Our burlap room is the show room of our bungalow. Visitors are guided through the living-room, the bedroom, the sleeping-porch and kitchen, and allowed to express their delight and satisfaction while we wait with bated breath for the grand surprise to be given them. Then, when they have concluded, we say: "But you should see our burlap room!" Then we lead the way up the stairs to the attic and again stand and wait. We know what is coming, and, as we revel in the expressions of admiration evoked, we again declaim with enormous pride: "We made it all ourselves!" There is a solid satisfaction in making a room, especially for an amateur who hardly expects to undertake room-making as a profession.
We regard our room as an original creation produced by our own genius, not likely to be duplicated in our personal experience. It grew in this wise: When we came to the bungalow last spring the family numbered three instead of the two of the year before. Now number three, a healthy and bouncing young woman, necessitated a "sleeping-in" maid if her parents were ever to be able to detach themselves from her person. We had never had a sleeping-in maid at the bungalow before and the problem of where to put her was a serious one. We well knew that no self-respecting servant would condescend to sleep in an attic, although the attic was cool, airy and comfortable. We rather thought, too, that the maid might despise us if we gave her the bedroom and took up our quarters under the rafters. It would be an easy enough matter for carpenters and plasterers to put a room in the attic, but we lacked the money necessary for such a venture. And so we puzzled. At first we thought of curtains, but the high winds which visit us made curtains impracticable. Then we thought of tacking the curtains top and bottom, and from this the idea evolved.
The carpenter whom we consulted proved to be amenable to suggestion and agreed to put us up a framework in a day. We helped.
We outlined the room on the floor. This took two strips of wood about one and a half by two inches. The other two sides of the room were formed by the wall of the attic and by the meeting place of the roof and floor—that is, there was in reality no fourth wall; the room simply ended where floor and roof met. Two strips were nailed to the rafters in positions similar to those on the floor, and then an upright strip was inserted and nailed fast at intervals of every three feet. This distance was decided by the fact that curtain materials usually come a yard wide. For a door we used a discarded screendoor, which, having been denuded of the bits of wire clinging to it, answered the purpose very well. The door completed the skeleton.
We used a beautiful soft blue burlap. Tacking on proved a more difficult matter than we had anticipated, owing to the fact that our carpenter had used cypress for the framework. We stretched the material taut and then tacked it fast with sharp-pointed, large-headed brass tacks, and while inserting these we measured carefully the distances between the tacks in order to keep this trimming uniform.
The two walls supplied by the framework were quickly covered, but the rough wall of the attic necessitated some cutting, as we had to tack the burlap to the uprights and these had not been placed with yard-wide material in view. Above the screen-door frame was a hiatus of space running up into the peak. The carpenter had thoughtfully run two strips up to the roof and this enabled us to fill in by cutting and turning in the cloth. A corresponding space above the window received similar treatment. Then we covered the inner surface of the screen door and we had a room.
But we were far from satisfied. The room looked bare and crude. We bought a can of dark-oak stain and gave the floor a coat and this improved matters so much that we stained the wood visible on the door frame and about the window. Having finished this, we saw the need of doing something for the ceiling. The ceiling was merely the inner surface of the roof. The builders had made it of boards of varying sizes, the rafters were rough and splintery and there were myriads of nails sticking through everywhere. It looked a hopeless task. But we bought more stain and went to work. Before beginning we covered our precious blue walls with newspapers, donned our oldest clothes and spread papers well over the floor. It was well that we did. The staining was not difficult work but the nails made it splashy and we were pretty well spotted when we finished.
But when we did finish we felt compensated. The nails had become invisible. The dull blue walls with their bright brass trimming, the soft brown floor and the stained, raftered roof made the room the most attractive in the house. We could not rest, although the hour was late and we were both tired, until we had furnished it. We put in a couple of small rugs, a brass bed, and a white bureau. We hung two pictures securely upon the uprights of the skeleton. We added a couple of chairs and a rack for clothing, put up a white madras curtain at the window, and regarded the effect with the utmost satisfaction. The room answered the purpose exactly. The burlap was thick enough to act as a screen. It was possible to see movement through it, but not form. It insured privacy and still permitted the air to pass through for ventilation. As a finishing touch we screwed a knob on the outside of the door, put a brass hook on the inside and went downstairs to count the cost.
As a quick and inexpensive method of adding to the number of rooms in one's house, the making of a burlap room is without an equal. The idea is not patented, and we who deem ourselves its creators, are only too happy to send it on, in the hope that it may be of service to some other puzzled householder who is wondering where to put an added family member.
The Confession Story. Closely akin to the personal experience article is the socalled "confession story." Usually published anonymously, confession stories may reveal more personal and intimate experiences than a writer would ordinarily care to give in a signed article. Needless to say, most readers are keenly interested in such revelations, even though they are made anonymously.
Like personal experience stories, they are told in the first person with a liberal use of the pronoun "I." A writer need not confine himself to his own experiences for confession stories; he may obtain valuable material for them from others. Not infrequently his name is attached to these articles accompanied by the statement that the confession was "transcribed," "taken down," or "recorded" by the writer.
Conditions of life in classes of society with which the reader is not familiar may be brought home to him through the medium of the confession story. It may be made the means of arousing interest in questions about which the average reader cares little. The average man or woman, for example, is probably little concerned with the problem of the poorly paid college professor, but hundreds of thousands doubtless read with interest the leading article in an issue of the Saturday Evening Post entitled, "The Pressure on the Professor." This was a confession story, which did not give the author's own experiences but appeared as "Transcribed by Walter E. Weyl." This article was obviously written with the purpose, skillfully concealed, of calling attention to the hard lot of the underpaid professor.
Constructive criticism of existing conditions may be successfully embodied in the form of a confession article that describes the evils as they have been experienced by one individual. If the article is to be entirely effective and just, the experience of the one person described must be fairly typical of that of others in the same situation. In order to show that these experiences are characteristic, the writer may find it advantageous to introduce facts and figures tending to prove that his own case is not an isolated example. In the confession article mentioned above, "The Pressure on the Professor," the assistant professor who makes the confession, in order to demonstrate that his own case is typical, cites statistics collected by a colleague at Stanford University giving the financial status of 112 assistant professors in various American universities.
Confessions that show how faults and personal difficulties have been overcome prove helpful to readers laboring under similar troubles. Here again, what is related should be typical rather than exceptional.
Examples of the Confession Story. That an intimate account of the financial difficulties of a young couple as told by the wife, may not only make an interesting story but may serve as a warning to others, is shown in the confession story below. Signed "F.B.," and illustrated with a pen and ink sketch of the couple at work over their accounts, it was printed in Every Week, a popular illustrated periodical formerly published by the Crowell Publishing Company, New York.
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