Uncle Mort on Slang-Whangers and Town Knockers

Uncle Mort was some guy who used to write columns for the Sykesville Herald way back when it first started out. So about one hundred years ago, July 16, 1914, he came down on slang-whangers and town knockers, and I came across him while doing a little research for Sykesville Online. He also has opinions on shirt tails and hair.

So, if you’ve got any gripes about our article on Matt Candland and The Great Restoration, make sure you listen to Uncle Mort before you start your slang whanging.

Here’s Uncle Mort. And yeah, things were different then. Except some things.

July 16, 1914

Man Who Runs Down His Town Is No Good

Are Shirt Tails Good?

Said To Be Going the Way of Some Other Useless Things in Man’s Attire and Customs

I delight in telling what I think — I shall go on just as before, seeing whatever I can, and telling what I see. – Emerson

I like the way the editor of the Emmittsburg Chronicle hands out one to the man who runs down his home town. Read: “Every time a man ‘runs down’ the community in which he lives he discounts his own reputation; for the inference to be drawn from his disparaging remarks in that he, himself, has not the energy, the stamina or the qualifications necessary to make him successful in another community which he deems better than his own. It is always the leaner, the hanger-on, the public pensioner, the idler, the unresourceful man who has the perennial complaint to hand out about his town. He is self-condemned; he has furnished the best proof that he is not a success and that he has not within him any of the requisites leading to success in any surroundings in which he may be placed.”

Every word of the foregoing is true. Almost every community has a slang-whanger who runs down his town — befouls his own nest, so to speak. Here in Sykesville almost a year ago the knockers were induced to bury their hammers, but, like the dog who buries a dirty bone and then goes back and digs it up to get a “choice” morsel, there is one of the ilk here and there who goes and digs up his hammer and begins his knocking. Thank goodness there are not many of them in these parts. They do not thrive very well in progressive towns, where the citizens are striving to make the town better and more attractive. They are undesirable citizens and are usually found hanging around the barroom. They are no good themselves and can see no good in others. Smoke ’em out.


“What good is a shirt tail?” This question has been boldly asked by the maker of a new kind of shirt in an advertisement of his garment. Needless to say he proposes to do without his time honored appendage in the shirt which he is putting on the market. Thus we have before our eyes an illustration of how evolution works — in the physical structure of man as well as in his clothes and customs.

“What good are claws?” he first asked himself and his tamed companions many years ago, and so the fashion of keeping the nails trimmed started. Of course, the men did not foresee at that time the development of this custom to such a degree that charming young women would go in business as manicurists, but even if they had there is nothing to indicate that this would have discouraged them from starting the reform.

Then many years later, some deep, original thinker, smote his thigh and inquired of the world at large: “What good are whiskers?” And many answered as he hoped they would, and the foundation of the market for safety razors was laid. It is within the memory of most of us that the query “What good is the appendix?” has at least gained respectful volume and already the number of those who are pityingly gazing at their appendix-burdened brothers and sisters is legion.

The bald-headed man, too, after trying all the hair restorers that he every heard of, is prone to ask boldly, “What good is hair?” And is really able to make out a pretty good case for himself as an exponent of evolution. So it has been with many others of our physical accouterments, some of them lost so many centuries ago that we have no record of ever having possessed them. And always the all important preliminary question has been, “What good is it?” — the Slogan of Evolution.


I have heretofore urged fathers to get closer to their boys, to make chums of them, to go with them on their trolley rides and other pleasure jaunts, to sympathize in their boyish troubles, to advise with them in their love affairs, to counsel them and always hold their confidence. You can never tell how much it may mean to the boy. When you get out of touch with your boy he will get away from you very quickly and then it is too late for you to call him back. If he turns out badly you see how you might have saved him. Right along this line comes a splendid address delivered in a Binghamton, N. Y. church the other night by Dr. J. Aspinall McCung, the New York eugenic expert. He urged all fathers to confide in their sons and declared that the greatest tragedy is boys without such a confidant.

In this connection the Doctor said:

“The greatest tragedy today is that boys of 12, 14, and 16 are growing up into manhood without a confidant to whom they can go in regard to the one greatest developing force of life. You can talk to your boys of their play, of their studies, of their business prospects; but of the great issue that more than any other will make or mar the life you love better than your own — your lips are sealed, your tongues are tied, your hearts are dumb — while your boys drift on the rocks — to disease and disaster and death.”


Girls of a marriageable age do not like to tell how old they are, but you can find out by following the subjoined instructions, the young lady doing the figuring. Its an old one but good: Tell her to put down the number of the month in which she was born, then to multiply it by 2, then to add 5, then to multiply it by 50 then to add her age, then to subtract 365, then to add 115, then tell her to tell you the amount she has left. The two figures on the right will tell you her age, and the remainder the month of her birth. For example: The amount 822; she is 22 years old and was born in the eighth month (August). Try it.

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