I love doing research. It is one of my favorite parts of writing historical fiction, and there’s always the chance of making a startling discovery.
While searching several years ago for information about the Juarez Stake Academy in Colonia Juarez, I found a student newspaper published when the grandfather I write about attended school there. How fun! Maybe I’d see his name inside; but more likely I’d learn details about student life 1906. Oh, was I in for some surprises!
The first issue of the newspaper, Southern Rays, an amazing 32 pages long, contains long and short articles—mostly in English, but a few in Spanish—poetry, editorials, photographs, and many very short observations about school and community life. They clearly hoped non-students would find the newspaper interesting and quoted a subscription rate of $1.00 per year. (That might mean one dollar or one peso, as both the US dollar and Mexican peso use the same symbol.)
I found my grandfather’s name, Frank Whiting, on the very first page. The staff roster names him as the paper’s local editor. Further back, a listing of class officers lists F.M. Whiting (his middle name is Marion) as the Senior Class Treasurer, and his sister, Amy, the Junior Class Secretary/Treasurer.
Beginning from page one, I read each article. Nothing caught my attention until I read the story, "Not Frank Enough." Was it a thinly disguised tale about my grandfather? The story’s main character, Frank Whitley, accidentally invites two girls to the same dance, then makes things worse by trying to keep both dates without the girls knowing about each other. Both my grandfather and the fictional Frank have sisters named Amy. Both have slow drawls and no problem laughing at themselves. I looked at the names of the two dates, Mamie Huler and Lizzie Canning. Among the newspaper’s staff were Mamie Huish, reporter for the Class of ’09, and Editor-in-chief, Elizabeth R. Cannon. If I needed any further evidence, I found it at the story’s end.
For your fun and enjoyment, here's the story in its entirety.
NOT FRANK ENOUGH
"I guess I've got too much of a good thing. What am I to do about it?” drawled Frank Whitley in his usual measured tones, as he screwed into a comical grimace the corners of a mouth dedicated by nature to mirth.
"Why, what is the matter ?" asked his sister, Amy, as she stood laughing at the disconsolate figure leaning against the door frame and looking down at a bit of paper he held between his fingers.
“Matter! I've got two partners for the dance tonight. That's what's the matter."
“Why, that isn't very serious, is it?" she responded cheerfully. "Aren't you a Mormon?"
"Yes, I'm a Mormon," he answered thoughtfully, "but since we don't practice polygamy any more, I don't want to get too many girls having me at once," and he laughed lightly, “but the worst of it is the girls don't know there are two of them."
"Don't know?'' exclaimed his sister in a dubious tone. "What do you mean?"
"It's like this, you see. Last Monday I asked Mamie to go to the Academy party with me Friday night. She told me she couldn't answer me then but would send me a note later. I waited till noon today when I decided she wasn't going to send any note, so I asked Lizzie to be my partner for the dance, and she consented. But just now I received this note," and he held it out to her, “from Mamie, and she says she will go with me. Now what do you suppose I'm to do?''
“Go explain matters,'' said the girl seriously.
"Explain! But who am I to explain to?” replied the puzzled boy.
“Oh, I don't know. You'd better take them both," answered the girl laughing as she left the room.
"I guess so," replied Frank rather doubtfully. The fact is, he was a little worried over the way things had suddenly turned. He was a general favorite with the girls because of his pleasant face and agreeable manner, and he treated them all well. But for these two girls, Mamie Huler and Lizzie Canning, he had a special interest and sentiment that made him desire to avoid anything that might offend either. And he hadn't confidence enough in his own diplomatic ability to trust to an exposure of present conditions if he could avoid it. This exposure of the facts was all the more to be avoided since he knew that the girls were none too fond of each other even now.
While considering this dilemma a happy thought struck him. Lizzie had told him that she was intending to go for a long ride the following day, and wanted to go home early from the party in order to get well rested for the morrow. Mamie lived near by, and the dancing hall was not far off. Could not he take her to the dance first, and then slip quietly away and bring Miss Canning, who would go home early, thus giving him a chance to get back to the dance before it was out.
Frank, though a clean boy, was never noted for his depth of thought, so this first suggestion to his mind was quite satisfactory, and with this seemingly easy solution of what had promised to be a troublesome affair to him, he quickly dismissed the subject from his mind.
He called early that night for Mamie--so early indeed that she was hardly ready--and while he endeavored to show no impatience, his eagerness to be off to the party did not escape her notice, though she thought little of it then, and said nothing.
Nor did she notice that he disappeared for a time from the party after the first few dances, neither that his reappearance was suspiciously near to the time when Miss Canning entered.
Frank had succeeded so admirably in carrying out the first part of his plan that he had little to worry about and so enjoyed himself splendidly, until a little after eleven o'clock, when he began wishing that Lizzie would indicate a desire to go home, for all Academy parties close at midnight, and it was about time he was beginning to get some of his charges home. He was just on the point of speaking to Miss Canning about leaving when she came smiling up to him and said: “We've given up our ride for tomorrow so I shall not need to go home until the dance is over."
The effect of her words were magical. His jaw dropped, while his face and eyes assumed a black expression that was as unintelligible to her as was his tone of voice when with a feeble attempt at a smile he said "all right" and turned away.
Frank sought the quiet of the hall without for a few moments, till he could collect his thoughts. Should he tell the whole matter to the two girls now, and treat it as a joke? He would be glad to, but suppose they should not take it in that way. Wouldn't it be better now as he had gone so far with the deception to try to carry out the original idea? But it was getting late and there was little time for anything except action.
He rejoined the dancers and was soon on the floor with Miss Huler. As the partners were being led to their seats he said to her in a hesitating way, “Mamie, I-I don't feel very well. I haven't been feeling a bit good for a little while. Would--would you as lief go home now?"
She glanced up with a little laugh, then realizing that he was not jesting, and fearing that he might have been attacked with a sudden illness, she quickly replied, "Oh, yes, I am ready at any time."
They soon reached the house, but he seemed in haste to get away, hardly stopping long enough to reply to her solicitations for his health. "Oh, it's nothing much,'' he said. "This feeling will soon pass off. I need only a little sleep I guess," and he was gone. He was none too soon. The dancers were leaving. Nearly all were out of the hall; Lizzie was near the door, waiting for his appearance. He tried to think of a good excuse for his absence, but none occurring to his mind he turned it off by saying, “The last the best of the game." She accepted the compliment with a laugh, and together they passed out into the night.
He saw her safely home, and then delighted with the outcome of his little romantic adventure, his spirits rose high and he went whistling merrily home.
Mamie did not go at once to bed, but went upstairs and sat down by the large open window in her room. She could hear the hum of voices as the dancers left the hall, and she thought of Frank. His behavior when he had come for her; and more especially when he had brought her home, had been so unusual. Was it because he was unwell? He hadn't seemed unwell at first. Could it be in any way a result of her delay in accepting his invitation to the party? Could it be--
"Mamie," came her mother's half-frightened voice.
The girl jumped up and ran quickly down the stairs where she encountered her mother.
"Mamie," said Mrs. Huler in a low hurried voice, "run down and ask Frank Whitley to come up quick. I'm afraid there is a Mexican in the fruit house. You know Sister Brown had a lot of her fruit stolen last week, I heard a noise out there among the bottles, but I dare not go see what is there. Run for Frank and I'll keep watch from this window."
Mamie hurried out through the front door and down the street to Whitley's, their nearest neighbor. There was a light in the kitchen and she rushed in unceremoniously and breathlessly exclaimed, "Where's Frank?"
“He took Miss Canning home from the dance and isn't back yet," said the astonished Amy.
"Miss--Canning--home?” slowly repeated Mamie, forgetting for the moment her urgent errand.
“Yes!--that is--Why, what's the matter, Mamie ?” stammered Amy now realizing what she had done.
“Oh, nothing. Mama wanted some man to come up there quickly. I'll run over and see if I can get Arthur Peters," and in an instant the bewildered Amy was staring into the darkness after the retreating form of her excited friend.
"Hello! Whose this?”' and Frank's cheerful whistle was cut short as a girlish figure flitted before him in the darkness.
"Mr. Whitley, I am glad to know that you have recovered from your illness," and in the girl's voice sounded not a little of irony.
"Mamie! Oh, yes a brisk walk in the cool air has made me feel all right again."
"H'm! Cool air! Cool assertion, I should say. But, Mr. Whitley, Mama wants you to come up to the house quickly. She thinks there is a Mexican in the fruit house. No, don't wait for me,'' as he hesitated, "mother's there alone and frightened. Hurry! Never mind me. I can come all right."
With a mind in a tumult of emotion the boy hurried up to the little house at the foot of the bench, and after a few minutes of careful investigation discovered that the noise in the fruit house had been caused only by a feline intruder that had in some way been locked in. As Mrs. Huler and Frank came from the fruit house, Mamie's foot steps could be heard ascending the stairs, and the boy's hopes of an opportunity for explanation that night fell with a thud. He was so disappointed that he scarcely heard Mrs. Huler when she thanked him, nor when she said good-night. As he stumbled along towards home he muttered something about getting some one to kick him.
A few words from him made clear to his sister the reason for Mamie's errand, and a few words from Amy helped him to under stand better Mamie's recent behavior toward him.
"Well, I'm surely getting badly tangled up," and he laughed in spite of his perplexity.
"I didn't mean to tell where you were, I really didn't," laughed Amy, 'but I was so excited I forgot."
"One woe doth tread upon anothers heels," quoth the brother. “I'd better go to bed and get a good rest. I don't know what I may have to face tomorrow," and with that he kissed his sister good-night and strode off to bed, there to dismiss as quickly as he might the memory of a string of petty misfortunes.
“Guess what's the latest," exclaimed Amy on her return the next morning from an early trip to the grocery store.
"Can't. Tell me," responded Frank, without looking up from the paper on which he was trying to solve a problem in simultaneous equations.
"I was passing Mrs. Canning's place,” said the girl hurriedly, "and there was Mrs. Huler at the gate telling Mrs. Canning, who was on the porch, about the scare she had last night. Just as I passed I heard her say, "It was just after Frank Whitley had brought Mamie home from the dance." Lizzie came out just in time to hear this last speech, but I didn't stop to hear any more.
Frank had grown interested in the recital and when it was finished a long low whistle escaped him. He turned and stared at his book for a moment, then throwing down his pencil, he arose and with his hands thrust deep in his pockets he walked thoughtfully to the open door. “Guess I'll lose my scalp today," he said, while a smile struggled for existence around his mouth. “But, pshaw! after all, it isn't so serious, is it?"
"Of course not,” replied his sister sympathetically, "just explain all.”
That morning at school both the girls pretended not to see Frank at all, though they passed several times very near to him. This way of taking the matter only amused him, and he was in the best of humor himself. He could not but smile at their conscious attempts to slight him during the day, and to ignore each other. The more he thought of the whole affair, the more laughable it seemed and the more ridiculous his own part.
At the close of the day's classes, however, he managed to get both of the girls together in a corner of the reading room. It was no very sympathetic audience he confronted, but he faced it with a smile. He began by saying "Honesty is the best policy, and I want to tell you a little story to prove it." Then he told the whole story, not sparing himself in the least. At first the two girls were more than half indignant, but as he went on describing his own perplexities and laughing at the failures of his plot, they caught the spirit of the situation and joined in the laugh.
As he finished the account, he said, “I've no defense to make. I plead guilty.'' "Yes, and we will see that you are punished more yet, too," said Miss Canning with a laugh, but with well-timed emphasis.
"You ought to be exposed in the Southern Rays," added Miss Huler, "only we would want our names left out.”
And the laugh which followed showed that the Frank confessions were good for the soul.