Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Truncated Career Of Harlan Page Rowe

Harlan Page Rowe's Father, Elias Page Rowe

From the Out West Magazine, [ September 1929 ], an essay "On Going Home."  The author knew Harlan Page Rowe, a fellow resident of Bad Axe, Michigan, and wrote about him in the article.

An excerpt:

"When Harlan Rowe came back from Chicago the kids nicknamed him "Harlan Page Sasafras Dupont" and were secretly glad that he had to get back of the counter and dish up the butter and count the eggs."

Another excerpt: "....we were delighted when he had to give up his literary career...".

The article:

HOW WELL I remember that September day in 1906 when I boarded the train for Port Huron on my way to New York, and I was on my way to life and freedom. As the train bumped along I thought of the
dim distant day when I would return. Success was certain. I would return in a blaze of glory, and "Then," I thought, "some folks will see."

I did not realize what a task it is to impress one's home-town folks; for some unaccountable reason they refuse to be impressed. I was hardly missed. My father used to talk of my being submerged in the great city." He hated the city wanted none of it. I must confess that father's notions concerning the "city" were mere small-town theories. A man or woman living in a small town remains submerged to a far greater degree than does the city dweller. The small-town citizen has few intimate friends. My father thought he knew the people in Bad Axe, Michigan. In reality he knew very, very few. As a boy about town I knew that So-and-So lived
in a certain house, but the number of homes I ever set foot in was small in-deed. People live all their lives in Bad Axe, Huron County, Michigan, and never enter more than a score of homes. The remainder are alien and impersonal. When a family moves away they leave a few, a very few intimate friends who miss them; but aside from these, they are hardly missed. The local paper spreads the news and that's the end of it.

The greatest illusion the small-town boy carries away with him when he migrates to the city is the notion that he will return and impress the "old folks at home." It cannot be done. I should have known this truth on that day in September, 1906, but, like every other ambitious youth, I believed that I would be the exception to the rule. It was a great surprise to me when I discovered that there is no exception to that rule. I should have recalled my attitude and the attitude of other boys about town when some fellow came back out of Detroit or Chicago and tried to impress us. We did not like it, we resented it, and discounted everything he said. I remember very clearly when Gain Merrit came back from Detroit, he told us great stories about his exploits in the city the shows he had seen, the girls he had met, the parties he had enjoyed. True or not, we did not like it. When Harlan Rowe came back from Chicago the kids nicknamed him "Harlan Page Sasafras Dupont" and were secretly glad that he had to get back of the counter and dish up the butter and count the eggs. A lot of young barbarians, we were delighted when he had to give up his literary career and become a clerk in his father's store. We didn't want anyone around showing off and really resented the intrusion of "city stuff" into our social scheme of things.

Nestling among the trees in sunlight and shadow I analyze my personal attitude easily enough. I was jealous and envious of Harlan Rowe. He possessed what I wanted an education, a cultural training, a mastery of English. It is not a pleasant thing to confess, but it is human, and I am able to trace the majority of my prejudices to the same foundation. We rejoiced in the disappointments and tragedies of others. If we could not climb, we could at least, pull down. The small town is the epitome of democracy and the gang of boys on
the Baptist Church corner was the essence of the New England town meeting.

After 20 years I begin to see the meaning of Harlan Rowe's return to the butter and egg counter, I see now
that it was an heroic thing to do. His father was ill and needed him, and turning his back upon everything he loved, his aspirations and ideals, he went back to Bad Axe because as he saw it, it was the right thing to do. If I had read the same story in a book, I would have had some sense of appreciation, but it was Harlan Rowe, and it was Bad Axe, Michigan, and I rejoiced when he had apparently failed. How wrong, how ut-
terly stupid ; he had not failed at all; I was a cad he was a man. He joined the "club" and was made to feel "out of it", was practically frozen out, and walked the streets alone, disheartened, discouraged and crushed. In the old days it was not a good thing to possess too much education. Penny Wilcox, Hugh Ross, Doctor Conboy, and Harlan Rowe discovered that truth. The school teachers and preachers were the only ones permitted to possess an excess of learning.

[The article was continued here; Harlan Rowe was not mentioned any further]

The E.P. [Elias Page, Harlan's father] Rowe house was mentioned the on the Bad Axe Historical Society's Facebook page.

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