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We have seen that the real life of the community depends on common interests and the ability of its people to act together. This having things in common is the basis of all community and is achieved only through the exchange of ideas by various means of communication. Without communication there would be no community and no civilization. It is man's ability to communicate through spoken and written language that has made him _human_. Man is more than animal because he can exchange ideas with his fellows, and can profit by the experience of the race. This power of communication creates a new world for him in which he lives on a different plane from all other living things. The very words _community_ and _communication_, both derived from _communis_--common, indicate their relation to each other; _community_--the having in common, _communication_--the making common.[13]

Until modern times practically all communication between the masses of the people was by word of mouth. The people of the old world lived together in villages which were largely self-dependent, and only the higher classes were educated to read and write. There was little opportunity for contact with the outside world, and the people felt little need of better means of communication. It has been frequently asserted that isolation has been the chief rural problem in America. The reason for the dissatisfaction with life on isolated farms is better appreciated when we remember that during all previous history men have lived together in close association and their whole mode of thought, customs, attitudes, and desires have been formed in the intimate life of compact groups. It is but natural, therefore, that life on the isolated farm with but few contacts with others than immediate neighbors should become irksome and that town and city have had a peculiar attraction for farm people.

We cannot here examine the causes and history of the development of our modern means of communication, but we must recognize that it is due to them that rural community life as we are coming to know it in the United States is made possible. Without these newer facilities for more frequent association and exchange of ideas, rural life would still be confined to the small local neighborhood.

At the same time, the railroad and trolley have abolished the isolation of the rural community and have made possible the diversion of local interests and loyalties to larger centers. Thus while communication aids the integration of the community it affords equal facilities for its disruption. Doubtless some of the smaller community centers will be unable to compete with the attraction of nearby larger centers, but there seems no good reason to believe that better communication will injure the best life of communities which are of sufficient size to support the institutions which will command local loyalty. This dual influence of means of communication on the internal and external relations of rural communities creates some of the chief problems of rural social organization, for the increase of means of communication in the past two or three generations has been more momentous and has had a more far-reaching effect on human relations than in all the previous centuries since the invention of writing.

A brief survey of the more important of these new agencies will indicate how they affect the relations of the farmer to his community and to other communities. These may be considered under the two general heads of means of transportation, and means for the exchange of ideas.

As long as transportation was by wagon and by boat, commerce was slow and expensive; each community was compelled to be largely self-dependent, and life was isolated to an extent that it is difficult for us to conceive. Anderson has well stated the situation when he says:

      "Merchandise and produce that could not stand a freight of fifteen dollars per ton could not be carried overland to a consumer one hundred and fifty miles from the point of production; as roads were, a distance of fifty miles from the market often made industrial independence expedient."[14]

It was the steam railroad which made larger markets available, made possible the growth of our large cities and the opening up of new lands distant from markets. The railroad and manufacturing by power machinery put an end to the "age of homespun," and made it more profitable for the farmer to sell his products and to purchase his manufactured goods in exchange. The railroad, and the markets which it made available, changed the village center from a place of local barter to a shipping point and so tended to center the economic life of larger areas in the villages with railroad stations. Better local roads were necessary and business tended to become centralized in the village. The numerous wayside taverns along the main highways disappeared, as did the neighborhood mill and blacksmith shop. The railroad, more than any other one factor, has determined the location of our rural community centers.

The electric railroad made the village centers more available to farm people and gave transportation facilities to many villages without railroads, but it also made it possible for the people of smaller communities to go to the larger centers for trading and other advantages. Trolleys have made it possible for many farm children to get to high school who could not otherwise have attended and have enabled those living near them to more easily get back and forth from the village centers for all phases of community life. On the whole, however, they have probably carried more traffic between communities, and it seems strange that they have not more generally been able to find a profit in hauling produce from the farms to the nearest markets or shipping stations.

Of more importance to community life has been the development of good roads, a movement which did not get under way until the present century and which was chiefly due to the rural free mail delivery and the automobile. The change in rural life due to automotive vehicles can hardly be exaggerated. In our best agricultural states practically every farmer has his automobile. He can get to the community center as quickly as the business man or laborer gets to his work in the average city, and can go to the county seat or neighboring city as quickly as one can drive to the business section from the more distant parts of New York or Chicago. Auto-bus lines radiate from most of our small cities, and auto trucks not only bring freight from nearby wholesale centers, but are rapidly supplanting horses for hauling farm produce to the shipping station or market.

As good roads have been due chiefly to state and county, and more recently to national aid, it is but natural that they should have been constructed where the traffic is heaviest connecting the main centers. What is now most needed to build up the local communities is a systematic development of the principal local roads radiating from the community centers.

Good roads and automobiles have made possible a new sort of a local community, which could never have existed without them. Consider the present possibility of consolidated schools with auto-busses to haul the children; the numbers of automobiles which come in from the farms to every village center where there is a band concert or movie show; the ability to get in the "flivver" after supper and ride to a relative's or friend's on the other side of the town and be back for early bedtime; and one can perceive how the people in a community area are bound together and develop common interests in new advantages made possible by their ability to get together easily and quickly. How could the county agricultural agent or the visiting nurse cover a county as effectively as they now do without the automobile? The rural community can now enjoy the services of expert paid executives in many fields of work as diverse as a county commercial club secretary, a Boy Scout leader, a Sunday school executive, or county health officer, because the county has become a unit which can be covered as easily as a city and is large enough to support such a division of labor as no one community could enjoy. We shall have occasion to refer to many county organizations and agencies which not only build up the county and the county seat, but which strengthen the life of every community which they serve, and whose work is very largely possible because of good roads and automobiles. Where bad roads still exist many of these services must wait and less community life is possible.

Nor does the home lose with the community advancement due to better transportation. Surely it is better to have the children living at home than boarding in the village while they attend high school; the doctor is secured more quickly and the visiting nurse is available; and the family can come and go as a family because less time is required and there is no waiting for the horses to feed, or to get rested.

It is true of course that the automobile makes it possible for people to go to the larger towns and other village centers, and to visit their particular friends and relatives in neighboring communities, and thus seems to furnish means for breaking down and stratifying community life. These tendencies exist, but they will not seriously injure the community which has anything worth while for its people. Better transportation simply makes possible a more highly organized community life, and any complex organization is the more easily deranged; a complex machine or a high-bred animal is more susceptible to injury than a simple tool or scrub. Many ministers have railed against the automobile, while others have used it to fill their pews. We cannot get away from that oldest of paradoxes, first learned by Father Adam, that every new good has possibilities of evil. A certain type of mind has always enjoyed condemning every new invention as "of the Devil," and yet the world wags on and no one who knows them would go back to "the good old days."

The automobile has brought new ideas both to the community and to the farm and home. Farmers and their wives are traveling by auto much more than they ever did by train, and it is impossible not to pick up new ideas. One of the most effective educational devices is the farm tour in which a group of Farm Bureau members travel from one farm to another studying the methods of farming, and the women have adopted the idea for an inspection of farm homes.

To discuss all the effects of automotive vehicles--cycle, car, truck, bus, and tractor--on farm life would fill a book in itself: space forbids except for incidental mention in the following chapters.

Turning to the mechanisms for the transmission of ideas, we appreciate the even more wonderful inventions which have brought the whole world to the farmer's door.

A generation ago farmers went several miles to the nearest postoffice for their mail, and usually got it but two or three times a week. To-day over the greater part of the country it is delivered to them daily, and they can ship small packages by parcels post from their doors. This daily delivery has greatly widened the circulation of the daily newspapers and magazines of all sorts, and has given farm people a new knowledge and a livelier interest in city and world-wide affairs. The parcel post has made the mail-order business, but it is even more beneficial to the local merchant who can fill a telephone order and mail it to a customer for less expense than delivery costs in the city. Correspondence and advertising by farm people have greatly increased. It is true that the abolition of many rural postoffices has destroyed an old-time rendezvous, but farmers probably go to the community center more frequently than formerly. A more unfortunate feature of the rural delivery service is that it often gives the farmer a mail address at a postoffice of a community where he rarely goes, and fails to indicate the community in which he is located to one unacquainted with the local geography (see page 232).

Even more important as an aid to community activities is the telephone. Visiting is now done more over the phone than in person, but conversation can be had with any one in the community at any time, and isolation is banished. The telephone has brought a larger protection to the farm home in calling the doctor, police, or fire assistance. The economic value of the phone soon became apparent for the distribution of market reports and weather forecasts or for ordering goods or repairs from town, and the marvelous wireless telephone will greatly extend these services. The Extension Service of the Kansas Agricultural College is installing a wireless outfit which will receive market and weather reports and will transmit them to the farm bureau offices at the county seats, where they may be relayed through the local telephones to every farmer. Thus world-wide conditions may be flashed to the farmer's fireside. Within the community the telephone has made possible a degree of organization hitherto impossible. Meetings are called, committees are assembled, or their business is done over the phone, so that both social and economic life are greatly stimulated.

The farmer is sometimes chided for not having organized rural life more effectively. The simple reason is that he has not had the mechanisms whereby he could do so. With only mud roads and horses people could get together but infrequently, and arrangements had to be made when they were together. City life was better organized because people could get together more easily. To-day both time and space have been so largely overcome that communication in the country is almost as rapid as in the city and more effective organization is possible.

Better transportation, mail, and telephone service have made available agencies for the communication of ideas, previously accessible only to the few or patronized so infrequently by those further away as to furnish too small a constituency for their successful maintenance. The free public library is a powerful educational agency, but many a community has been too small for its support. Now county library systems are being organized--thanks to automobiles--which give branch stations to every community (see p. 102). Lyceum courses of lectures and entertainments, chautauqua courses, public forums for the discussion of current problems, and last, but not least, the moving picture shows with their pictures of important events from all parts of the world and showing life from Central Africa to the Antipodes, all of these are agencies for bringing new ideas to the rural community, and are becoming increasingly common as better transportation makes it possible for the people to utilize them. The fact that these agencies must be located where they can serve the largest number of people, determines their location at the community centers and they are thus a large factor in unifying the community.

Modern transportation has abolished the isolation of the farm and new means of communication have freed the spirit of the farmer and brought the world to his doors. Together they make possible so many satisfactions heretofore only available to the cities, as to quite revolutionize the whole aspect of rural life. They give a new position to the rural community and to the farmer's status in it.


[13] Community is derived from the Old English word _commonty_ which came to mean "the body of the common people, commons." Communication is from the Latin _communicare_, also derived from _communis_--common, and _ic_ (the formative of factitive verbs)--to make, or to make common.

[14] "The Country Town," p. 20.