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September 19, 2021

The Good Old Labor Days

By Jim Wright

You ever stop to wonder what you life would be like if it was 1911 instead of 2011?

Imagine.

Imagine what it was like to be your great grand parents.

In 1911, the United States was in the middle of the Second Industrial Revolution.  It was a time of wonder and ever advancing technology. It started in the 1860’s and would last right up until the beginning of World War I. It began with steel, the Bessemer process to be specific, a cheap and easy way to mass produce strong and reasonably lightweight metals.  Strong lightweight steel was the skeleton of the modern age, the core of everything from the new cars to steamships and oil rigs to utensils and lunchboxes, to the machines that manufactured the future, to the finest handgun ever made – Colt’s model 1911, named for its year of first issue and still in production a century later.  In 1911 a tall skinny fellow by the name of Eugene Ely landed a Curtiss #2 Pusher on the deck of USS Pennsylvania and took off again – and thus was born naval aviation, a profound moment that would change the very way wars were fought and thus change almost everything else too. Many of the pilots who, a few years later, would fly over the battlefields of WWI carried Colt’s Model 1911.  In 1911, for the first time, you could buy a Cadillac with an electric starter – and despite the fact that there were still plenty of horses out there on the roads, the car had become so ubiquitous – due in part to Henry Ford lowering the price of a Model-T to $690 that year – that Michigan created the first modern roads when the state started painting white lines down the middle of the more heavily traveled avenues. Electricity itself was no longer a novelty.  Though many factories were still powered by steam, electricity was becoming increasingly common.  The first modern public elevator began operation in London, England, and soon became common everywhere – leading directly to the modern city skyline.  And above that skyline in 1911, Goodyear flew their first blimp.

In 1911, America was booming. Her factories were churning out new products at a record pace. The western frontier had all but disappeared – oh, there were still a few bandits and cattle rustlers out there, but the wild wooly west was long gone.  The gold rushes, the boom towns and gun fights were long over.  Hell, by 1911 Wyatt Earp was living in Los Angeles working as a “trouble-shooter” for the city police department.  He’d fought his last armed battle a year before and would soon move to Hollywood as a consultant for the new movie industry.

It was certainly a marvelous time.

If you could afford it.

If you lived through it.

See, those churning factories were horrible places.  In 1911, most were still powered by a massive central steam engine which drove an enormous flywheel, which in turn powered shafts and belts and pulleys, which finally powered the machines.  And though, as noted above, electricity was becoming increasingly common, most of those factories were still poorly lit simply by the light coming in through skylights and banks of single pane glazed windows.  Often boiling hellholes in the summer and freezing dungeons in the winter – both air conditioning and central heating were still decades away – the buildings were filled with smoke and poisonous fumes from the various manufacturing processes, lead vapor, heavy metals, acids, chlorine, bleaches, all were common.  Normal working hours were from dawn to dusk, typically anywhere from twelve to fourteen hours a day, sixty and seventy hours per week for wages that would barely pay the rent and put food on a factory worker’s table.

Child labor was common, especially in the textile industry, though in some states there were supposed to be laws regulating it.  The kids toiled right alongside their parents.  The children typically worked the same hours as adults, but for a quarter, or less, of the pay.  Pictures of the time show children working barefoot among the machines, ragged sleeves flapping near the flying belts and spinning pulleys.  Whole families hired out to the factories, the men doing the heavy labor, the women and children doing the more delicate tasks. Towns sprang up around the mills, often controlled by the factory owners. Company towns, where workers very often became little more than indentured servants.  Life in a company town was often better than the alternative on the streets of places like Hell’s Kitchen or out in the fields of the South. Company towns gave workers a higher standard of living than they would otherwise be able to afford. But the running joke was that while your soul might belong to God, your ass belonged to the company.  Mill towns and mining towns and factory towns and logging towns were common across America, places where the company owned everything from your house to your job to the church you prayed in to the store you bought your food from. And prices were whatever made the company the most profit and in many places there were laws that prevented you from renting or buying outside the company town.  The company might pay you a decent wage for the time, but they got a lot of it back too.  Get crosswise of the company and you lost it all.  Get injured on the job and could no longer work, and you lost it all. Get sick, and you could lose it all.  Get killed, and your family was out on the street.  There was no workman’s comp. No insurance. No retirement but what you managed to save – and since you probably owed a significant debt to the company store, your savings were unlikely to go very far.

Of course, you could always take a pass on factory work and return to the land.  In 1911, millions of Americans were farmers.  Farming, especially in 1911, was hard back breaking work (it still is, just in a different way) – so hard that seventy hours a week in a smoke filled factory with a high probability of getting maimed or killed looked pretty good in comparison.  Most of those farmers, especially in the South, didn’t own their fields. They were sharecroppers, living in conditions little better than slavery or the serfdom of the Dark Ages.  Of the small farmers who did own their own land or rather owed the bank for their own land, more than half lived in abject poverty.  In the coming decade, the decade of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, most would lose everything.

Most of America was powered by coal in those days and if there was anything that would make life in a factory town or in the sweltering fields look good – it was working in a West Virginia coal mining town.  It was a race to see what would kill you first, explosion, cave-in, or the black lung.  And just like in the fields and factories, children worked alongside their parents – if they had parents, orphanages were also common. And orphan labor was even cheaper than the average child, both in life and in pay. Renting out orphan labor was a good gig, if you could get it.

You could always become a merchant seaman, though life at sea was damned rough. You could move west and become a logger, though you’d probably live longer in the mines of West Virginia. You could still be a cowboy, or a cop, or carpenter none which paid worth a good Goddamn and had the added benefit of a short lifespan.

Since people got sick and injured a lot, and most couldn’t afford even rudimentary medical care, many turned to patent medicines.  The pharmaceutical industry was only loosely regulated, but by 1911 there were some few laws in a handful of states regulating the more outrageous claims for the various elixirs. The big medicine shows were gone, but in 1911 there were still plenty of drug store shelves stocked with hundreds of varieties of patent medicines. Some were mostly benign – like Coca-Cola – and some were downright toxic – like Radithor, made from water and radium.  As late as 1917, The Rattlesnake King, Clark Stanley, was still making Stanley’s Snake Oil, a worthless mixture of mineral oil, turpentine, and red pepper, and fleecing sick people out of their money and making them yet sicker (hell, as late as the 1960’s TV’s commercials touted the benefits of smoking for sore throats. And, as late as 1970 there were still X-ray foot measuring devices in use in a handful of shoe stores across America).

In 1911, only a few states mandated that your kids attend school, and then only though elementary.  In the South segregation and Jim Crow Laws were in full force and civil rights were decades away. Lynching was common.  On the other hand, women could actually vote in exactly five states, well, six if you included California which grudgingly acknowledged in November that females might be citizens too despite their unfortunate plumbing.

In 1911, maybe three out of ten Americans could ever expect to own a home, most would pay a landlord their whole lives. Few had any rights in those relationships either, you paid the owner and you lived with what you got or you got thrown out. Period.

In 1911, a lot of Americans were hungry. More than fifty percent of seniors lived in poverty, but then the average lifespan was only about fifty-five, maybe sixty if you hadn’t been breathing coal dust or lead vapor all you life.  Few of those seniors had pensions, most lived on the charity of their families – if they were lucky enough to have families.  Sanatoriums were a common place for the aged and infirm to spend their brief final years.

In 1911, if you had ten kids, you might expect six of them to survive to adulthood.  If you were lucky. Polio, tuberculosis, measles, mumps, pneumonia, whooping cough, hard labor in the mines and factories and fields, lack of social safety nets, lack of proper nutrition, lead paint, food poisoning, poverty, orphaned by parents killed by the same, would probably claim at least four of those kids. Likely more.

 

People from that generation always wax nostalgic for The Good Old Days – and then they immediately proceed to tell you why life was so much harder and more miserable back then.

 

The simple truth of the matter is nowadays, even in this time of economic downturn, we Americans live a pretty damned good life.  And we live that good life because since 1911 we’ve put systems and laws and regulations in place to improve life for all of us.  Programs like Social Security and Medicare have a direct and measurable affect on how long we live, and how well. Regulations governing working conditions and workplace safety have a direct and measurable affect on the probability that we’ll survive to retirement.  Laws that prevent the rich from owning a whole town, or abusing workers, or turning them into indentured servants, or hiring children at pauper’s wages to maintain the machines in their bare feet, have directly benefitted all but the most greedy few.

The American dream isn’t dead, far from it.

I’ve been to countries where dreams have died, America is far, far, far removed those hellish places.

It is a measure of just how far we’ve come, and just how big an impact that those laws, regulations, and social safety programs have had that those who directly benefit from those very same laws, regulations, and programs can complain with full bellies just how terrible they have it.

Things like Social Security, Medicare, Workman’s Compensation Insurance, The Federal Reserve, Federal Deposit Insurance, child labor laws, federal minimum wage, occupational health and safety standards, the Environmental Protection Agency, The Centers for Disease Control, The departments of Education and Health, Labor Unions and workers’ rights, and yes, even Welfare, all of these things were created for a reason. For a good reason. For a compelling reason.

These things were created because when you leave it up to the church and charity to fed the hungry and clothe the poor and heal the sick, a hell of a lot of people go hungry and cold and ill.  It is really just that brutally simple.

These things were created because when you leave it up to charity and family to take care of old people, a hell of a lot of old people end up stacked like cordwood in institutions. The moldering remnants of such places are all around us.

These things were created because when you leave it up to people to save for their retirement or a rainy day or for accident and infirmity, a hell of a lot of them don’t, or can’t, or won’t.

These things were put in place because when you leave it solely up to the market to weed out poor products and fake medicine and unsafe machines, they don’t, or can’t, or won’t.

These things were put in place because when you leave it up to industrialists and share holders to treat their workers with dignity and respect and to pay them a living wage for their hard work, you get indentured servitude.

These things were put in place because when you leave it up to devoutly righteous people who go to church every Sunday to decide what is right and proper and moral, you end up with lynchings and segregation and Jim Crow. And that is a Goddamned fact.

These things were put in place because when you leave it up to the factory owners to decide wages and safety and working hours, you get this:

 

When you leave it solely up to bankers and the factory owners and the industrialists, well Sir, then what happens is they end up owning it all and you get the scraps.

And right up until very recently that’s exactly how it was.

Fundamentally, government exists to protect the weak from the ruthless, otherwise what damned good is it?

 

Lately there are a lot of folks who think they want to live in 1911, rather than in 2011.

Chief among those people is this ruthless idiot:

Ever since the dawn of the so-called Progressive movement over a century ago, liberals have used every tool at their disposal — including notably the Supreme Court — to wage a gradual war on the Constitution and the American way of life…

(Click on the quote to find out which presidential candidate said it, and what else they think about the last century’s progress)

 

The question you need to ask yourself, on this of all days, is what century do you want to live in?

 

Happy Labor Day folks.

Comments

comments

Comments
37 Responses to “The Good Old Labor Days”
  1. beemodern says:

    The warnings are too late. The current crop of loons running for office are merely the distraction to keep us busy as the real powers continue dismantling our democracy, civil rights, government institutions and agencies, and consumer protections.

    Education is already dumbed down so most students graduated from public schools, even many colleges, have no grasp of history or how their own government works. Industries have been writing our legislation for years.

    Our elections have been corrupted for the last 14 years by intentional voter disenfranchisement and electronic voting machines.

    Labor unions are almost dead in the water, with the word “union” a negative among the general public too young to have ever belonged to one. Minimum wage, Social Security, and Medicare are under serious attack. As with the anti-labor movement, Americans are falling for the rhetoric.

    The criminal justice system has been our largest growth industry for decades now, with the War on Drugs followed by 9/11 aftermath “protections” feeding it and bolstered by 24/7 TV centered on true crime, reality judge, and crime investigation dramas, all from the perspective of authorities. Now people sneer at “defense” attorneys. The private prison industry has benefited from MADD’s ceaseless efforts and too cozy with such “social safety improvements.” The private prison industry wrote for legislators Arizona’s new draconian and racist “anti-illegals” law.

    Private industry, most international, has us by the throats, bleeding us for every cent of profit they can and they own our government so they are strangling it in an effort to make everything public for profit and to control legislation in their favor. There is also the 24/7 media propaganda machines that have successfully turned us against each other and against our own people’s government, hence the public continually voting against our own interests and defending our predatory abusers responsible for robbing us, creating a generation of indentured servants, and incarcerating so many of us we imprison more of our citizens than does any other nation. All the while, we wave our flags and claim to be “the land of the free.”

    It’s gong to take a massive a massive organizational effort and deep pockets to turn things around.

  2. Zyxomma says:

    I don’t know how many of you remember Sixteen Tons, which was recorded by Tennessee Ernie Ford: “You move sixteen tons, and what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt. St. Peter, don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go: I owe my soul to the company store.”

    Thanks, Jim, for an enlightening, moving, and critically important post. Thanks, mudpuppies, for sharing your family histories. My dad, who died in 1968, belonged to a number of unions, starting with Artists Equity. He was also an Ordinary Seaman (never shipped out, diabetes), member of the Society for Plastics Engineers, and whatever the color chemists’ union was called (I can’t recall). My mother was a postal worker, and headed up the EEOC for the Philadelphia region. My elder sister and brother-in-law were both state employees in NJ.

    I still look for the union label when I shop, and miss it because it isn’t there. I wear a lot of vintage clothing, and most of it is ILGWU made (my grandfather, a tailor, and his brother were both members). Workers’ rights are human rights. Unions have made things better for all of us.

    Finally, congratulations to the DePula family, who welcomed a new baby to the fold.

  3. Kimosabe says:

    The Repubs are on the side of child labor, black lung disease, the Triangle fire, 80-hour work weeks. “Job creators” my arse … call them what they really want to be: “plantation owners”.

  4. Terry in Maryland says:

    My maternal grandfather immigrated to the U.S. from what was then Austria-Hungary in the late 1890’s. He was 16 and went directly to work in the coal mines in Pennsylvania. Sixteen seems young to us now, but other boys started at 10 as breaker boys, sitting on boards over moving conveyors sorting the coal and rock as it moved quickly below them. The immigrant laborers were essentially indentured servants to the mines, many of which only paid in script, tokens that could only be spent at groceries and other stores conveniently owned by the mining company, too.

    My grandfather, great uncle, and uncles on that side of the family all went into the mines. Only one uncle finished high school and went to college, and that was only because he could play football and got a scholarship. When the local mine was closed, they’d live in bunkhouses or boarded with families in a town near the active mine. One Sundays after Mass and supper, they’d walk to work. Sometimes it took until late at night to get there. Fridays, after quitting time, they’d walk home and get there in the middle of the night sometimes. Spend Saturday and part of Sunday with the family, then start walking again.

    My mother was born in 1926, the youngest in a large family, remembers at every dinner with her Father, he’d say grace and thank God for the United Mine Workers and pray for the safety of the Union president. He credited the United Mine Workers with changing the mines from the horrors he knew early on into reasonably safe places to work with management that had to treat the miners like human beings.

    I never knew my grandfather, he died of lung disease several years before I was born. All of the men on that side of the family, except the uncle who got to go to college, had terrible lung problems including black lung and emphysema. One uncle was crushed to death. For all of them, it was a tough way to live and a horrible way to die.

    I’m going to repeat my grandfather’s prayer. Thank God for the United Mine Workers. People shouldn’t have to live like those men did just to make a living.

    • Alaska Pi says:

      Amen .

    • Terry in Maryland says:

      Sorry about the typos and bad grammar in the last post. I get emotional over that subject.

    • leenie17 says:

      My paternal grandfather, too, died several months before I was born. He was a farmer and contracted cancer from the chemicals he used to fertilize his fields and protect them from pests and disease. He trusted the companies who sold him the chemicals and told him they were perfectly safe.

      By the time he began to suspect that the chemicals were a lot more dangerous than he’d been told, it was too late. He developed bone cancer in his spine, which slowly, and excruciatingly painfully, disintegrated until it could no longer support him and protect his spine.

      Yeah, let’s go back to those days…

  5. True Blue Girl says:

    Interesting post over at Joe McG site: He’s such a nasty piece of work, have to wonder what it means

    Uh-oh…I see trouble ahead
    September 6, 2011

  6. fishingmamma says:

    My great aunt, born in 1898, was a serious republican. She died at the age of 104. In her county, nobody got elected to local office without her approval, because of her wide respect. She was a social worker and a seriously progressive woman. She was very humble. She believed in education, empowerment, and learning. She was a republican because she had lived through the depression and was a fiscal conservative. She was a fiscal conservative and a social progressive. She was a woman of great intellect and curiousity. If she were alive, she would have nothing to do with the republican party. The republican party has been hijacked by corporations and manipulated into supporting systems that only benefit the rich. And now they have re-named themselves as the ‘job creators’.

    I call shame on the party because they dishonor her name. I am convinced that if she had voted in the last presidential election, she would have supported Obama.

    • fishingmamma says:

      I forgot to mention that she worked mainly with the native american population in that area. And that over 300 of her former ‘client families’ attended her 100th birthday. She stayed in touch with every family she worked with. She was really loved by those families.

    • fishingmamma says:

      I posted this here because she was (I keep forgetting details) instrumental in getting people to work, and especially in getting women to educate themselves and to get work that offers benefits.

  7. CityKid says:

    I’m leaning towards supporting Sarah Palin for President. She is a nightmare for the Republicans and would be ineffectual as a president. Obama has sold us out and has been effective in silencing critics from the left as he carries out his corporate agenda. I”ve taken a bit of heat here for backing Nader because he does not represent REAL POLITIC. So, pragmatically I think we would be better off with Sarah Palin than Barack Obama. Just say’n.

  8. AKjah says:

    Almost forgot. Nice to see you Jim here on the flats. Next?

  9. North of the Range says:

    Thank you, Jim, for one of the best summaries I have seen of why “all of these things were created for a reason. For a good reason. For a compelling reason.” I wish everybody understood this.

    It’s interesting to me how your post has prompted people to bring up their own concrete examples from family histories. People who know that their own relatives went through this kind of profit-driven suffering aren’t so likely to fall for all the Randian propaganda circulating out there right now. Passing our own family stories down is one of the keys to combating these noxious ideas circulating in the political discourse. Perhaps if more people knew their personal connections to these past events, they’d be less likely to forget how real these conditions were. They’d be less likely to see this all as just distant events happening to nameless people in textbook photographs. Instead more people *might* recognize that the behaviors that caused these conditions are everlasting temptations for human nature, held back only by structures of law, that we dismantle at our peril.

    • ks sunflower says:

      I join you in complementing Jim on an excellent post.

      I also agree that ignorance of both the realities of life in times past gives rise to ignorance of why regulation is necessary. We all recognize that ignorance is easily manipulated by conniving intellects and that is just what is going on now. If anyone truly believes the Tea Party and ultra-conservative Republican views are “grassroots,” then they are simply demonstrating how ignorant they are and how little capability they have to think for themselves.

      I used to think intellectual laziness was to blame for people following Randian views, but now I think it is also a sort of moral corruption – a lack of initiative, or compassion, or concern. Too many people can’t be bothered to do the supposed “heavy lifting” it takes to think for themselves. After all, that would take time away from DWTS or American Idol, and you know we can’t have that. When people can recite details about almost any celebrity’s life but cannot tell you who their Congressional Representative or Senator is, we have ripe pickings for modern-day snake oil salesmen like the Kochs, the Perrys, Palins, and Bachmanns.

      People who shout about their love of their religion and freedom, but don’t have even a basic grasp of what they faith means or how their government works absolutely anger and terrify me. Their boundless ignorance will undermine our country and the constructive and humane gains so many before us prayed for, toiled for and died for.

      Imagine how much it could be if someone like Perry or Bachmann gained the reigns of power. Michelle Bachman has said she would do away with the Dept. of Education because parents and local school boards (increasingly comprised of fundamentalists) should control schools, that the federal government has no constitutional right to handle the education of our children. Think about some of the actively fringe families you know. Do you want those folks controlling what your kids or grandkids learn? I suspect power brokers such as the Kochs do because it will result in cheap, easily manipulated labor just as in 1911; people too weak to stand up for themselves and their families. Thanks but no thanks. I will stick with the progressive leaders and join them as they stand against this wave of regressive rhetoric and foolish fantasy.

      I am proud to be a child of blue collar parents who sacrificed their health and their happiness laboring to improve my life. I owe them and all those who came before who fought for a better life for themselves and their families to not allow their efforts to be thrown away. I am so heartened with I read comments on this blog. You all remind me that I am not alone in how frustrated I am by what is going on, and how much I want to stop it and keep the gains we’ve made and build on them.

      Thank you, Jim and North of the Range and all the rest of you – for giving me hope that people do remember and understand and want to make things even better.

      • beemodern says:

        The warnings are too late. Education is already dumbed down so most students graduated from public schools, even many colleges, have no grasp of history or how their own government works. Industries have been writing our legislation for years. Our elections have been corrupted for the last 14 years by intentional voter disenfranchisement and electronic voting machines. Labor unions are almost dead in the water, with the word “union” a negative among the general public too young to have ever belonged to one. The criminal justice system has been our largest growth industry for decades now, with the War on Drugs followed by 9/11 aftermath “protections” feeding it and bolstered by 24/7 TV centered on true crime, reality judge, and crime investigation dramas, all from the perspective of authorities. Now people sneer at “defense” attorneys. The private prison industry has benefited from MADD’s ceaseless efforts and too cozy with such “social safety improvements.” The private prison industry wrote for legislators Arizona’s new draconian and racist “anti-illegals” law. Private industry, most international, has us by the throats, bleeding us for every cent of profit they can and they own our government so they are strangling it in an effort to make everything public for profit and to control legislation in their favor. There is also the 24/7 media propaganda machines that have successfully turned us agaist each other and against our own people’s government, hence the public continually voting against our own interests and defending our predatory abusers responsible for robbing us, creating a generation of indentured servants, and incarcerating so many of us we imprison more of our citizens than does any other nation. All the while, we wave our flags and claim to be “the land of the free.”

        It’s gong to taie a massive

    • Dagian says:

      The Koch brothers and their ilk don’t mind, too much, if people are barely able to eke out an existance. Clearly, though, LIVING is for the rich.

  10. lacy lady says:

    I wouldn’t want to live like my great grandparents. My mother’s grandparents came to this country from Austria, and had a boarding house near Des Moines, Ia. Also my great-grandmother was a seamstress and great-grandfather was a Talior. They had 6 daughters– All who had a Job doing work at the boarding house. My grandmother said that her job was baking bread everyday for the boarding house.
    It was one of these borders that my grandmother married. They had a hard life as he worked in the coal mines. It would be John L. Lewis who would bring in the unions to help the miners.
    It was also the time when my grandparents became Democrats.
    I don’t think that Ron Paul would work in a coal mine for the wages these men took home.
    On the other side of my family–my Dad’s parents were better off. They had a grocery store.
    Having 9 children, they all worked in the store. During the depression, my grandfather carried a lot of people ( mostly coal miners) on the books. It was many years later, that the children of these miners who moved to Chicago and the Tri-cities to work, that they paid these old bills. No one sent them a bill—-my grandparents were long gone by now, but they appreciated their help during these bad times.
    I am happy and proud to have the butcher block from this store. A tag underneath showing that it was purchased in 1904.

  11. Zyxomma says:

    My dad was born in 1916, my mother in 1918. I want a great future, not a miserable past. My grandfathers were a house painter and a garment worker. My grandmothers did all their work at home. This is why most of the members of my family were union workers (some of them union activists). Every time I hear a teacher, cop, or firefighter called a “union thug” I want to kick ass and take names.

    • OtterQueen says:

      I wonder how many of these “anti-union” people would go absolutely bonkers if their employer tried to make them work 70 hours a week with no overtime pay, or forced them to work in filthy, dangerous, sweat-shop conditions.

      • leenie17 says:

        But not to worry, because those wonderful corporations with their honest, caring, generous CEOs will be sure to take excellent care of their workers and happily give up their profits to make life safe and happy for their employees.

        Oh, and they’ll be sure to use the latest technology (and give up some more of those profits) to insure that they’re being good guardians of the environment. And they’ll slash their own compensation so they can share the wealth with the everyone who works for them, because they’re just good and kind like that.

        And they’ll serve tea and crumpets every afternoon.

        Okay, now, time to wake up from that ridiculous dream, get your posterior out of bed and get to work in that hellhole you call your job so your boss can make enough money for that new yacht he’s been eyeing!

  12. Mag the Mick says:

    And just a week ago, Ron Paul made a speech saying we should all go back to 1911…

    • Alaska Pi says:

      ah ,so we ladies can’t vote and poor men and women can look for all their wages in heaven… mmm…

      To the Dead Poor Man

      ‘… everything is set

      for him to eat his fill of heaven,

      our poor man, who brings, as his fortune

      from below, some sixty years of hunger

      to be satisfied, finally, as is just and proper,

      with no more batterings from life,

      without being victimized for eating;

      safe as houses in his box under the ground,

      now he no longer moves to protect himself,

      now he will not struggle over wages.

      He never hoped for such a justice, did this man.

      Suddenly they have filled his cup and it cheers him;

      now he has fallen dumb with happiness.”

      http://radicaljournal.com/poetry/dead_poor_man_pablo_neruda.html

  13. This version of the article has a number of embarrassing typos. Those are mine, not the Mudflats. Sigh. I swear those weren’t there when I first published the post on Stonekettle Station.

    I’ve asked Jeanne to repost the updated copy in her copious spare time – in the meantime you can read the corrected and updated copy here

    //Thanks//and thanks to Mudflats for posting this, typos and all//Jim Wright

  14. Baker's Dozen says:

    When he was about 8, my great grandfather, who was white, was sold into slavery in New England by his mother after his dad died. They were immigrants from Wales, where they’d owned a bit of land, but treated the local populace so badly they had to flee to Maine for their lives. He managed to escape as a young man and made his way to CA. By 1911, his kids were all nearly grown and moving out of the house as quickly as possible to escape the weekly Sunday whippings. How he’d managed to marry a woman of a landed family is beyond me. Her life with him was misery. She was, by all accounts, a wonderful woman. Not an easy life on a farm, but at least you ate and your profits were your own.

    My other great grandmother was raising 4 kids on a cattle ranch in Idaho. They were pretty well to do, she had hired help, and there was always hied help outside, too. They eventually moved to CA to get away from the winters, and the local religious folk who were practicing polygamy against church teaching, and my great grandfather went to Idaho every spring through fall to take care of the ranch. He was simply a well to do–and very good looking–cowboy. This side of the family had its roots on the Mayflower, so they were well established by the time the industrial revolution really got going and they weren’t caught in that grind. Still, I’ll take today. Otherwise, how would I write on blogs?
    My family was always educated and educated their girls, as well, at least as far as we can tell. Dang liberul New Englanders spreadin’ thar ideers al over th’ West!

    On the other side of the family, my great grandfather was a murderer in South Carolina and moved out West to escape the long arm of the law. Changed his name and married my great grandmother, whose family opposed her marrying her high school sweetheart and liked this guy better. So much for parents being good judges of character. My great grandmother was strong enough to outlive the rotten husband by decades and lived into her hundreds. She managed to raise respectable kids despite her lousy husband. She always suspected that the picture we found of the KKK from the 1920’s pictured her husband hiding under one of the sheets. Fortunately, this frame of mind was not passed down to the next generation. I wonder why not. Seriously.

  15. auni says:

    I’ll tell you one thing–the life of the common person in 1911 is exactly what the Koch brothers have in mind for the future. Look at that one little boy, no shoes and standing on that bar!

  16. benlomond2 says:

    IT’s called being a Conservative…. No change, or put it back the way it was before…

  17. mike from iowa says:

    off in the distance,barely audible,is the amen and halleluhah chorus of right wing nut jobs chiming in with,”back then the kids were hard at work doing something constructive with their time. Nowadays they kill and fight and do drugs and god is nowhere to be found. It is all the damn liberals and their godless friends at the ACLU and public schools and liberal education. Our kids need to learn responsibility at early ages and they need god back in schools before god was banished.””When we were kids we walked seventy five miles a day to school and back in the winter time while doing chores and helping around the house.We never had stuff like cell phones and videos.” Yeah,yeah,yeah. Sounds like a Beatles record. Excellent post and unfortunately true and also poison to those on the right. They seem to avoid truth like the plague.

  18. Jim K says:

    That is what happens when you leave it to the free market; and let charities take care the needy. When they believe we need less regulation. When the free market makes life a workers paradise. Gee it sounds like everything our Republican brethren want only they seem to believe the results would be different. Gee Isn’t that the definition of insanity.

  19. Alaska Pi says:

    I don’t wonder about 1911- whether I’d want to live then especially. My grandmothers told me about 1911.
    It was 5 kids out of 12 which made adulthood in my paternal grandmother’s family. She was the only girl who made it.
    She was pulled out of school after 3rd grade because there was “no need for girls to know more ”
    She married at 18, in 1915, and had 5 children in 5 years and a sixth 10 years later.
    When they left the farm to step up financially she stood on her feet for 12 hours a day behind the counter in Granpa’s store and more hours over a wood cookstove at night to put up vegetables which hadn’t sold for her own family.
    When Granpa died suddenly in 1932 there were no survivor’s benefits, no help with the kids, no job for her , no nothing.
    My other grammy lived an eerily parallel life and lost her kids to “protective”services for awhile because she could not find a job after her husband died.
    Hell no, I don’t want to go back in any way shape or form.
    I would like my grandmothers to stop back by long enough to cuff the stupenagle Perry in the ears though…

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