When Faiths Collide: 1910

Mandy Houghton, guest writer

“You’re going to be all right Ma’am. Help is on it’s way,” one of the passengers said nervously. While my eyes revealed a blurry haze, the cold air pierced my lungs. So many questions rushed into my mind. Where am I? Why do I feel so numb? Will I ever escape this feeling?
Knock! Knock!
It was twelve years ago when the devastating news that no one ever wants to hear awaited at my front door. Two Casualty Notification Officers stood in uniform and with bowed heads. The life of Henry Edwards ended on May 8, 1898 during the Spanish-American War in Cuba. The death of my father led to my fourteen-year-old self resenting God and everything that had to do with Him.
At a young age my dream was to play in the National Championships. My father taught me everything I needed to know about tennis. I went to school, completed my homework, and then practiced on the clay court down the street. To this day, I ascribe my achievements to my father. He not only taught me the game of tennis, but also he shared his passion for reading with me.
“Josie you’ll never believe it! Look!”
“What is it, Momma?”
The mail had just arrived and she held up a rather large envelope with gold detailing on the cover. I had never seen such a formal envelope before.
“It’s for you,” my mother said with a grin on her face.
I took a seat next to her as she handed the envelope to me. The front read US TENNIS ASSOCIATION in bold lettering. I opened it like a child opening presents on Christmas morning. Inside was an invitation from the US Tennis Association to join the roster of professionals competing in the upcoming Grand Slam. A separate envelope enclosed a train ticket from Wellington, Washington, to Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia.
After reading the date on the slip of paper, my mother said, “Darling, You have only one week to prepare. Get busy.”
“Momma, I’ve been preparing for this my entire life!” I responded quickly.
All week I anxiously waited. I often pictured myself on the fresh grass wearing brand new “tennis-whites” taking the trophy while hundreds of people in the audience cheered (Bateman). Though I did not want to leave my mother all alone for two weeks, I could not wait to arrive in Philadelphia.
Tuesday morning came around and while I sipped my coffee my mother came in and we said our farewells. Soon it was time for me to leave. With tears in her eyes, my mother managed to whisper, “I love you Josie Edwards, come home soon.”

“All aboard!” The conductor shouted in the distance while glancing at his pocket watch.
After loading my luggage, I took a seat near the window. Many men and women, finely dressed in sack suits and crepe hats, scurried to make it on the train. The seats began to fill up quickly.
“Excuse me, Ma’am, may I sit here?” an elderly man asked me.
“Yes, of course.”
“I’ll try not to interrupt your reading.”
I assured him that he was not bothering me and went back to reading the newspaper. I came across an article containing the recently founded Boy Scouts of America. There was a picture of boys wearing sashes with little picture badges on them. They were all standing next to a tent. As I examined the photograph, I noticed one of the Boy Scouts was sitting a few rows ahead of me. He seemed well mannered just as the article described them. Suddenly, a scratching sound penetrated throughout the train. In discomfort from the noise, little boys and girls covered their ears. Moments later, a man’s voice became distinct.
“Hello everybody! My name is Benjamin Douglas, welcome to the Spokane Express headed to the great Philly!”
After the man was finished with his unnecessary announcement, I proceeded to read the newest Krazy Kat cartoon. That was the last thing I recall before I dozed off.
“Ladies and gentlemen. Boy and girls.”
Interrupting my deep sleep, Benjamin was back but he brought a less enthusiastic tone with him this time.
“We will be making a stop at the Washington-Idaho state line in order to confiscate any transportation of ‘women across state lines for the purpose of prostitution or debauchery’ (Mann). If any of you women are disobeying the Mann Act go ahead and pack your bags now.”
Moments later, two officials wandered the aisles interrogating any women who were alone. One of them creeped closer and leaned in towards me.
“Sir, how dare you assume this woman is guilty!” The stranger next to me blurted out. Startled, the official quickly proceeded to search the remainder of the women.
“Why would you do such a thing for me?” I asked him.
“Because I try to do unto others as I would want done to me just as Jesus asks us.”
“Oh, so you’re one of those believers.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
Unsure of how to respond, I shrugged my shoulders. Apparently that did not change anything because he went on to explain the reason why he is a believer.
“Take a look out the window and tell me how me how much of the tracks you can see beyond this upcoming turn.”
“Well, I can’t see any. The mountain is blocking them, but I know they are there.”
“Exactly! Our faith in God is the same. Even though we can’t see God, I have faith that He is present.”
“Thanks Sir, but I don’t need your God.”
“Ok Ma’am, but if you change your mind He’s always there waiting for you to come back.”
A few minutes had passed and I came to the realization that my reaction was quite harsh. Because of the silence, those next few hours seemed to linger on forever.
As we approached the borderline between Washington and Idaho, a nicely dressed train hostess rolled out a cart with a copious amount of water glasses. Row by row she meticulously distributed each one. All of a sudden, the cart began to rattle. The wooden boards beneath my feet joined the rattling cart. Worsening by the second, glass broke, water spilled everywhere, and the lights flickered.
“What’s going on?!” Someone a few rows behind me yelled.
The scratching noise of the intercom returned and we could hear Benjamin’s voice faintly in background.
“We are…difficult…safe…sorry.” Were the only words that we managed to translate.
Startled, I glanced out the window. Right around the corner of the mountainside I noticed there was a train junction. Because the brakes scraped against the metal tracks, the train released a loud screech. At that moment, I realized there was nothing anyone could do to save us. Our train was going to collide with the other train and nothing was stopping it.
Besides whiplash, everyone was safe but still panicking. At least that’s what I thought. Just when everyone thought it was over, the train started to lean. People fell out of their seats onto the floor. I gripped my seat as hard as I could and hoped that God would save me.
He must have decided to give me a second chance because I started to wake up. Mumbling voices surrounded me. Straining my eyes, I looked down at my legs. My thoughts were quickly interrupted by someone speaking.
“You’re going to be all right Ma’am. Help is on it’s way,” one of the passengers said nervously. While my eyes revealed a blurry haze, the cold air pierced my lungs. So many questions rushed into my mind. Where am I? Why do I feel so numb? Will I ever escape this feeling?
Works Cited
Bateman, Kristen. “A Fashion History of Tennis Uniforms.” Allure, https://www.allure.com/ gallery/tennis-fashion-history. n.d. Web. 29 January 2018.
“The Mann Act.” PBS, January 2005, http://www.pbs.org/unforgivableblackness/knockout/ mann.html. n.d. Web. 24 January 2018.
“1910- Trains buried by avalanche.” History, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/trains- buried-by-avalanche. n.d. Web. 30 January 2018.
“The Decades That Invented the Future, Part 1:1900-1910.” Wired, https://www.wired.com/ 2012/10/12-decades-of-geek-part-1/. n.d. Web. 24 January 2018.
Whalan, Mark. American Culture in the 1910s. Edinburgh University Press, 2010. Print.