Sunday, May 8, 2011

"The Girls of Central High on Track and Field"

Here's an illustration and, below, an excerpt from "The Girls of Central High on Track and Field (or The Champions of the School League)", a 1914 novel by Gertrude W. Morrison.1

I'll be totally honest here and say that the primary reason I wanted to blog about this book is because it has a character named Otto.2 The following excerpt is the opening passage of Chapter X (Eve's Adventure), and it features Eve, Otto and a good bit of local color:
Eve Sitz had plenty to do out of school hours when she was at home. Nobody could afford to be idle at the Sitz farm. But she found time, too, to put on an old skirt, gym. shoes, and a sweater, and go down behind the barn to practice her broad jump and to throw a baseball at the high board fence behind the sheepfold.

She grew expert indeed in ball throwing, and occasionally when Otto, her brother, caught her at this exercise, her marvelled that his sister could throw the horsehide farther and straighter than he.

"Dot beats it all, mein cracious!" gasped Otto, who was older than Eve by several years, had never been to school in this new country, and was one who would never be able to speak English without a strong accent. "How a girl can t'row a pall like dot. I neffer!"

"You wait till June, Otto," replied his sister, in German. "If you come to the big field day of the Centerport High Schools, you will see that girls can do quite well in athletics. You know how we can row, and you saw us play basketball. Wait till you see the Central High girls on track and field!"

"A lot of foolishness," croaked Otto. "You go to the school to learn to be smart, no?"

"No," replied Eve, laughing at him. "I am smart in the first place, or I would not go. And don't I help mother just as much -- and milk -- and feed the pigs and chickens -- and all that? Wait till you see me put the shot. I am going to win a whole point for the school if I am champion shot-putter."

"Ach! It is beyond me," declared Otto, walking off to attend to his work.

The family -- plain Swiss folk as they were -- thought Eve quite mad over these "foolish athletics." They had no such things in the schools at home -- in the old country. Yet Father and Mother Sitz were secretly proud of their big and handsome daughter. She was growing up "American."
If you're interested in reading more, the full book is available from Project Gutenberg.

1. Morrison -- almost certainly a pseudonym -- is also the author "The Girls of Central High" and "The Girls of Central High on Lake Luna". This seven-book series was part of the Stratemeyer Syndicate empire that I previous blogged about in "The Rover Boys at Big Horn Ranch".
2. Other Ottos in fiction include: the bus driver on "The Simpsons"; Sgt. Orville Snorkel's dog in "Beetle Bailey"; Evil Otto in the arcade game Berzerk; Kevin Kline's character from "A Fish Called Wanda" (who believed that Aristotle was Belgian, that the principle of Buddhism was "every man for himself", and that the London Underground was a political movement); and Otto from "Airplane!" (who I am proud to say has his own Facebook page).

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