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From Magdalene to Main Street

The Mail

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

Ed. Note: After a taste of American business methods this year at the Harvard Business School, Mr. Dalling-Hay, a graduate of Magdalene College, Cambridge University, England, and a veteran of service with the Royal Navy, decided he would see the most interesting part of the United States standing by roadsides with his thumb up on route from Boston to Los Angeles. This letter, written on the eve of the All-Indian Pow-wow from a hotel room in Flagstaff, Arizons, records some of the impressions of a Public School Britisher confronting P. J. Booster, 1951.

I started hitchhiking from Pittsburgh. A friend drove me to the edge of the city and left me by the side of the road. It was not easy to hold up the sign, "British Student" for the first time, but my previous experience in France gave me courage. The sign has, in fact, proved to be the one indispensable item of my equipment and I would not undertake the journey again without it.

In Tennessee I was entertained by what I like to think of as the "typical" American...the sort of person you cannot help liking in spite of misgivings. Very friendly, no visible inhibitions, and above all, dynamic and energetic. (I read an article yesterday--"Are Americans Losing their Dynamism"; there was a conflict of opinion.) While in this state, one man informed me that "the Southerners have traditions which the North hasn't and it's useless for the North to impose its views on the South." In this connection, Mrs. Roosevelt's name was not very popular.

When I arrived in New Orleans I met another Englishman, and together we visited the French Quarter and a small artificial beach. Wherever there's a sunny beach there are women, and at this particular man-made strand boys and girls play about 'til all hours. The lake is only four or five feet deep for quite a way out, and this provided an opportunity for the most copious necking I have ever seen in the water. Or for that matter, outside of the water.

We were guests for a short while of one of your American businessmen. Shortly after our introduction he told us his major interest was Egyptology. This was very encouraging, and he went on to say how the present world situation was all reflected in the history of Egypt, with its changes of dynasties. But when he started to talk about art, and mentioned his visit to the Louvre: "To be quite candid the Louvre reminded me of an old attic; all the stuff they have up there is so old." That a student of Egyptology should come to such a conclusion sounded a little strange.

By this time we had arrived at his country club, and for the next hour we learned how he had made all his money. He deplored the fact that so many people wanted to join a country club.

After a swim in the pool, we sat on the edge while the businessman stressed that MacArthur was one of the best products of America, and would give the country the sort of dictatorship it needed. Finally our host invited us to have a drink, and on parting he gave both of us a pamphlet which advocates that Marshall aid be stopped and the British immigrate in large numbers to others parts of the world.

Texas was next on the itinerary; I spent a night in a Fort Worth hotel. I got the impression that the Texans are rather proud of themselves. Many of their cars have stickers on the windows, "built in Texas by Texans." When one woman said to me that "Texans are wonderful people," it seemed like a refrain of what another American told me--"Americans are good chaps." This seems to be a rather widespread belief. It does help to explain why Americans pay little heed to a lot of criticism--after all what does it matter what they do if fundamentally they are good chaps?

A topic which seems to be worrying many Americans is the question of British Socialism. The questions asked in this connection usually amount to "can British get out of the mire?", the mire being the threat of communism and the comparatively low standard of living.

So far as the economics question is concerned, only a few Americans I have met realize what Britain has been through, and again the good old American philosophy comes up and says: "if only you had some American drive, and of course, know-how." Last night it was remarked to me, rather impulsively, "the American way is the only way--mass produce." The speaker neglected to indicate what.

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