The Need for Recreation
The natural instinct for recreation is felt by the working people in common with persons of every class. They cannot afford to spend on the grand scale of those who patronize the best theatres and concerts, nor can they relax all summer at mountains or seashore, or play golf in the winter at Pinehurst or Palm Beach. They get their pleasures in a less expensive way in the parks or at the beach resorts in the summer, and at the “movies,” dance-halls, and cheap theatres in the winter. They have little money to spend, but they get more real enjoyment out of a dime or a quarter than thousands of dollars given to some society buds and millionaires who are surfeited with pleasure.
Recreation to the working people is not an occupation but a diversion. Their occupation is usually strenuous enough to furnish an appetite for entertainment, and they are not particular as to its character, though the more piquant it is the greater is the satisfaction. Craving for excitement and a stimulus that will restore their depleted energies, they flock into the dance-halls and the saloons, where they find the temporary satisfaction that they wanted, but where they are tempted to lose the control that civilization has put upon the primitive passions and to let the primitive instincts have their sway.
It is a prerogative of childhood to be active. If activity is one of the striking characteristics of all social life, it is especially so of child life. The country child has all out-of-doors for the scope of his energies, the city boy and girl are cramped by the tenement and the narrow street, with occasional resort to a small park. It requires ingenuity to devise methods of diversion in such small areas, but necessity is the mother of invention, and the children of the city become expert in outwitting those whose business it is to keep them within bounds.
This kind of education has a smack of practicality in that it sharpens the wits for the struggle for existence that makes up much of the experience of city folk, but it also tends to develop a crookedness in mental and moral habits through the constant effort to get ahead of the agents of social control.