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THESE WORDS this flying cadet heard in '18 from his flying instructor were, and are, words youth hears always.
"Tomorrow you "'go solo'."
Preparation and training, past and done with. Now for the main thing; the big thing. Trying one's wings for the first time.
Thousands of flying cadets heard these words in '18. Men from the colleges who had left the campus to qualify as war pilots in the air service.
Thousands of men in colleges today are waiting to hear them. Are preparing for the baccalaureate signal to leave the campus and attempt to qualify for whatever place in life they aspire to. For them, particularly:
"Tomorrow you 'go solo'."
Tomorrow we fly alone!
What is such a "first solo" experience? In a sense, always much the same. In 1918--in 1929. Wartime or peacetime. Army or business. A mental hazard-the "wind up" fear of the unknown and of self-then a man "comes through" according to whatever he has in him to draw upon.
The flying cadet in the picture above had a typical "first solo" and relates is as follows:
At his first "take off" alone, as he tells it, his heart was up around his Adam's apple where it had no business. The more so when the usual little brown ambulance drew up to wait at one corner of the broad flying field.
He got his "ship" off somehow. Or rather, the "ship" got itself off. He could see groups of cadets and "monitors" ahead down the field break and run for the fences as he came tearing toward them-probably zigzagging every which way-"craziest 'solo' in history!" Just couldn't get the "ship" headed straight. They called it a "ship"! It felt more like a slithering shingle!
The first climb for "altitude"-that was the hard part the part he always remembered. In those few wild seconds of finding himself it was probably fifty-fifty whether he would make it--or crash.
Incredibly, he began to hear voices--two voices. (He insists that he "heard" them; no "Imagination" no, sir!) As from two invisible-well, "microphones," as one would say now. At either end of the cowl in front of him. And he himself some Third Person. A petrified audience of one.
One Voice-the one on the left-mean and pretty hateful-kept calling at him!
"You're going to fall! You're going to fall! You'll never make it! You're going to fall!"
As though trying to make him fall!
Then the other Voice:
"You're not going to fall! You can make it? Stick! Don't be yellow'! Don't listen to him! You're not going to fall!"
As though trying to keep him from falling.
Over and over the two Voices kept that up-all the time he was climbing.
An unforgettable experience. Utterly real. As though those two Voices were actually there-either end of the cowl.
He came through all right, finally. Got hold of himself. And after that everything was easier. But to this day he holds that it was that Second Voice-Stiffening his back-that enabled him to "make it."
Back on the ground again. With a whole skin, and without breaking his neck. Grinning.
"Pretty rotten," commented the Monitor. "But you'll do. That last 'landing' wasn't bad."
He had "gone solo." He had done it!
But all the way back to the barracks he could not help puzzling over the two Voices. He finally decided it must have been something like this:
They had personified-or spoken out of-the two "habit" sides of himself-the old Adam and the new Adam.
All the time times he had ever "compromised," "shirked," "chucked it"-all the time he had let himself yield to soft, narcotic impulses in preference to harder, more tonic impulses-all the softness he had ever let form within himself-all that had waited till then to come back on him. That had been the one Voice; the mean hateful one.
All the times he had ever steeled himself-ever kept "in training," so to speak, though with nothing to gain but the satisfaction-ever driven himself by power of will and for a principle-all those thousand and one intangible little credits he had ever put by (and completely forgotten)-all that had come to life for him to draw upon to life to give him a balance enough on the right side to tide him over. That had been the second Voice.
If he had ever once known such a showdown was coming if he had it to do over again how easily he could have put by more to his credit and made his balance comfortably larger!
In telling this, the cadet of '18 insists he is doing no moralizing-just relating something that happened. To him, that is.
Men now in college are conceivably concerned with "putting by" enough to give them a balance on the right side when their time comes; when they "go solo." If they are not, they will be-sooner or later.
That balance will depend, obviously, upon what they have ever developed within themselves to draw upon. All the constructive, negotiable things they have cemented into habit-that will determine the size of the balance.
Those constructive, negotiable things are what they expect to get our of college.
In a supplementary way they can expect to get those things also out of whatever other cultural influences they surround themselves with, meanwhile.
Perhaps as intimate an influence as any-and potentially as decisive-is their daily NEWSPAPER.
The effect of their daily newspaper may be tonic or it may be naroctic--according to whichever need and taste they themselves bring to it. And their reading of a daily newspaper can become tonic and not narcotic in the degree that they read it primarily for news.
News, it almost goes without saying, is the voice, the language, of the world in action. To the men in college who are seeking constructive things they can mentally accumulate, the news offers the best available advance map and chart of those fields where college "cadets" sooner or ready, a convenient exercise for those who wish to keep intellectually "in training." In turn, the news requires a taste and appreciation on the part of its readers. This further constitutes a helpful influences for those to cultivate who would make their "first solo" flights successful.
The man in college is now choosing the daily newspaper he wishes to read for the will be to his advantage to read a newspaper that offers primarily the news. He talking will probably change him.
But if it is such a newspaper he wishes-if he is seeking the one most complete, the one most valuable sources of news information on what the entire-world is doing, saying, thinking every twenty-four hours-if he is concerned with influences that equip him to "fly alone"-he will find supremely what he wants in-
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