100 Years Ago: Green singers, clean town
Taken from the pages of the Warren and Barrington Gazette this week in 1913:
Distinguished? Or extinguished?
Four town boys under the caption of the Working Boys quartet made their initial appearance at the Bijou theatre last week in a musical role. In spite of the fact that they belong in Warren the young men, who are well known — Messrs. Little, Drysdale, Collins, and Smith, were very well received by the patrons of the Bijou at all the performances.
These young men have the ability to render good music and naturally showed their inexperience and lack of team work. With some first class instructor behind them for a time to coach them, they would be able to turn off some very effective music.
Many an evening these young men have been heard in the open air, as they strolled about town enjoying themselves and their voices blended nicely.
One wag remarked that he did not know whether the boys had "distinguished" themselves or "extinguished" themselves. They need encouragement, and grit and it takes plenty of grit for a Warren boy to appear before Warren people and he mustn't expect but feeble applause.
Warren is not altogether the place that attorneys have called it. Why in the world don't we have more arrests? Why don't we hear of all sorts of crime — hold ups, breaking, thieving, etc. Just glance at the police report and see if the statement as to Warren's debased condition can be born out. Nor are the evil doers in league to suppress the right and carry on their nefarious business.
No Sir-ree! To give Warren any such rap is like hitting the wrong man. The estimable gentleman is mistaken. We do not claim perfection, nor sainthood, but we do claim that Warren is as clean and cleaner than many towns of its size. The police records prove it. The court records prove it. You can patrol the town from one end to the other and not see a drunken person, and this proves it.
The report of the factory inspector just presented to the general assembly states that there are 5761 children under 16 yeqrs of age employed in the mills of the state. We presume that this means employed according to law. What is the number employed in violation of the law? We do not find the estimates even. The reduction of child labor has affected for good the working classes. It has not only given the opportunity for but forced the men of the community to go to work. In New England, from 1870 to 1900 there was a reduction from 14.5 to 6.7 per cent in the number of children employed as wage earners, or a total of 7.8 per cent in 30 years.
These figures show what has been done for the child and the home in the way of compulsory education. In the last 10 years the percentage has decreased somewhat in Rhode Island owing to the passage of legislation with wider scope; to the more stringent observance of the law and its more efficient enforcement. There is yet much that can be done. The law is not perfect. As was remarked at the time of the passage of the last act relating to school age, "It is the best that can be put through now." There are many children crowding into the lower grades of our school today who have not reached the age limit, but who because they are unable to do the "three R's" in the English tongue must go to school until they are old enough to receive the coveted certificate enabling them to go to work. These care but little what they learn or how much they remember. And while they are not a menace yet such are a great drawback to the smaller and younger pupils who are beginning school life. In everything but knowledge of English expression this other class is older and further developed. They should be under different institutions and grouped by themselves. This is as true of the schools of Warren as elsewhere. With the work being carried on by the factory inspector and thse school authorities, the situation is growing better. If the employers would co-operate — and it may be said of Warren that they do — the problem of illiteracy would be solved and the value of our schools to the public be increased to manifold degree.