In this tongue in cheek vignette, Dorothy Parsons Howland, then a reporter for the local newspapers, the Daily Hampshire Gazette, Springfield Union and the Springfield Sunday Republican, describes some of the activities during the annual Southampton Old Home Days Celebration which have continued for decades. Not only is this a delightful report, but it also demonstrates the author’s mastery of her craft.
Old Home Daze (l954)
“Mrs. Muddleday heaved a deep sigh of relief when her minor stake in the local celebration was over. Once a year the town staged a community picnic, and never before had the scatterbrained woman become so involved in the plans.
The affair was complicated this year by the fact that the head of the house was supervising the program. While he was polishing off a welcoming speech and arranging last minute details with that backbone of the celebration, the efficiency committee, Mrs. Muddleday, was clacking away on the typewriter with one eye on the deadline. As a country correspondent she rushed her final paragraph to the Post Office, and then took a turn at being the harried housewife. Mixing the thousand and one ingredients into a hopeful looking salad for fourteen guests at the picnic, she goaded the boys into packing the lunch, and took herself off at a matronly lope for the first event of the day.
From then on she alternately visited with out-of-town guests, kept in touch with the photographer who was climbing around on local roofs trying to get a slant from his skycraper perch, and ate lunch while taking notes.
“Come, come, Mrs. Muddleday,” said the camerman, “You’ve no time to stop and eat now. This is a work day.”
“Well, it’s no wonder to me,” replied the flighty woman, “that photographers and reporters indulge in ulcers. I’ll have a few myself if I have to gallop around after you all day.”
Trying to be in two places at once and remember the names of officers and prize-winning children kept the plump correspondent busy most of the afternoon.
Unexpectedly, too, the teacher who was going to room at the Muddleday home next winter arrived and had to be shown over the old home. He also had to be persuaded that the house was not always in the state of confusion that she had left it in this morning.
Being a sports writer was not the dizzy woman’s best role, but she did put in an appearance at the ball game and discoverd that the most interesting event was the rolling pin contest. Seems as if the only thing lacking was a husbandly target for the wives to aim at. Deadline was drawing near again so Mrs. Muddleday set herself right down among the grasshoppers to sort out her jumbled notes. With one eye on the time and the other on the game she became a dual personality.
There was nothing she hated more than telephoning in the news. She was prone to mumble it softly and then become angry when the long-suffering reporter in the city failed to understand her words. She was certainly sorry for any man who took down Muddle Corners’ news.
Suddenly she remembered the nominating committee report was not among her notes. Keeping the story going, she wrote, “white bag,” on a slip of paper and thrust it at the nearest boy. He immediately took off for the laundry and came back with a bag all right, but not the right one. She finally had to leave the phone and dashed into the living room where she threw papers right and left until she found it.
She had never conquered the newspaper alphabet, and when she came to an unamiliar name like “Dyfrig” the conversation was somewhat hectic.
“What was that name again?”
“Duvrick.” She pronounced it loudly with the correct Welsh accent and confused the reporter still more.
“How do you spell it?”
“D for Dot, y for yak, f not s for Frank, r for rube,”
“Well, go on, what’s the next letter?”
“I for inchworm, g not c for George.”
Mrs. Muddleday hung up the receiver and caught her breath before the evening’s performance. Later from her seat in the audience she watched the play unfold and at the right moment nudged John, the photographer of the family to take a photoflash. The first one went off with its usual disconcerting flash, but the second! It exploded with an ear-splitting sound right in her ear. And the glass flew all over the place.
Well, evenings will end, fortunately.”
From–The Misadventures of Mrs. Muddleday by Dorothy Parsons Howland
Return to the Edwards Public Library website.