Yes, we're back to Adam Lambert. When I wrote about my own obsession last month, little did I know that the existence of this obsession would itself turn into an obsession. Countless articles and blogs have been written about the strange, peculiar hold that Adam has on previously unassuming women in the thirties and up age range. There are the Cougars for Adam, of course, as well as happily married mothers for Adam (and their ever-popular Babies for Adam), grandmothers for Adam. We are a nation that filters all real life discussions via reality shows, so plenty of theories have been presented, ranging from androgynous power to embracing our inner outcast (and the simple explanation that he is an amazing talent). One explanation that I find interesting—no surprise—is that it all relates to our past: "According to [psychoanalyst Dr. Gail] Saltz, buried deep inside all of us is the childhood desire to be able to have everything and anything, whenever you want. So part of our fascination with Mr. Lambert is that we may want to be like him...[Lambert] is the poster child for having it all."
Adam Lambert is, as one blogger says, [a master] of both feminine and masculine traits: people pleasing smile and emotional connection, but utterly strategic, articulate and focused. The blogger goes on to state her belief that "easy mastery of both male and female skills is a hallmark of advanced evolution."
So perhaps it is no wonder that when I think about this guy:
I am also reminded of this one:
First, it should be said that there was no question as to what team he batted for, as "he was the best second baseman the Syracuse High School ever had." (Post Standard, January 3, 1904)
Nor did he wear guyliner or nail polish:
He is a plain dresser and while neat in his personal appearance his clothes do not indicate that he spends much time studying the latest fashion plates. One of the most familiar features of the last local campaign...was a rainy-day coat which many young men of half Mr. Fobes' means and social prominence would have scorned. (Post Standard, January 3, 1904)
His vocal talents were not encouraged:
This time it was different. He could not sing himself into the mayor's office. It would not have been considered quite correct even if it were possible. It would have been almost a violation of political etiquette. (Post Standard, November 8, 1903)
And though I can't be certain, I'm going to take a guess and say that a psychedelic experience with certain funguses didn't lead to his decision to run for mayor in 1903. Rather, much like Adam's "knack for quickly assessing the best way to work everybody he comes across," Mayor Alan Fobes "like[d] to meet men face to face and study their characteristics for himself." (Post Standard, January 3, 1904). While he may not have referred to it as being "unrepentant about flirting with both sexes," Mayor Fobes knew the power of "that famous smile of his, which one of the men who managed the Democratic campaign said won him more votes than all of Police Justice Thomson's speeches won for him." (Post Standard, January 3, 1904)
And both knew the importance of taking risks and wowing crowds with the results.
I should note that I realize comparing mayors from the early 20th century to the early 21st century based on a few newspaper articles alone is an endeavor perhaps as ridiculous as comparing a 1909 mayor to a 2009 American Idol contestant. And yet, how can we not, when this is one of the more remarkable buildings constructed during Mayor Fobes' time in office:
As compared to this, under the current mayoral administration:
This alone makes Fobes—or, really, anyone who didn't support this monstrosity—automatically worthy of praise. But North High School was just one of Fobes' many achievements:
While the above is a campaign ad, (limited) research shows that not only do Fobes' listed acts appear true, but in some cases merely scratch the surface. When the ad states that "Mayor Fobes has gone further than anyone before him to protect the city's valuable water supply from possible contamination," he's not exaggerating: from throwing on "high rubber boots and old clothes...[and] wad[ing] through the slime and water of Onondaga Creek under the Erie canal yesterday afternoon on a trip of inspection" (Post Standard, July 27, 1904) to "enjoy[ing] the experience of riding through a portion of the Fourth ward tunnel sewer" under construction (Post Standard, May 1, 1906), Mayor Fobes routinely toured Onondaga Creek and growing sewer system:
Onondaga Creek is not suited to navigation. The scenery is not charming, and the odors are not inviting. Yet the Creek Commission and several other city officers made the trip from Kirk Park to Onondaga street yesterday afternoon. in a miniature scow...During the first part of the voyage Mayor Fobes, Commissioner Edward Joy, Engineer Beech and Inspector Maloney took to the bank of the stream, but later all but Mr. Beech took their chances on the craft. (Post Standard, August 6, 1904)
(And just to be clear about the traveling condition of Onondaga Creek at the time:
People who reside or have places of business in the vicinity of Onondaga Creek say they cannot recall when the creek was in as bad condition as at the present time. The stench arising from the sewerage, which has settled in stagnant pools, is being complained about blocks away from the creek...There has been so little fresh water in these streams that they resemble open sewers. The conditions show forcibly the need of intercepting sewers, the plans for which are nearing completion. (Syracuse Herald, Aug 11, 1908) )
Fobes seemed to be a man about town during his mayorship, inspecting school bathrooms ("'The sanitary condition of the closets at Porter School,' said Mayor Fobes after his return, 'is very bad, and I would be in favor of putting in a new flushing system in place of the dry air system...I think also that the closets should be heated'"—Post Standard, February 5, 1904), city sidewalks ("Mayor Fobes has turned his attention to the care of the sidewalks throughout the city and the number of negligence actions brought against the city on accounts of accidents alleged to result from defective condition of sidewalks"—Syracuse Herald, March 29, 1904), and the quality of coal purchased by the city ("'The city is paying for first class coal for use in the schools,' said the Mayor to a Herald reporter. 'And the city is entitled to good coal. I shall see the dealer who furnishes the coal and talk with him. He ought to furnish better coal, and I am going to tell him so.'"—Syracuse Herald, February 3, 1904). One year into Fobes' first term, a Post-Standard editorial noted the changes in the city:
No one having even casual knowledge of affairs at the City Hall can fail to be impressed with the present quiet and decorum of all official procedure as compared with conditions that existed under the old McGuire regime...Now all is changed and the business of the municipality, whether in larger or smaller affairs, whether in the Mayor's office or in the departments, is carried forward on businesslike lines—quietly, quickly, sensibly and efficiently. And the crowning feature of the situation is that everybody having pride and unselfish interest in the city's welfare is satisfied and gratified at having things as they are now...The municipal work of Syracuse as a whole has never been as well done as it is being done at the present time, and the people of Syracuse never got as much for their money as they are getting now. (Post Standard, January 25, 1905)
Honestly, as you read through pages of the Syracuse newspapers at the time, you start to think that if you weren't plagued with scarlet fever (diptheria, typhoid, tetanus, etc.), drowned in the canal (lake, river, pond, etc.) run over by a train (trolley, car, horse, etc.) or subject of any of the other thousands of gruesome death stories that dominated at least three-quarters of each edition, the first decade of 20th century Syracuse was a pretty rockin' place to be:
The picnic season, which ordinarily does not open actively until the first week of July, is now in full blast...At the office of the Beebe system the general passenger department has been obliged to devote almost exclusive attention to the pressure of business of this character, so great has been the demand for special travel to the several resorts along its various lines.Syracuse was on a major upswing in the early 1900s ("The Census Bureau, in a bulletin issued today...puts the population of Syracuse June 1  at 114,443 as against 108,374 in 1900"— Post-Standard, April 8, 1904), and Fobes placed an emphasis on the importance of unity necessary as the city tried to achieve star status:
The opening of the Valley Theater on Monday last, a week ahead of the regular time, has made the pretty little hamlet nestled between the hills south of the city the Mecca for hundreds of pleasure seekers, who find the two hours of vaudeville entertainment at the al fresco playhouse, sandwiched between two trolley lines, a pleasant way of spending a warm evening.
Syracuse persons are especially fortunate in the picturesqueness of the country immediately surrounding it, and in the number and the diversified features of the resorts— lake, river, sylvan and pastoral— easily accessible for a day's outing or for an afternoon or evening's rest and recreation. Suburban trolley lines are constantly revealing new possibilities in this regard, solving the problem of how to spend a pleasant summer for the tired business man and others who are unable to take any extended vacation trip.
Boarding a car late in the afternoon when business is over, one can reach inside of an hour any one of a score of pleasant resorts, where dinner can be obtained and a couple hours spent in quietude or in various forms of amusement...Long Branch, Baldwinsville, Onondaga Valley, Skaneateles, Edwards Falls, South Bay, Frenchman's Islands, North Syracuse, Fayetteville, Manlius, and Jamesville are among the places which offer pleasing possibilities for dinner outings. (Post Standard, June 25, 1910)
These days, it seems that the city administration and related groups tend to view Syracuse as the sum of its parts: surely everyone can find something that appeals to them in the 60 or so images crammed into this 30-second video. A century ago, Syracuse considered itself one entity: every element of its being contributed to its overall look and presentation on the world stage. When you have limited time and means to do this, like Adam Lambert in the few minutes before his finale performance with Kiss, you glue rhinestones to your eyelids. Or if you're Mayor Fobes, competing to make a name for Syracuse in a rapidly changing United States, you focus on the emeralds before your eyes.
Of all the subjects which might be assigned [for a speech at the North Side Citizens Association dinner], "Our City" is perhaps the easiest, because the most familiar. Well called the Central City, located in the very heart of the richest state in all the rich United States, it is served by the greatest railroad In the country. It is within a short distance of the greatest seaport of the continent. It is within striking distance of one of the greatest of inland lakes and even now work is beginning upon a canal, one of the engineering models of the world, which will lay at its feet the raw product of the vast West...
Although I am a North Sider it is not as a North Sider that I must face the problems that come to me for solution. I said many times last fall that there should be in the determination of public policies no North Side or South Side, East Side or West Side, but that every section of the city should be treated fairly and justly, having in view the interest of Syracuse and not of any particular section of Syracuse. (Fobes speech reprinted in Post Standard, May 19, 1904)
COMING SOON: PART 2
July 8, 1910
Syracuse: An American Idyll?