National Geographic : 1937 Jan
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE dancing girl in pajamas, sandals, and her toes red-painted, mincing across Maiden Lane for a "spot of tea" between acts. More giggling chorines loiter about the stage door, ignored by blase pedestrians who prefer to stare at stuffed New Zealand birds shown in a near-by window. "I served my apprenticeship in the New York theaters," said C. B. Cochran, fa mous London producer. "For years I played the American cities, with Richard Mansfield. Your GEOGRAPHIC is my fa vorite. Every time you publish pictures of San Francisco, Chicago, or Pittsburgh, it brings back familiar scenes." Sitting in a Maiden Lane cafe behind the theater, we counted noses: a Bombay merchant, two Argentine cattlemen, a Netherland tulip salesman, the agent for a French brandy, a British Army man on furlough from India, and the publisher of a Pacific coast newspaper. From there I went to meet a modelmaker, just leaving for Capetown to exhibit a miniature model of the Port of London and all its docks (page 2). "I wish you could see the big mosquito I made," he said. It was six feet across for use in an African educational campaign against fever. "Turtle oil removes wrinkles," insists a sandwich man, while street gamins before a movie house sing, "Git Along, Little Dogie." Cockneys adore Wild West pic tures. "Yes, our police do use their heads," agreed an inspector. "Lately we sent out a squad to keep order where an agitator was trying to excite a crowd. With them they took a football, a clever dodge, and began to kick it about the park where the agitator talked. His listeners began to drop away to watch the police play foot ball. 'Come on and play,' challenged the police, and the crowd came and formed a team and played against the police. And so faded one more threatened incident." ALL LONDON PATIENTLY "FORMS A LINE" A Saturday-noon High Street bus queue was 200 yards long, three or four abreast. Thus, in orderly patience, you see London trained to wait in line; no crowding, no cutting in at ticket windows and bus stops. Cars drive to the left, of course. It is only pedestrians who swarm in curious disorder. Walk any crowded street, and you feel that all London is plunging straight at you. Nobody instinctively keeps either to right or left. Morning millions scurry to work, pouring from bridges, tunnels, buses, and trains. After weeks of watching, your most vivid memory is of millions of little busi ness girls running-all running to work. Ask directions here and people do not say, "Across the street"; they say, "Over the road." You do not "turn to the left"; you "take the left turning." Odd street names abound, such as Haunch of Venison, Rabbit Row, Shoe Lane, Mincing Lane, St. Mary the Axe, Wood, Bread, and Milk Streets, Honey Lane, Roman Bath Street, Lime Street, and Gutter Lane, with Iron monger and Petticoat and Fetter Lanes.* You see all men lifting their hats when they pass the Cenotaph in Whitehall. While you talk with the Lord Mayor in his red robes, his old-style carriage and four, with drivers and footmen in white wigs, draws up before the door to take him to open the Courts.t Before the Mansion House a soldier demonstrates an antiaircraft gun, while another pleads for recruits. Beneath its routine hurly-burly, all London is uneasy. Thoughts of war and bombs are with it always. They still point out where World War bombs were dropped (page 36). Drums, bugles, bells, and tramping feet sound everywhere. Bells of St. Paul's peal merrily for weddings that unite ancient families. Royal Horse Guards in white breeches and high black boots cross sabers over the heads of bridal pairs while crowds cheer. Handbells at St. Clement Danes Church in the Strand are played by children on a day in spring when, by ancient rite, Danish children present an orange and a lemon to other youngsters who attend. They call it "Oranges and Lemons Day," and quote an old rhyme: Oranges and lemons, Say the bells of St. Clemen's. Two life-sized mechanical men wiggle their heads and raise their clubs to strike the hour on the bell of St. Dunstan's Church in Fleet Street. Before "Ye Olde Cock Tavern-founded * See "London From a Bus Top," by Herbert Corey, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, May, 1926, and "Vagabonding in England," by John McWilliams, March, 1934. t See "Great Britain on Parade," by Maynard Owen Williams, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGA ZINE, August, 1935.