Not By Bread Alone
Pays undertook his part of the bargain with enthusiasm and imagination. He hung at the windows neat curtains of home spun material. From the Hellenic Tourist Bureau he secured a donation of excellent posters with which he decorated the walls. Agricultural charts which were a part of Zoulomoglou's equipment helped to give a rural atmosphere to the place and could, on occasion, be used for some of his meetings. Photographs of a few of the great men of Greece were hung about the room. Pictures which Pays had taken of various beauty spots in the village were enlarged and appropriately used to provide local color. Nearly three hundred small books and pamphlets filled neat closets which had been built into the wall at the back of the room where before were the shelves for the coffee and ouzo. In front of these cases on the counter, over which formerly had been dispensed the wares of the shop, were sets of indoor games, stacks of magazines, and blanks for recording the books. The community secretary was assigned, as a part of his official duties, to be responsible for the center. A young woman, who had had the unusual privilege of a year of secondary education in one of the larger towns, volunteered to keep track of the books on the record blanks provided. Pays had done a fine job and I felt proud of his handiwork.
A visit to the place a few weeks after the inauguration provided convincing proof that his efforts were well justified. In the morning there were only a few visitors. But one old man, evidently illiterate, was listening in rapt attention to the story of Greek Independence which a younger man was reading to him. Two or three others were playing various indoor games, including trictrac, checkers, and the cheap Woolworth games which some of our American friends had contributed. In the late afternoon I came in again and found that this hour had been reserved for the school children. Toward evening the place became packed, as peasants, the day's work done, came in to read or to look at the pictures, or play quiet games. Still later I listened to Zoulomoglou as he conducted a lively discussion regarding the importance of diversifying their farming and explained the crops that could be used for this purpose.
The problem of finding suitable books and periodicals for such reading rooms was not simple. Pays, however, in his characteristic manner enlisted the assistance of numerous friends and officials. As a result he succeeded, eventually, in bringing together a good supply of appropriate material. It was necessary to secure reading matter that would be interesting and instructive to peasants of varying ages, and at the same time written in simple language. The language problem of Greece is complicated with distinct variations between the written and the spoken word, and in each case a difference between the commonly excepted vernacular and the forms used by the educated. The Director of Education for Macedonia helped to select suitable books on natural science, Greek legends, history, travel, and biographies of great men. The Metropolitan of Salonica advised in the selection of religious books drawn from the lists approved by the Holy Synod. The Hellenic Agricultural Society made a generous donation of its agricultural pamphlets. Pays discovered that an organization known as "The Society of Editors of Useful Books" had preserved and even expanded a fine collection of children's books put out years before under the patronage of the royal family. Many of these proved to be most appropriate.
Eventually Theodore became an authority on the subject of reading material adapted to the mentality of the peasant. Noted writers and publishers were soon to be numbered among his many friends, and frequently he secured at greatly reduced prices advance issues of new books. Periodicals were investigated and thirteen were found that dealt with agriculture, religion, general science, children's stories, and games. As time went on many additions were made to our original selection of books and magazines, while some that were too hurriedly chosen were gradually eliminated.
With Kyrghia on its way Pays turned to a request he had received from the village of Makriyalos to the south of Salonica in the shadow of high Olympus. He found here one of the few clubs of young men that appeared to be active. This little organization consisted of thirty-four members who paid monthly dues of five drachmas. Their meeting place was a converted storeroom about ten feet square with an uneven dirt floor and one not-too-large window. Theodore decided to deal with this group instead of arranging matters through the village council, as in the case of Kyrghia. Before proceeding, however, he consulted the priest, the two teachers, and the mayor. All agreed with his plans.
After a lively club meeting, with Pays as their guest, the boys started in to raise sufficient funds to cover their share of the project. They toured the village and secured about $3.00 in cash, besides contributions of boards, nails, and paint. Ten days later Pays visited his prospects again. Inspired by his interest they renewed their efforts and succeeded in gathering enough more money to cover the purchase of a bookcase. Pays had promised the boys that if they carried their part of the bargain he would have the reading room ready for them by Christmas. But in his eagerness to please the youngsters he neglected to reckon with the slowness which characterizes most action in that part of the world. The new bookcase was not ready on the appointed date, nor were the books prepared which were to be used to fill this case.
Bound books are rather expensive in Greece. Usually books are issued with paper covers and look like ordinary pamphlets. These may be fairly suitable for private use, but in a village reading room such books could not possibly last more than a short time. Theodore discovered, however, that he could purchase unbound books and then have these bound by special arrangement at a cost of about five cents each. He followed this practice, and as a result all of his material was neat in appearance and sufficiently strong to stand the hard wear of village use.
On the afternoon of December twenty-fourth, after much pressure had been exerted, his bookcase was finished, the books finally bound, and other equipment all prepared. To make good on his promise. Pays started out with his load on Christmas morning. He was met at the station by the boys. They could hardly believe that a man from the city would sacrifice his Christmas holiday to assist them in their project. It was an inspiring day even (perhaps especially) for Pays. By evening the furniture was installed, the room decorated and the books arranged. Moreover, the boys were able to add one more installment; to their share of the project. The previous night, Christmas eve, they had circulated the village, in Greek fashion, singing Christmas songs, and accepting donations for their new reading room. Contributions of wheat, corn and eggs, together with some cash, gave them a total of over $10.00.
The young men were proud of their efforts. Their club room was completely transformed. The floor had been leveled off and packed down. A good coat of white-wash had considerably increased the light and another window had been added. On the] walls they now had colored posters depicting beauty spots of Greece, enlargements of well-known scenes in their own little village, and all of the other decorations which Pays knew how to arrange so tastefully. The place was small, but the boys seldom appeared all at one time, and they could manage. To them this little room with its curtains, its furnishings, and simple decorations was a palace. Certainly it was neat and clean and most presentable. There was an atmosphere about the place which even an outsider could feel and which must have been quite impressive to these boys. Here they could gather in a wholesome environment to read or play games, attend a lesson by the agriculturalist, or even see some of the exciting "movies" which Pays soon introduced. The local priest helped to complete the picture by coming in twice a week to instruct the club members in the ritual of the Orthodox church.
The third room which followed early in the new year was dedicated on the first of February. On the first day of April Pays achieved his fourth center. This was accomplished, with the aid of Demosthenes Economou, in the frontier village of Platanakia. The military commander, who had pressed Demosthenes into service the previous year for the edification of his young soldiers, had also used his influence to secure a reading room for this place. The church of Platanakia is named in honor of the first Friday after Easter, one of the holy days of the Orthodox faith. Zoothohou Pighis, which means life giving spring, is also the village fete day when peasants from far and near gather every year to celebrate the occasion. This spring day of 1931 witnessed an unusual event in the day's celebration —the inauguration of a little center for reading and recreation. It was an important occasion for the spread of our new gospel.
The season was now too far advanced to attempt any more activities of this nature until fall when the peasants would be once more free of the rush of farm work. The opening of each new center required no small amount of propaganda to arouse the interest of the people and to secure the local cooperation which Pays insisted upon having before making a move. He soon found that no less an effort was required in maintaining the rooms. Someone had to be in charge, and Pays refused to provide this person himself. He felt that the community should take the responsibility of keeping the center going. The room must be kept clean. Heat was sometimes required. The books must be issued and returned to their cases.
We tried to maintain accurate records of the use of the reading material but without much success. Very often the teachers would volunteer at the beginning, but their many academic duties soon made this added responsibility too much for them. Sometimes a directing committee would be formed among the older boys of the community. Various other schemes were tried out— each one to be used for a time, only to break down and be replaced by another. The peasant is not noted for his powers of leadership or his organizing ability. If he were, our services would not have been needed.
Everywhere there was great interest in securing reading matter even in the case of villages that could not provide a suitable room. For those who could read, and fully half of the peasants enj oyed this ability, rich new fields were opened up through this material that Pays now brought in. A peasant was no longer confined within the narrow limits of his little world but he could reach out in his imagination to the interesting places about which he now read. Because of this interest Pays had, from the beginning, supplemented his reading rooms with what he called "circulating libraries." These were portable boxes of a size suitable for about sixty books. It must be remembered that many of these books were no larger than small pamphlets and so large boxes were not required to accommodate fifty or sixty. In the cover of the box was pasted an inventory and there was a blank for keeping records of the circulation. These movable libraries were distributed usually through the agriculturalists. They would take boxes from the central reading room, if there was one, or receive them directly from headquarters. Sometimes the little library would be turned over to the schoolmaster; at other times the secretary of the community would take the responsibility. After everyone who was interested had been given an opportunity to read the few books, the box would be changed for a new set.
By the end of his first year Pays had reading rooms in six villages and five portable libraries in general circulation. To meet the requirements of these reading rooms and circulating boxes he had built up a collection of over 2,000 books. He was constantly at the problem of looking for new material. Officials, educators, and friends were pressed into service. Little by little the collection grew to meet the demands of the constantly increasing centers, the circulating libraries, and the reserves that had to be maintained for exchange purposes.
The reading rooms turned out to be convenient centers for various types of worth-while activities. Not only did the agriculturalists use these rooms for some of their classes, but the village teachers found in them new sources of good reference material. Stories read by the children made excellent subjects for compositions. One teacher attempted a little play with her pupils which was found in one of the children's magazines. Several youngsters discovered a book which included a simple Greek comedy and a group of boys got together with the assistance of their teacher to act it. Pays arranged occasional educational talks of interest to peasants. He built up a considerable amount of equipment for visual education. One or two old stereopticon machines were found among the now unused relief supplies. Two or three little portable machines, which showed strip film and which could be operated from a battery, were discovered. Sets of strip films were made up with thirty or forty pictures on a given subject. All of these included many photographs taken locally and showing well-known citizens of the various communities. It was an exciting moment for a peasant and his neighbors when he saw a view of himself on the screen. They called these pictures "movies," and Pays showed his movies everywhere.
As a matter of fact it was not long before he was able to provide real movies. On one of my trips to America I found an inexpensive projector called a moviescope weighing not more than ten pounds and showing 16 mm. film. We secured a few films on various educational subjects and Pays would show these over and over until the peasants knew them by heart. Wherever he went he carried his little projector together with an automobile battery which he bought for the purpose. He was constantly besieged to show his movies in this place and that. One evening, during a picture show in the little village of Sevastiana, two or three peasants dropped in from a neighboring settlement. The visitors begged Pays to come over to their village on the following evening and show his movies to their people. The place was some distance away and Theodore had other plans. There was also the question of transportation. The villagers insisted they would attend to that. The following day a man arrived from Rizo with a cart. He announced that he had been paid one egg each by the families of the community to bring Pays and his machine. In reporting the incident later Pays concluded: "I had to go."
The paraphernalia which this recreational leader gradually accumulated for his trips to the villages was enough to discourage a less intrepid traveler. To Theodore it was just an expansion of his now famous first-aid kit. A car of the proper proportions might easily have solved the problem of transportation, of electricity for projectors, even, perhaps, of sleeping accommodations. But the roads were so bad and the distances so great that this method of travel was considered altogether too expensive. Moreover, such a possibility appeared still more unfavorable when, early in the Macedonian program, the government gave to all of our personnel special cards for greatly reduced rates on the railroad.
Eventually our use of moving pictures decreased in spite of the interest everywhere manifested. Good films were expensive to buy and difficult to borrow or rent. Furthermore, nearly every film used a background that was so far removed from the primitive conditions of these villages that the contrast was either tragic or ridiculous. We tried making our own movies with a borrowed machine, hoping to find out whether or not it would pay us to purchase a moving picture camera. However, we found the film so expensive and the proportion of good results so small that we could not afford to keep up the practice. Gradually we returned to the use of still pictures, supplementing these with an occasional movie when, by some chance, we secured a fairly good film. During one period of twelve months early in his work Pays showed still and moving pictures to nearly four thousand people.
Having concentrated during his first year on providing reading material for book-hungry people, Pays undertook early in 1932 to promote village athletics on a more systematic basis. This phase of the work thus far had been rather spasmodic and unorganized. Some of our agriculturalists were interested in athletics and enjoyed playing with boys. Others had a tendency to look down upon such activities, considering them to be beneath their dignity as trained men. Usually this was true of those who did not know how to play. Something was needed to put this important activity on a more systematic basis and to ensure its functioning more or less automatically throughout the year.
Pays developed an idea which seemed to have possibilities. He encouraged each man to train a small group of boys in simple athletic events that required little equipment. In case the agriculturalist was not particularly well qualified he was expected to enlist the service of someone in the community or get the assistance of Pays himself as he made his rounds of the villages. With groups of village boys competing among themselves and developing their athletic skill, it was arranged that district meets should also be conducted. Every leader had in his area of six villages a natural setting for such a contest. The champions of each village could be brought together for a district meet after several months of exciting preparation. It was agreed that the winners of these district meets should represent their villages at a big affair to be held in Salonica in June. By such a system it was found possible to motivate the interests of both the agriculturalists and the boys, and to keep a fairly well organized program of athletics functioning throughout the year.
The district meets provided an excellent opportunity of cooperating with the villages in their annual fete days. Organized recreation could easily be added to the activities of the day and with profit to everyone—onlookers as well as participants. Rough and tumble wrestling matches spontaneously organized by a few of the village strong men are a frequent form of diversion and one greatly enjoyed by the peasants. The champion of such a match is the hero of the day and he goes from peasant to peasant, receiving gifts of food—eggs, choice bits of meat, bread, and wine. The interest shown in such contests of strength, hardly of skill, was sufficient proof that similar events of an organized nature would be well received.
We decided, therefore, that the district meets should be arranged wherever possible in connection with one of the holy days of the area. This was done and the plan worked nicely. In the morning and again in the late afternoon after the peasants had attended the church service and enjoyed the special sights and the sounds, athletic events would be run off. There were contests in running, jumping, tug-of-war, volley ball, and other athletic events. The six villages from which these boys came as well as other communities of the region were always well represented by the many farmers who were on hand for the holiday. The peasants followed these contests with great excitement. They wanted their villages to win. They urged their champions on with loud cheers. They enjoyed participating in the distribution of the prizes at the end of the day. Some of these Saints' day meets worked wonders in directing the interest of the people along lines that were more beneficial not only to the boys who participated, but to the fathers and mothers as well.
On the ninth of June, 1932, Pays concluded his spring program of athletics with the first field meet for village boys ever to be held in the capital city of Macedonia. Twenty-seven youngsters, representing nine districts comprising fifty-four villages, came to Salonica to participate in the affair. For these boys of twelve to eighteen years it was an exciting occasion. Many of them were experiencing their first trip to a large city. They came in the rough garb of poor peasant families. Some bore the unmistakable anemic yellow of chronic malaria. A few were obviously undernourished. But they were received, so it seemed to them, like visiting princes.
An elementary school provided suitable sleeping quarters while the army contributed blankets for the beds that were made up on the floors of the class rooms. The Y.M.C.A. turned over its fine new athletic field for the occasion. The Military School sent its student band. The boys were taken to a good moving picture show. Excursions were made to the Government Experiment Station and the American Farm School. The Director of the Agricultural Station personally conducted his visitors over the plant, explained the practical nature of the experimental work, and treated them to hot milk. At the Farm School they enjoyed a lunch prepared especially for the appetites of hungry boys, while Dr. House, President-Emeritus, gladly departed from the restricted regime of his almost four score years and ten to give them one of his inspiring talks.
The meet itself was a grand success. The boys competed for the honor of their villages in running, jumping, sack, races, volley ball, and other events. The Governor, the Metropolitan, the Mayor, and numerous other officials came to encourage and to support these youngsters who represented, after all, the hope of this country. There was pathos as well as a little comedy in the appearance of the champions as they came forward to receive their medals and the congratulations of the officials. Their make-shift athletic suits ranged from grotesquely cut underclothing to homespun trousers and brightly colored shirts. They appeared to be anything but the victorious athletes that the judges had proclaimed them to be. In the annual meets that followed with somewhat improved economic conditions at home, and dressed in the simple trunks and jerseys which the villages shared in providing they made a neater but no more appealing impression. After personally congratulating each winner, and in fact every boy in the group, the Governor sent them away with a message which included these words:
"You must try to give to Greece that little something which everyone can provide through good service. In doing this you can best start with the aim of bettering your own villages. Build up your bodies through exercise in the open air instead of squandering your leisure time in the unhealthy coffee shops. Go to the reading rooms which these people have provided for you and try to induce others to come also. The knowledge which you may thus gain will make you proud. America has come to help us ; how much more must we try to help ourselves."
One day toward the end of 1932 Pays picked up an American pamphlet entitled "The Library of the Open Road." It described one of our county mobile libraries that provides isolated farm homes with good books, carried from house to house in a well stocked motor car. He dropped his reading and came to my office.
"Why don't we have a library of the open road. It is just as easy here as in America and much more necessary. We can use the transportation of the country. The vegetable dealer, the dry goods merchant, the butcher carry their wares from village to village and from house to house on the back of the faithful donkey. We also can use donkeys to carry our books from place to place."
There was no refuting his argument and he began at once to put his idea into practice.
During the month following Pays organized three traveling libraries. Each one operated out of a central reading room. Special portable cabinets with glass fronts, very similar to those used by the Macedonian dry goods merchant, were fitted to the back of a donkey, one on each side. With this arrangement could be carried from one hundred and fifty to two hundred of these small books. A boy was engaged to cover the five villages surrounding the central reading room. In each settlement the traveling librarian would leave the books that were selected by hungry readers and pick up those that had been read. He had a little record blank on which he entered his exchanges and at the end of the trip sent the report in to our office. Usually the circuit was made once a week. It was a romantic idea and it served a great purpose.
One more feature needed to be added before we could consider our recreational program as reasonably fulfilling its mission. We were concerned over the lack of supervision in the play life of school children and their need of more organized games. Sometimes our agriculturalists took a special interest in putting school children through a series of gymnastics or leading them in good games. But this could not occur, with our schedule, niore than once in a week and it seldom took place even then. It occurred to Pays that if he could equip school yards with a few pieces of playground apparatus the children would naturally o-ravitate to such equipment. Thus, automatically, they would be kept fully occupied and would secure good exercise with little or no supervision. We talked the whole question over with our friend, Lewis Reiss, who was National Director of Physical Education for the Greek Y.M.C.A. It was not long before a fairly inexpensive set of apparatus was decided upon as suitable for the purpose and within the financial means of most villages.
After working a few months on this question and arousing the interest of several schools, Pays was ready to try out his new plan. As usual he promoted his scheme through the men in the field. These leaders were expected to arouse local interest to the point where a community would share, as in the case of the reading room, in the cost of the project. The little village of Kato Lipohori, in the Edessa district, was the first to back up its request by providing one half of the cost. This village was gradually bringing to completion a new school. Here there was a good yard with plenty of room. Soon installed were a see-saw, swings, parallel bars, a horizontal bar, rings, climbing poles, and a sand box for small children. The whole set completely installed cost about $50.00 at that time. This expense was divided equally between the village and Pays' budget. In later sets a few other pieces were added, and these together with the rising prices, increased the expense to about $40.00 for each party.
Like the reading rooms the idea quickly spread. During noons, recess periods, and before and after school, children ran to this equipment. They learned quickly how to skin the cat, chin themselves, go over the horizontal bar, and climb a slippery pole. Swings, see-saws, and sand boxes proved to be a paradise for the smaller children. At the dedication of one playground the hoys from a near by village where a set had been previously installed gave a demonstration of the tricks that could be done on this equipment.
By the end of his third year of effort Theodore had developed a recreational program which included many worth-while features and which exerted a wide influence. His reading rooms, circulating boxes, and donkey libraries covered thirty-nine of our fifty-four villages. From such records as we could secure it appeared that an average of about three thousand, two hundred peasants were enjoying good reading during each month of the slack winter season. To provide all of the material required by' this service he had built up his supply of books and small pamphlets to the number of nearly five thousand. Four school yards, had been equipped with playground apparatus to the joy and better health of seven hundred and twenty children. Participating; the following year (1933) in the annual affair at Salonica were forty-six village youngsters representing, in effect, many times that number of boys who had profited from the wholesome training of the local elimination contests and district meets. Two thousand, nine hundred and thirty-one people had seen during the year his movies, strip films, and stereopticon slides.
In general we were pleased with the results of our efforts thus far in adding elements of recreation to the social fabric of these villages. At the same time there were certain aspects of the world that could be vastly improved. Much more than we were achieving was needed for the village youth between the time of his departure from the elementary school and his sixteen-months period of military service at eighteen, nineteen or twenty. Some means had to be found for developing local leadership, and greater sense of responsibility. Projects well started were allowed to go down through the lack of good local leaders. The recreational supervisor could not be in every place at one time, an£ unless important features of the program were made self-perpetuating they could not be considered as particularly sound.! Finally we needed a properly coordinating philosophy to unify the whole plan. Individual activities, thoroughly sound in themselves, quite frequently were not well related to other phases of the recreational program.
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