Thursday Morning Quickie #15

[Note: The following text was taken verbatim from the “M Men-Gleaner Manual, Love, Marriage, and You” used in 1956-1957. Previous entries in this series can be found here.]

Lesson 5

Choosing Companions and Making Friends

A FEW YEARS ago in an eastern city two young boys, fourteen years of age, lived in a dilapidated slum area under very sordid surroundings and circumstances. Most of the children in that neighborhood had learned to steal fruit and trinkets from the grocery and other stores. In fact, groups of the boys often held secret gang meetings and planned thefts and minor depredations. One day the two boys decided to steal some coal from the railroad cars which were on the sidings near one of the stations. As they were about to walk away with two sacks of coal, a private detective came from behind a car and started after them. Both lads sprinted as fast as they could. The one was a fast runner and managed to get away while his companion was caught. The boy who escaped, when he was at a safe distance, sat down and had “a talk with himself.” He decided that what he was doing would lead to jails and prisons. He promised himself that he would quit going around with boys and girls who were stealing and in the future would associate only with those who were law-abiding. The other boy was sent to a detention home. When he had served his time, he returned to his former companions and a life of delinquency and crime. What happened to the two lads? The boy who went to the detention home gradually became a habitual criminal and served many terms in various jails and prisons. The other lad, who forsook his early companions, became a successful minister.

Quickie Questions

1. How much influence do you think the friends of the two boys had on them?
2. Does one tend to follow the behavior of his friends?


Thursday Morning Quickie #15


  1. I think it is clear that the friends of the boys had a lot of influence. Particularly the “friends” that the boy who went to jail met. Clearly, the lesson of this story is it is better to “have a talk with yourself” than to become “friends” with other boys in jail.

  2. methinks a good lesson learned here is that crime is not necessarily deterred through detention. The boy who was caught could just as easily have had the same thoughts while sitting in jail (and there are examples of this in real life), and turned his life around. The circumstances don’t make much of a difference.

  3. And why were the boys stealing coal instead of “trinkets” from the grocery store? I’ve heard a lot of Depression Era stories about kids stealilng coal from the railroads to keep the family warm at home. If we knew the whole story, maybe we’d laud the boys for their noble family values.

  4. this must be the edited version of the story because there was no mention of their friend’s addiction to bl0g which no doubt would have certainly led to these inappropriate choices.

  5. Mark Brown says:

    This lesson taught me that it is good to run away from the cops and to abandon your friends.

  6. And that two 14 year old boys living in a hovel is a perfectly normal situation. No way could to the coal be for anything but nefarious purposes.

  7. The Other Brother Jones says:

    Clearly the lesson is that slower boys become criminals while faster ones talk to themselves. I’m kind of torn!

  8. Gee, maybe the second boy, who got caught, after fifteen years in prison, could get out, live under an assumed name, open a pottery factory, become mayor of Detroit, and save the life of his best friends daughter’s boyfriend who had become part of the Weather Underground in the 60’s when the police raided the abandoned tenement where they were making bombs. And yeah, the private detective who arrested him could have a huge change of heart after he became a precinct captain in the Detroit Police, and……..

    Nah, never gonna happen.

  9. #8 – I stand all amazed. Can’t dream of matching that.

  10. martine says:

    Clearly this is evidence of the modern day Gadianton robbers we’ve been warned about, whether they have talks with themselves or not…

  11. Mark B. says:

    Or not, kevinf. The railroad detective become cop is forever haunted by his failure to bring the fast kid to justice, and drowns himself in the River Rouge.

    One nice thing: the attitude towards life in a city hasn’t changed. In 2010, they’d be too PC to write about sordid, dilapidated slums. Instead, they hide behind euphemisms like “inner city.”

  12. Michael A says:

    I like how this happened in an far off eastern city, because surely nothing like this would happen at home with the core.

  13. CS Eric says:

    Since the boy who got away is the one who turned out “right,” the lesson clearly is to not prosecute juvenile offenders and place them in detention. Let them get away and give themselves a good “talking-to.” Maybe we could formalize this process and do what Jo does on “Super Nanny”–have them sit in the “Naughty Corner” and not let them leave until they apologize.

    The other lesson is that when you arrest juvenile offenders, all you really do is create adult criminals.

  14. Mark B, that’s just miserable.

  15. It is always better not to be caught.

  16. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 11
    A subtle Les Mis reference, fabulous! The M Men-Gleaner Manual would make for great musical theater. Some LDS librettist aught to take a stab at it. The Orem Community Playhouse presents “Men-Gleaner: The Musical!”

    For what it’s worth, you don’t have to throw yourself into the River Rouge to commit suicide. You could just stand over it on a bridge for a while and inhale the fumes.

  17. That’s why you should never confess guilt. One mea culpa from the kid who’d gotten away, and he’d have been a criminal for life.

  18. Fletcher says:

    It’s obvious that the kid who was caught never learned of the prisoner’s dilemma. Surely the investigator saw that there were two thieves, and most likely offered leniency to the already-captured, in exchange for ratting out the other kid. The fact that he didn’t rat out his friend indicates that he does not have a set of rational preferences.

    Need a primer on prisoner’s dilemma? Here’s a video.

  19. Kevin Barney says:

    “I don’t have to outrun the detective. I only have to outrun *you*.”

  20. britt k says:

    I love the Les mis reference…and the old scout bear joke reference.

    That was the lesson I gleaned…only steal with people who are slower than you.

    Maybe we should redo the roller skating thread as a xanadu musical and have a whole Men-gleaner musical series…

  21. Wait–given JS’s (and popular Mormon) views on sectarian religion, is becoming a successful minister significantly better than becoming a habitual criminal?

    (Although the habitual criminal was constantly getting caught, so maybe the important thing is the “successful” part of the equation–the other lad didn’t just forsake criminal companions, he escaped bungling criminal companions whose influence would have forever prevented him from being successful at anything.)

  22. Norbert says:

    Ah, how I remember the minor depredations of my youth. My friends and I, we were real depredationists, but it was just minor stuff, you know. Good times, good times.

  23. Stephanie says:

    The lesson I learned is “Don’t go to jail”. If you go to jail, you will end up a hardened criminal for life. So, as a mother, I will do all in my power to make sure my children never reach that fate. Assuming I have money, I’ll work the system so that they don’t have to face the consequences of their actions. But, wait, if they don’t face the consequences of their actions, they just might turn into hardened criminals for life. Shoot.

  24. britt k says: them track shoes and train them for speed…

  25. I think its awesome that this lesson is supposed to be about friends and influence, and yet I don’t think many of us could really read it as such, but the glaring moral seems to be about going to jail, and jails making criminals.

    What I personally learned from this lesson? Life is not a series of decisions and growth, but ultimately comes down to one fateful crossroad where we turn right or left. Right leads to prosperity and heaven, Left leads to depravity and hell . . . . oh, thats kinda what I get from almost all of these lessons. Love it.

  26. MikeInWeHo says:

    “Maybe we should redo the roller skating thread as a xanadu musical and have a whole Men-gleaner musical series…”

    Now you’re talking!

  27. John Mansfield says:

    For those who haven’t seen it, this is a pretty direct summarizing of 1938’s “Angels with Dirty Faces” starring James Cagney and Pat O’Brien; who can probably guess who had each role. In the movie the boys were stealing fountain pens from a railroad freight car. The final line, after the criminal’s execution, is his friend the priest saying “Let’s go and say a prayer for a boy who couldn’t run as fast as I could.”

  28. re. 12.

    Perhaps “Eastern Ogden” was the city, although the railroad is west of town. My late mother and her brothers stole coal from the railroad during the ’30s in order to heat the house and cook on the stove.

  29. So the Boy Who Got Away left his friend behind, and the Boy Who Was Left Behind when he took the fall for the BWGA. Yep, the life lesson is clear: screw your friends before they can screw you. Ick.

    (For the geographically challenged, I’ll point out that Detroit is a midwestern city, not an eastern city.)

  30. Cynthia L. says:

    I thought the story was going to end, “…and because he stopped stealing food he starved to death, but it was a noble death.”

  31. Mark B. says:

    Actually, looking from here, Detroit is in the Northwest. But it can scarcely be called a city anymore.

    Poor, poor Detroit. The cars that gave you life turned around and destroyed you!

  32. Latter-day Guy says:

    “The other lad, who forsook his early companions, became a successful minister.”

    Well, isn’t priestcraft just dandy. The move from filching coal to bilking the credulous out of their money by selling “mingled” scripture seems to be a downward step. I much prefer the blatant kind of thievery.

  33. Antonio Parr says:

    I think the eastern city referenced here is a code word for “Boston”, home of radical feminist Mormon housewives, so-called intellectuals, etc. In this type of sordid environment — independent study groups, Exponent II, Dialogue, Sunstone, etc. — it was only a matter of time. Can’t believe that one made it out relatively unscathed . . .

  34. The Other Brother Jones says:

    Nothing in this about dating and marriage?? Are you still using the same manual?

  35. 34 – The first boy (the one that got away) lived a life of ministerial celibacy. The second boy, although a criminal, married and had four lovely children who he shielded from the world of evil he knew as a boy, always providing for them so they wouldn’t have to follow in his footsteps.

    NOW what do we learn from the story?

  36. The Other Brother Jones says:

    Was the priest really celibate? I hear that sometimes they are not. Perhaps there are lessons there as well

  37. By The Rules says:

    Fantasic piece! It is generating far more discussion now than it ever did 50 years ago in the Young Mens class….I think I’ll go buy a coal burning stove and look for some slow friends.

  38. GatoraideMomma says:

    Poor fellows…both of them only 14 and the “slow” one sent away for this not armed robbery or homicide, etc.

    I’ve noticed a lot the characters in these stories who make wrong choices are from the lower income classes, etc. Is the conclusion that rewards for good behavior is a classier life style and your children don’t make poor morale choices and have friends who encourage negative behaviors?

  39. GatoraideMomma says:

    yikes, no editing after posting…should read above
    “the rewards for good behavior are….”

  40. Monsieur Valjean here became an Episcopalian minister, finding not only God but love AND marriage AND the Gospel after his work is done, M-Men!

    To make our Mormon Musical References file complete, I feel that the protagonist should say ” . . . you might be left with a lot of empty yesterdays” SOMEWHERE in this story.

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