not so well known to the world. Life in Barbados is the exact copy of life in England. In fact, Barbados is known as little England, and we pride ourselves as one of the shires of England, and another name is Bimshire. The country is divided into parishes, corresponding to the English county. Each has its magistrate and rector and sends two representatives to the House of Assembly or Parliament. Our church is the Anglican Church and we have our own bishop.
The public schools are exactly the same as the English public schools and the, same examinations are taken. Every year the Barbados Scholarship is sat by the senior boys of the schools, and the winner is sent to England free by the government to pursue his studies at Oxford or Cambridge. Also we have the Codrington College, situated by itself in a part of the island. This college is one of the colleges of Durham University in England. It trains our ministers and also gives the Durham B. A. degree. It was the first religious college to be established in the whole British Empire.
Barbados was discovered 300 years ago, and in a while we will be celebrating this. Our government is self-government, and after the British Parliament comes the Bermuda House Assembly. The next is the Barbados House Assembly; that is, in the British Empire.
Well, I think I have written you quite a lot about Barbados, and I hope it has not been very dull, has it?
Certainly I will be your friend, and with pleasure, too. I hope to hear from you soon again. Well, I must close now.
Your friend in Barbados,
* * *
I received your letter on the 29th and I am doing my best to answer it as quickly as possible. I appreciate your letter; your unexcelled penmanship alone makes it a supreme specimen of hand-written art. I am glad to have you as my friend in America. First of all, before I forget, let me thank you for the coin, film stars, and the newspaper cuttings you sent me. I can see from your letter that you are a coin and stamp collector; so I am sending you a few Indian stamps and a small coin in return, hoping you will appreciate them.
You asked me to give you a description of Calcutta. Well, here is a short description. Continental India, including Baluchistan but excluding Afghanistan, has an area of about one million, seven hundred thousand square miles, of which about three-quarters of a million are under native administration. The population of this mighty empire is over five hundred and ninety-eight millions, sixty-seven and three quarter millions belonging to the native states. Calcutta, the capital of the Bengal province and of the Indian Empire, stands on the river Hugli, a branch of the Ganges, about eighty-five miles from its mouth. It contains over three millions, or rather two and a half millions, in population. It is next to London the second largest city of the British Empire. There are extensive manufactures of rice, opium, indigo, tea, oils, and jute, etc. The Himalayan mountain is the highest in the world, being 29,112 feet high. Many people have tried to climb it, but nearly all have lost their lives. So far no one has ever climbed it. A man once in 1925 climbed 28,000 and then died. This year it is said that an Italian company is going to try. The total length of the chain being about 1,200 miles and breadth about 150 miles, the usual time taken to cross the chain here is 66 days. South of India is Ceylon, over three-fourths of Ireland, and having a population of greater than three-fourths of Scotland. The northern portion of this island is one vast forest, broken here and there, with specks of cultivated ground. Almost in the center of this island is Kanda, a former capital. The capital is now Colombo.
In Calcutta there is a monument called The Black Hole of Calcutta. On June 20, 1756, the very day when Clive returned to India to become governor of Madras, the awful tragedy known as that of the Black Hole of Calcutta took place. One hundred and forty-six captives, mostly inoffensive merchants, were driven into a dungeon twenty feet square, the window of which was so small that, considering it was the hottest time of the year, it would have been almost intolerable for a single person to spend a night there. The unhappy prisoners, one of whom was a woman, did all they could to induce the guards to inform the Nawab that, in spite of his promise to spare the lives of his captives, they were being rapidly suffocated or crushed to death. The guards replied only by brutal jeers, saying that the Nawab was asleep and to wake him would cost their lives. Then despair and desperation caused a panic and men began to crush each other to get to the window, shrieking for water. But their miseries were only increased by the behavior of the natives. The natives held lights to the bars to see their victims and splashed water among them in cruel mockery of their agonies of thirst. When that night of horror ended, the door was unlocked. Only 23 persons staggered out; the rest were all dead. As the news reached England, they sent Clive and many soldiers to avenge it. The natives lost, and the cruel Nawab met a sad end.
I remain, your friend abroad in India,
The greatest surprise to the American boys was the fact that the replies from abroad were written in English. They had not imagined that foreign boys studied English in schools and learned so much that they not only could read the language but also write it. This was an eye-opener to the scope of education throughout the world, and it made the boys write better letters, because all subjects could be discussed as long as the language presented no obstacle.
In the beginning, special inducements were used to get boys started, and prizes were offered for the letter-writing. They were donated by business concerns---world atlases by C. S. Hammond and Company of New York City; stationery by White and Wyckoff Company of Holyoke, Massachusetts; pens and pencils by Carter's Ink Company of Cambridge, Massachusetts; typewriters by Remington Typewriter Company. When the prize-winners, however, began telling the leader of MY FRIEND ABROAD that "getting prizes for the correspondence was like getting ice cream for eating candy," there was reason to let the correspondence continue on its own merits. Great credit is due to the companies for their extreme generosity in helping to launch the plan.
All over the country there are now thousands of young men who, five or six years ago, as boys, found a list of queer-looking names in a magazine, sat down and wrote a letter, and mailed it to a boy away off in a foreign country, probably with the thought that nothing more than five cents for postage could be lost by it. That five-cent stamp put them on a track which led their thoughts to dozens of other countries, where they now have acquaintances. They have never seen them, but letters from them have told them more about their I countries and their peoples than ever can be found in books. What is still better, the letters have told about the boys themselves, and in such a way that they have become dear friends.
The questioning reader will ask, "What is the proof of that friendship?" One proof is given by the forty-two Open Road readers who have gone abroad to find out whether their correspondents were friendly in person as well as on paper. They were offered the opportunity to join the groups of American Boys Abroad, and were chosen and invited for the trips by the leader. A number of them had their way paid with money which was donated by friends of the leader; others were sent by Rotary Clubs and similar civil organizations; and for a few their parents paid the expenses. They all had one desire in common---to meet their correspondents. Some of them even stayed as guests in their homes; and what did they find? It cannot be answered better than through these words by one of the participants: "The most remarkable thing to me about meeting the boys whom I had never seen before and whom I knew only through correspondence was the way they greeted me like an old friend. There seemed to be no wonder about each other's appearance and tastes. Everything was taken as a matter of course. Now our friendship, started through the MY FRIEND ABROAD correspondence, has been permanently sealed by my visit."
What to many may have seemed a stunt in a magazine has become a direct influence in the lives of thousands of regular American boys, and they owe thanks to the editor-in -chief, who had vision.
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