The Gossips of Rivertown--a blog of news and commentary exclusively about Hudson

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A Hundred Years Ago in Hudson

A friend just brought to my attention this excerpt from a biography of Alexander Woollcott--the theater and literary critic who was a close friend of Dorothy Parker's, an original member of the Algonquin Round Table, the model for the character Sheridan Whiteside in The Man Who Came to Dinner, and a 1909 graduate of Hamilton College.
In the fall of his senior year Woollcott sought out the possibilities of gainful employment following his graduation from Hamilton.

"Primarily, I wanted to become a teacher and actually got as far as to apply for the principalship of the high school at Hudson, New York," Woollcott wrote.

"The Hudson school board was gracious and encouraging, but during the tea table conference in what passed for a mansion in Hudson one of its more taciturn members took me aside.

"In a whisper he explained that, whereas the ordinances of the town were modern enough to frown on corporal punishment, it was an open secret that the principal must be prepared to thrash the occasional hoodlum among the students. Tranquil months might drift by without its ever being necessary actually to join combat. But that would only be because the principal was able subtly to convince the entire student body that he could, were he so inclined, take the toughest brute in the senior class and beat the living daylights out of him.

"This colloquy was held in a bay window which looked out on the elm-lined street of the old riverside town not far from Albany. At the moment three students were on their way home from football practice, their alarming bulk increased by the doggy high-necked sweaters of yesteryear.

"'There,' said my counselor on the school board, 'could you scare the wits out of one of those?'

"So I decided to become a reporter."

--From Smart Aleck: The Wit, World, and Life of Alexander Woollcott by Howard Teichmann (Morrow, 1976)

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Carole, great blog. Thanks, E. Fout