And to those who might be interested in this view of education, Pastor Drury said: “Young people of the colleges, you have been trained to some forms of laboratory work, in chemistry, in biology, in geology—yes, even in English. I invite you to think of your own town of Delafield as your living laboratory, in which you will be at once experimenters and part of the experiment stuff. Look at this town with all its good and evil, its dying powers and its new forces, its dullnesses and its enthusiasms, its folly and wisdom, its old ways and its new people, its wealth and want. Do you think it is already becoming a bit of the kingdom of God? Or, if you conclude that it seems to be going in ways that lead very far from the Kingdom, do you think it might possess any Kingdom possibilities? If you do, no matter what your occupation in Delafield, Delafield itself may be your true vocation, your call from God!”
For John Wesley Farwell, Jr., it was to become all of that.
EXPLORING MAIN STREET
J.W., Jr., found small opportunity to make himself obnoxious by becoming a civic missionary before the time. He was busy enough with his adjustment to the business life of “Delafield and Madison county,” this being the declared commercial sphere of the John W. Farwell Hardware Company. J.W. always had known hardware, but hitherto in a purely amateur and detached fashion. Now he lived with it, from tacks to tractors, ten or twelve hours a day. He found that being the son of his father gained him no safe conduct through the shop or with the customers. He had a lot to learn, even if he was John Wesley Farwell, Jr. That he was the heir apparent to all this array of cast iron and wrought and galvanized, of tin and wire and steel and aluminum and nickel, did not save him from aching back and skinned knuckles, nor from the various initiations staged by the three or four other employees.
But he was getting his bearings, and not from the store and the warehouse only. A good hardware store in a country town is a center of democracy for town and country alike. In what other place do farmers and artisans, country women and city women meet on so nearly equal terms? Not in the postoffice, nor in the bank; and certainly not in the department store. But the hardware store’s customers, men and women all, are masters of the tools they work with; and whoso loves the tools of his craft is brother to every other craftsman.
It was in the store, therefore, that J.W. began to absorb some of the knowledge and acquire some of the experiences that were to make his work something to his town.
For one thing, he got a new view of local geography, in terms of tools. All the farmers from the bottoms of Mill Creek called for pretty much the same implements; the upland farms had different needs. The farmers’ wives who lived along the route of the creamery wagon had one sort of troubles with tinware; the women of the fruit farms another. J.W. knew this by the exchange of experiences he listened to while he sold milk strainers and canning outfits. He found out that the people on the edge of town who “made garden” were particular about certain tools and equipment which the wheat farmer would not even look at.