The flower mission developed into a social settlement. We called it Lowell House. At first the church financed it, then it got tired of that, and when I incorporated the settlement work in my church reports in order to stimulate support, the settlement workers—directors rather—got tired of the church and went into a spasm over it. Lowell House is accounted a successful institution of the city now. It is doing a successful church work among the poor—church work with this exception, that its head worker—its educated, sympathetic priestess—lives there and shares her little artistic centre with the crowd who live in places not good enough for domestic animals.
In 1898 New Haven’s public baths consisted of a tub in the basement of a public school. I photographed the tub and projected the picture on a screen in the Grand Opera House for the consideration of the citizens. That was the beginning of an agitation for a public bath house—an agitation that was pushed until the dream became a brick structure.
I was not particularly interested in the bath per se. It was an opportunity to get people to work for something this side of heaven, to emphasize the thought that men were as much worth taking care of as horses—an idea that has not yet a firm grip on the mind of the bourgeoisie.
The bath-house bill passed the Aldermanic and Councilmanic chambers, was signed by the mayor and the matter of building put into the hands of the Board of Health. The Board forgot all about it and some time later the agitation began again and persisted until another city government and another mayor had made a second law and carried it into effect.
There was no ecclesiastical objection to my participation in this movement. It was a small thing and cost little.
A VISIT HOME
My Father had been begging me for years to come home and say good-bye to him; so, in 1901, I made the journey.
I hadn’t been in the old home long before the alley was filled with neighbours, curious to have a look at “ould Jamie’s son who was a clargymaan.” I went to the door and shook hands with everybody in the hope that after a while they would go away and leave me with my own. But nobody moved. They stood and stared for several hours. “’Deed I mind ye fine when ye weren’t th’ height av a creepie!” said one woman, who was astounded that I couldn’t call her by name.
“Aye,” said another, “‘deed ye were i’ fond o’ th’ Bible, an’ no wundther yer a clargymaan!”
A dozen old women “minded” as many different things of my childhood. I finally dismissed them with this phrase, as I dropped easily enough into the vernacular, “Shure, we’d invite ye all t’ tay but there’s only three cups in the house!”
My sister Mary and her four children lived with my father. We shut and barred the door when the neighbours left and sat down to “tay,” which consisted of potatoes and buttermilk. Mary had been trying to improve on the old days but I interposed, and together, we went through the old regime. Father took the pot of potatoes to the old tub in which he used to steep the leather. There he drained them—then put them on the fire for a minute to allow the steam to escape.