An interview with Captain Bob Bartlett
The following interview with Captain Robert A.(Bob) Bartlett (1875-1946), which appeared in the November 10, 1929 issue of the Boston Sunday Post, is being reprinted here courtesy of Dartmouth College Library (STEFMSS :I-12).
Women are about the same — the Eskimo lass of the Arctic and the Junior League girl of Boston.
Restless, sometimes, craving new liberties; oppressed with the limitations of laws and society.
Good old-fashioned wives [GOFW], again. Up in the Eskimo country, the GOFW prides herself on keeping the lamp of whale oil brightly burning, or turning out for her husband a smart pair of sealskin breeches, made by her own sturdy hands, even as, in Boston, the good old-fashioned wife still prides herself on the brownness of her beans of a Saturday night.
Women are the same, in Baffin Land and Boston. The same — and some of them are flappers, restless flappers. Wanting what they have not got, rouging, bobbing their hair; raising whatever kind of devil particularly goes with their geography.
But if it’s happiness you’re looking for, choose the old-fashioned woman in Boston or Baffin Land. It’s the old fashioned gal, all over the earth, that has solved the secret of content.
So says a roaring, upstanding, blue-eyed, handsome devil of a sea dog, who knew his geography and his Arctic and his men — and women.
With Peary to the pole
This handsome 102 per cent male creature is Captain “Bob” Bartlett, one of Boston’s most famous explorers. Now Captain Bob — no need to say — was the skipper who stood at Peary’s right hand and commanded the ship when the American flag was placed at the North Pole.
Captain Bob has fought his way over a hundred miles of weary snow and ice, helping to save his party, though he headed them with scant rations and nothing but the clothes he stood in. And in cold, hard, dark hours he has studied his human nature.
He tells you he can say what a man will be like in dread peril, in the first five minutes he sees him. Almost, he can tell how that man will meet death. As for women — he tells you he’s a rockribbed bachelor — and regretful that he is — but he has learned about women up in the Arctic, too. And if you give him his choice between the educated, well dressed, bobbed and modern Eskimo flapper, and her mother, the good old-fashioned Eskimo housewife, he’ll take her mother every time and thank you kindly.
Chewed his boots
“Why, Captain Bartlett?” “Well, partly because of Inaloo. Inaloo was the seamstress on the Karluk, when she was jammed in an ice pack and we all had to preserve our lives as best we could there in the darkness with the temperature 50 below zero, just after the ship had gone down.
“‘Where the devil are my boots?’ I yelled in the confusion which followed. In a moment, I felt Inaloo’s hands on mine. I heard her voice, calm, steady, helpful in that terrible hour. ‘I save captain’s boots,’ she told me. I looked at her and I could dimly see that her lips were bleeding. I asked her how she had been hurt, and soon I knew. That faithful, old style Eskimo woman had cut her lips in 20 places chewing my frozen boots. It is Eskimo custom to chew boots to soften their leather when frozen, so they may be fit to wear again. I wonder how many flappers would show up so sturdily in such a crisis.”
But American women learn lessons of simplicity from their Eskimo sisters. And if we could make modern marriage as “for granted” an institution as that of the Eskimos, we would save many a heartache. Let the captain explain.
“Up there in Eskimo land, a boy and a girl marry at the proper time. When is that? When he can build a good stone igloo, kill the seal and bear and walrus, do all the things a man should do, outside his home, to bring back support and food and comfort to his wife and babies there. The girl-? That’s also simple, in Eskimo land. She marries when she knows how to keep the oil lamp brightly burning, so that it both illumines and heats her stone or skin or ice igloo. She marries when she can make her husband and children good fur clothes from head to foot; when she can keep the igloo comfortable and cook the meat her husband kills.
“There’s less divorce and separation up there in Eskimo land than at home, for the Eskimos manage those things better. If Angloo — the husband — sees another woman he prefers to his own, he sensibly suggests to her husband that a change would be good for them both. And the wives, as well. If the other man agrees, Merko’s wife goes over to the other man’s igloo, and the other woman goes to Merko’s, and they all live happily as decent neighbours.
“ But if the other husband objects, they may settle it with a wrestling match. The man who wins gets the wife he wants. Again, all is settled and things peaceful. Once I knew an Eskimo about to set out on a long snowy hunting trip. It wouldn’t be safe for him to take his wife, as she was about to have a little one. So the husband, who greatly pined for feminine companionship on his hunting, came to an agreement with a neighbour. The neighbour’s wife went away hunting with him; his wife went housekeeping with the neighbour. All were happy.” ...To be concluded. Burton K. Janes lives in Bay Roberts and can be reached by email at email@example.com
BARTLETT’S MOTHER — Captain Bob Bartlett was devoted to his mother Mary (nee Leamon).