I invite you to take a look at books I have authored. Most of them are of a historical nature and contain much of what has been important in my life.
If you are wondering about my books and who I am, click on the image of my Amazon Book Store just above and read “About Donald L Johnson.”
For a more detailed and intimate look at me, my autobiography is at: A Yearning for Publius – A Look at My Life I’ve added a chapter on heroes – 13 people who have made a significant impact on my life over the years.
Sam Jankovich – A Sports Legend. Written by Sam Jankovich. Edited and published by Don Johnson. The life story of a remarkable man. Beginning his career as a hard-rock miner in the depths of a mile deep copper mine in Butte Montana to national championships in collegiate football to CEO/GM of the New England Patriots. And a very fine man and dear friend.
She graduated from Quinnipiac University – finally, after 30 years. No, this was unlike me who managed to squeeze 4 years of college into six, JoAnne was busy elsewhere raising three wonderful children – my grandchildren.
HELENA — The late Tony Hunthausen (1925-2019), World War II Army veteran, had seen enough disturbing incidents during his time of combat that he couldn’t even talk about them until many years later.
Among the worst was a scene he recalled about the time his platoon was marching toward the German front lines after the Battle of the Bulge, when they encountered an American wounded but alive lying in the ditch.
The soldier pleaded for their help, but when several guys tried to help one of their own, they were ordered back into line by their commanding officer, with a stern explanation that they must keep moving.
They were told the soldier in the ditch “was not their problem” and the medics would be along soon. But that evening as they returned down the same road, the American was lying dead in the same spot.
Many years later, Hunthausen told his family that this episode and several others were among the lasting memories responsible for feelings of guilt that haunted him for most of his life.
Anthony Adam “Tony” Hunthausen graduated from Anaconda High in 1944, where he followed in the footsteps of older brother Ray and played football for the Copperheads. Tony’s senior year, Anaconda went undefeated and unscored upon, capped off by a 28-0 shutout over Miles City in the Class A championship game.
Bob McGrath served in the United States Army, and served in the Korean War. He grew up in Butte, but has lived in Billings for more than 50 years. This is a lightly edited version of the interview. The full interview can be found online at billingsgazette.com.
Gazette: What was growing up in Butte like?
McGrath: “It was typical Butte, just a bunch of good people. A bunch of nationalities joined together in different neighborhoods, and they all intermingled and got along good. We had the English up in Centerville, the Irish in Walkerville, and various Serbian and all different kinds of nationalities blend together in Butte. It was a wonderful town to grow up in.
Gazette: What part of town did you grow up in?
McGrath: “We lived in the middle part of Butte at one time. Then my mom and dad bought a home out in the flats, down from Butte on the flatter ground. We lived there until my Army days.
Gazette: How did you find yourself in the Army? Tell me about that.
McGrath: “Well, it was the days of the Korean War. … They put the draft into it. I was one of 20 guys that was drafted at the time I went in. The previous classes, there were always 10 or 12 guys that were drafted and intermingled with the outlying areas in Butte and from different areas. They all joined together, they shipped us to Seattle for processing as a group, and then the guys from Butte separated into different areas, and I was left with a bunch of guys I didn’t know. Then they shipped us down to Camp Roberts, California. … We took basic training for 16 weeks. Then there was leadership school, and if you came out of there successfully, then you bump up on ranks. So, I went to eight weeks of leadership school and I made corporal when we graduated. Then, shortly after that, I was sent to a bivouac area, they were shipping young guys out of there to various places. I was shipped over to Korea just before Christmas 1952. They loaded us up on the victory ship, the Phoenix Arizona, they called it a boat. We sailed Dec. 23, 1952, to Korea and it was 18 days on the sea. It was a long time. It was an old relic ship from the Henry J. Kaiser era.
I think for the people raised in my generation, we were growing up in the’ 40s and’ 50s, and the people in that time had a different feeling about Butte than, say, the children in the ’60s,’70s, and’80s. It’s quite a bit different. The town was different. Schools were a lot different. Communities were much closer to one another. You knew your neighbor. — Helen Nicholls
IN FEBRUARY 1960 the strike that had begun in August 1959 came to an end after 181 days. Some families had made the hard decision to leave Butte in search of opportunities elsewhere. Others faced the struggle of trying to catch up on overdue bills and regain their footing. The 1960 census showed Butte’s population at forty – six thousand, a loss of eight thousand people since 1940. The promise of mining lay in the expanding open pit, which was consuming the close – knit ethnic neighborhoods that had built and defined the Mining City for the first half of the twentieth century. Parents worked doggedly to provide a better life and greater opportunities for their children than they had enjoyed. For many young people coming of age in Butte post – 1960, those opportunities lay beyond the industry and community their parents and grandparents had worked so hard to build. In closing, I want to return to questions posed at the start of the book: How might an exploration of childhood in Butte provide insights about the ways in which meanings of childhood and experiences of children were shaped by mining life? In turn, how might stories told from a child’s – eye view provide new insights into Butte’s history? Butte children lived and negotiated the everyday complexities of working – class culture, ethnic relations, and neighborhood ties and tensions. They learned early on the demands of hard work and the tolls of hard – rock mining. Hardly a family or a neighborhood block went unscathed by the death or injury of one of its members. Children forged their own identities as workers from an early age, deftly blending entrepreneurial spirit with a playful sense of adventure.
Many children were infused from birth with a fine – tuned sense of ethnic identity and history. They took pride in their intrepid forbearers who bid goodbye to family, community, and country and set out in search of a better life. And they grew up viewing their worlds through a prism of ethnicity. Butte children mapped their worlds spatially and culturally, identifying boundaries of belonging and difference by stores, streets, and schools. They both challenged and reproduced those boundaries as they sought adventure, employment, and friendships. Children’s accounts provide windows into the geography of childhood. They offer unique perspectives on mining life as witnessed from a child’s – eye view. Their stories offer powerful and poignant insights into children’s experiences of trauma and their resilience. Finally, they offer rich data on the capacities of children and youth and their contributions to family and community well – being. Geography of Childhood Accounts of childhood reveal the deep and complex ways in which the rhythms and structures of mining became part of the everyday worlds of children. For children of the Hill, the landscape of mining structured a fundamental geography of childhood. Children, like their parents, moved to the metronome of mining, with the roar of the fans, bells, and whistles of the mine yards and the rumble of the trains creating the rhythms of everyday life. Children who grew up in neighborhoods adjacent to the mines developed an intimate connection to and practical knowledge of the industrial workings of mining. Their homes and yards abutted slag heaps, train tracks, and gallows frames. Photos of Butte neighborhoods near the mines reveal the fusion of home and mine in children’s community geography. While mine yards were tantalizing and risky places, they were also extensions of the physical space of home.
Childhood stories portray a strong sense of identification with the physical and social space of neighborhoods and boundaries. Children’s accounts offer vivid descriptions of the ethnic composition of home neighborhoods, the social and material amenities therein, and the borderlands separating neighborhoods. Children were part of rich social networks, and they created strong social ties within their neighborhoods and developed understandings of common ground and difference in relationship to place. Neighborhoods were important places for building a sense of group loyalty and collective identity. Older children watched out for younger, and differences were set aside when the moment called for sticking up for one another. The stories of children growing up in neighborhoods predominated by mines and mining suggest that their experiences were qualitatively different from those of children growing up on the Flats or the West Side, which were often characterized as areas where the business and professional classes and ”Big Shots” lived. While the landscape of mining broadly defined Butte, children whose everyday lives were removed from close proximity to the mines did not share the same sense of intimacy with mining. Theirs was a more protected space. At the same time, children from more well – to – do families with access to cars and experiences with travel enjoyed a more cosmopolitan childhood. When youngsters came together in the common space of high school, children of mining families were clearly conscious of the markers of difference. No longer were they ”all in the same boat” as in the close and insular space of their neighborhoods. Stories of Butte childhood also speak to a rich cultural geography of children’s lives. Children acquired knowledge of ethnic identity, belonging, and difference not only in their families but also in their neighborhoods. While mining created common rhythms of life, the social, cultural, emotional, and sensory connections nurtured in neighborhoods gave children a strong sense of place and belonging as well as a sense of boundaries that marked the limits of familiar terrain. Within those boundaries, children enjoyed considerable freedom of movement. Neighborhoods often served as extended families, where children benefited from the support of multiple caregivers and suffered under the surveillance of multiple disciplinarians. Sometimes children counted on neighbors to help them get ready for school. Sometimes neighbors counted on children for childcare and domestic service so that they could juggle the demands of work and child rearing. Many children grew up among multiple households, incorporating boardinghouses, work places, neighborhood homes, street corners, churches, and the homes and stores of extended family into their everyday social geography. Their accounts of childhood help us to appreciate a broader sense of ”home” in the everyday lives of children, especially working – class children, in Butte and beyond. Children developed both independence and relationships from an early age as they negotiated the streets of their neighborhoods and ventured outside those boundaries. In contrast to the perspectives of child advocates concerned with children’s well – being, working – class children described Butte streets not as dangerous places but as the connective tissue of their networks of family, work, school, and play.
The dynamic social geography of children’s lives is also revealed in their stories about working. These stories speak not only to their ingenuity and entrepreneurship but also to the diverse intergenerational relationships that children forged. Through their work as bucket girls, boardinghouse workers, bus boys, newsboys, waitresses, and cooks, children mingled with adults of differing ages and classes. Aili Goldberg and Catherine Hoy became well acquainted with miners in the boardinghouses and restaurants where they worked. They knew miners’ tastes and stories. John Sheehy knew the routes, shifts, and residences of miners who passed by his corner and bought a paper. He developed personal relationships with significant adults beyond his family who took an interest in him and helped shape his aspirations. John Mazzola got well acquainted with cooks, business owners, and prostitutes in his work as a bus boy, delivery boy, and newsboy. They shared common bonds based on the value and dignity of hard work. These children defied the notion that ”modern” childhood was defined by peer relations and the narrow age – group socialization structured through schools. In contrast, they cultivated and maintained meaningful relationships across generations. They were active partners in these relationships, not passive recipients of adult attention. Children learned early to stake claims to their neighborhood and defend their turf, at times with their fists. Their stories reveal that boys and girls alike enjoyed the freedom and autonomy to develop a social life of their own, on the streets and slag heaps and outside the watch and reach of parental authority. Both boys and girls also assumed responsibility for overseeing and defending younger siblings in their home neighborhoods and beyond. A certain pride in toughness comes through in the stories of girls as well as boys. Childhood on this hardscrabble terrain was characterized more by spunk, curiosity, and hardiness than by sentimentality, innocence, and dependence. Child’s – Eye View As the stories of childhood suggest, children are astute observers of their social worlds, taking in the music, stories, conflicts, and celebrations around them and acquiring cultural knowledge at every turn. From their perches on the porches of boardinghouses, in kitchen cubbyholes, and on city street corners, they bore witness to a mining way of life and its human toll. Young people grew wise to adult ways from early on. They actively engaged with family, community, and culture. They absorbed the languages, habits, practices, and tastes of their families and neighbors just as they took in the toxic residues of the mines.
Children were not insulated from adult lives; rather they were actively trying to make sense of adult ways in order to better understand their own place in the world. John Sheehy and his brother Ed learned about loss, grief, and the depth of family ties to Ireland as they watched the neighborhood women gather at the family table to tell stories of ”the Old Country” and read” letters edged in black.” Kevin Shannon observed the nuances and diversity of history and place among Irish immigrants as he learned and performed the ”Come All Ye’s.” Vadis Stratton learned basic lessons in cultural difference as she watched in wonder while her neighbors slaughtered a pig. Steve Sherick learned the power of ritual in community life as he took part in annual Mesopust celebrations. They grew up steeped in appreciation of cultural knowledge and history. Children of mining families were acutely aware of the financial uncertainty that came with mining. Many people described turning their childhood earnings over to their mothers. Some made a point of noting that they were not asked to do so but that they were simply aware of the need. Children had a clear, if unspoken, understanding of both family hardship and family pride. They contributed as they could even as they honored an informal ”code of silence” about their contributions to the family economy. This knowledge speaks to the complicated relationship between prevailing attitudes about childhood and the reality of many children’s lives. The necessity of children’s labor runs contrary to ideas about ”modern childhood” as protected and labor free. It also challenges assumptions that adult male breadwinners are expected to be solely responsible for earning wages that will support a family and can earn enough to do so. Instead, many children witnessed the difficulties in making ends meet, despite their parents’ hard work, and did what they could to contribute. Children’s observations of adults in their world reveal a well – honed sense of justice and fairness. From their positions in school desks, children kept discerning eyes on teachers. As adults they still remembered the small kindnesses and large inspirations of particular teachers. In contrast, vivid accounts of abuses of power and demeaning treatment made indelible memories, whether one suffered as victim or witness. Children were also keen observers of politics and culture, critically digesting messages about what it meant to be American, patriotic, different, ”worthy,” or risqué. Schools essays reflect children’s attunement to popular culture and sensitivity to social distinctions. Youth – directed performances, such as those associated with Bohunkus Day, illustrate young people’s awareness of and response to the broader political context of their lives. In their working lives, children built ties with good customers and helped problem ones get their comeuppance. They clearly recalled who treated them fairly and who took advantage. They observed the social worlds of adults and learned from tender years how to navigate in those worlds. In their homes and churches, they observed and questioned the judgments made by adults around them regarding who counted as ”us” and who counted as ”them.” Children also demanded to be heard, and they demonstrated on many occasions and in many settings that their views and experiences mattered. They made claims on behalf of their rights, interests, and well – being, showing that young people are quite capable of speaking for themselves, if adults are willing to listen.
Butte children witnessed the fractures of community life during strikes, and, at times, experienced those divisions in very direct and painful ways. They were implicated as both victims and perpetrators in the conflicts of the ”adult” world around them. Children’s descriptions of ”walking on eggshells,” “keeping an even keel,” and ”not upsetting things at home” speak to their acute sensitivity to the uncertainties and tensions that built up as labor contracts were under negotiation and the possibility of a strike loomed. Children experienced that tension, and the violence that sometimes accompanied it, firsthand. Butte labor politics became part of many children’s everyday psychology. Children also witnessed and expressed confusion at the raw divisions of ”us” and ”them” that erupted in conjunction with strikes.
From a child’s – eye view, the man “behind the fence” offering a small treat was a” nice man,” just as the neighbor needing help with a grocery purchase was a ”nice lady.” Children were thrust unwillingly at times into the either / or world of adults bound to labor – management struggles. Such binary thinking on the part of adults did not always make sense to children, and, for some, forged powerful and painful memories. Through those experiences, some came to question inequities of mining life and the rules by which powerful corporations and powerful unions play. Others resisted the ways in which adult notions of ”us” and ”them” were constructed and enforced. Some still cringe when they hear the word ”scab,” and others embrace the meaning and power of the word. Some still remember the hardships in which doing without for months, then trying to get out of debt and catch up on bills defined and constrained family life throughout their childhood. Some still find it hard to make sense of the violence they witnessed as homes in their neighborhood were vandalized during strikes. And some, like Sarah Massey, still carry vivid memories of the terror and helplessness of being attacked in their own homes by members of their own community. Their experiences of conflict and hardship belie assumptions of childhood as a sheltered, protected, and ”innocent” space. Trauma of Childhood Accounts of violence, suffering, and loss reverberate throughout this history of Butte childhood. Mining was dangerous work that exacted a heavy human toll on its workforce. Few mining families were left unscathed by the violence of the mines. Fear and uncertainty became unnamed and ever – present companions in mining families. As some narrators have described, the harsh and dangerous conditions of labor were often washed down with whiskey and beer at the end of the shift. Butte has been characterized as a hard – working, hard – drinking town. Bars and drinking played a central role in community social life for children as well as adults. Friday night was a time for many kids to wrangle quarters and Cokes from miners flush with payday cash. For some, it was a time to gently cajole Dad from the revelry and help him home. In some families, drinking may have dulled the violence of the mines even as it fueled violence at home. And yet domestic violence is a widespread social issue and certainly not unique to Butte. So what might be particular to Butte, and what might be the implications for the lives of children? Many children in Butte grew up amidst the fears, uncertainty, and bravado wrought by the dangerous nature of the work. They knew the sirens signaling injury and death. Risk and danger were implicit, unspoken parts of everyday life. Children’s play spaces were also fraught with risk. Moreover, children were privy to the tensions, anger, and fear that resonated through homes and neighborhoods as labor contracts were being negotiated and the possibilities of strikes and layoffs loomed. And they lived the painful and at times violent divisions of”us”and”them”when strikes divided the community. In this sense, many children bore witness to and embodied repeated experiences of trauma and fear over time. They carried the freight of risk, danger, and violence in many forms on their slender shoulders. Perhaps the concept of intergenerational trauma is helpful here. 4 Intergenerational trauma has been defined as the cumulative emotional and psychological suffering over the life course and across generations that emanates from trauma experiences affecting groups over time. It considers how the hurts and injuries leveled upon one generation may have ripple effects into the next. Since experiences of trauma are ongoing and interconnected, group members may also suffer the consequences of unresolved grief and loss. The burdens can take a physical, psychological, and social toll over time as experiences of trauma are internalized and passed on. Alcoholism and interpersonal violence, as ways of expressing and coping with trauma and distress, can become structured into community life over time. Consider the intergenerational nature of trauma and loss in the Butte context and the implications for children’s lives. Children in mining families grew up with the truism that miners are lucky to live past forty. The potential for premature and violent death or debilitating injuries of fathers were facts of life. Sons might then follow in their father’s footsteps into work in the mines, assuming the same risks. Mothers and daughters would ply their skills in service work, perhaps setting emotional healing aside in order to address the immediate needs of economic survival. Not only did individual families live with the fears, dangers, and losses of mining, so did the community as a whole. Mining families of Butte experienced an intergenerational history of mining disasters, from explosions claiming dozens of lives to those of historic proportion such as the Granite Mountain fire. They also experienced an intergenerational history of economic hardship and insecurity, wrought by shutdowns, strikes, and layoffs, that made it difficult to ”get ahead” in spite of their best efforts. Such trauma, loss, and uncertainty become embedded in community memory and identity and shape the backdrop of life for children and adults alike. Families living with the danger and violence of the mines as a way of life learned to cope. The lore of Butte and the stories passed down celebrate the bravado of miners and mining, masking fears with humor and hyperbole. Likewise, stories of childhood feature hard – working, hard – playing children, socialized early to value toughness and tenacity over softness and sentimentality as attributes essential to making it in a mining way of life. Perhaps it is not surprising that alcoholism and interpersonal violence surface as problematic ways of expressing and coping with the inherent stress and trauma of mining life. I do not want to overindulge a psychological interpretation here. Rather, I suggest that attention to intergenerational trauma may broaden our understanding of community struggle, of the forms of violence children witnessed and experienced, and of the ways that children as well as adults sought to cope with the tensions, conflicts, and dangers of mining life. With an understanding of the power of intergenerational trauma, one can better appreciate the profundity of loss many Butte people experienced as their beloved neighborhoods were consumed by open – pit mining. As the Berkeley Pit expanded, the very spaces of childhood were lost forever. Risk and Resilience The stories told here provide insights into the ways children made sense of struggles. They also illuminate the remarkable resilience of children, that is, their capacity to not only survive but thrive in the face of adversity. Some youngsters lived like boarders in their families’ boardinghouses. They got themselves off to school, arrived in time for meals, and slept in backrooms and basements. Others took on familial responsibilities that both denied their childhood innocence and demonstrated their capacities as they cared for ill parents and younger siblings. Many moved fluidly between work and play, honing their social and entrepreneurial skills in the process. Many childhood stories of play recounted here are also stories of resilience. They describe creativity, collective effort, tackling a challenge, overcoming fears, facing adversity, picking oneself up when things go awry, learning from experience, honing skills, and earning bragging rights. Children prided themselves on know – how and ingenuity. They took risks, outwitted adults, and staked claims to off – limits spaces of ”adult” worlds. They took in the hard, harsh world of mining and made it their world. Likewise, childhood stories of labor also underscore their resilience. Children took pride in their capacities and responsibilities as workers and caregivers. They were recognized and respected by adults for their skills and contributions. Many children were important contributors to their families’ economic well – being. Their stories reveal their depth and breadth of knowledge about their worlds of work and the important social ties they built through their labors. This combination of practical wisdom and social relations constitutes another wellspring of resilience in the lives of Butte youngsters. Children’s stories also reveal a powerful connection to cultural heritage and history as another aspect of resilience. Accounts of growing up in Butte from the 1900s through the 1950s are rich in details of ethnic identity. Children knew their histories and took pride in the struggles and successes of the generations that came before them. The immigration stories of their parents and grandparents as young people became part of their stories of resilience and hope. Revisioning Butte Finally, what do these many stories of childhood teach us about Butte? Perhaps most fundamentally, these stories illuminate the meaning and purpose of mining life in Butte. So much of the historical literature about Butte has focused on the audacity of Copper Kings, the power of industrial capitalism, the grit and determination of hard – rock miners, and the epic struggles of union labor. Attention to women and gender has expanded and enriched understanding of Butte’s history in addressing the social and labor force contributions of women and the constructions and complexities of gendered identities and relations. It is through a focus on children, however, that we come to appreciate how and why people called Butte home and engaged in the risky business of mining generation after generation. People came to Butte in search of a better life for themselves. Many immigrated as young people themselves, assuming the risks, autonomy, and responsibilities of adulthood that belied their years. They stayed and struggled in order to build a better life for their children. They lived with the hardships and dangers of mining life so that their children might have a life beyond mining. Tremendous collective energy went into the raising of children. From Butte’s earliest days as a mining camp, schooling for children was a concern. While parents may have shied away from sentimentality, they demonstrated love and commitment to their children through their daily labors. Neighbors helped neighbors and created extended families from homes to boardinghouses to mine yards in their collective endeavors of child rearing. Those who sought to intervene in the lives of ”other people’s children” did so with a commitment to their betterment. Their values and views, informed by particular class – based assumptions about proper childhood and parenting, at times clashed with those of the children and families they sought to ”save” and support. At times their judgments of parents and children were harsh and their assumptions about character and capacity shortsighted. However, their vision was one of a better life for all Butte children. The Copper Kings themselves recognized the power and place of children in the city’s political, social, and economic life.
Children were, in fact, a powerful force to be reckoned with. Business people, teachers, police officers, judges, religious leaders, political groups, social organizations, and neighbors joined parents in the herculean work of child rearing. When children are taken into account, the social history of Butte gains new rhythms and hues. Community life was not only modulated by shift work in the mines and the possibility of strikes, it also moved to the pace of school days and, in summer, to the weekly rush of Children’s Day at Columbia Gardens. Miners changing shifts competed with children for space on the Hill. Lunch – buckets were filled each day thanks to the work of children. A miner’s daily connection to the world beyond Butte came through an exchange on the street with a youngster hawking newspapers. Neighborhood groceries and Uptown theaters counted on the labor and consumer power of kids. In short, children mattered. A focus on childhood also illuminates the significance of Butte and its children to the development of child – and youth – focused public policies and institutions in Montana. Butte was the state’s focal point of immigration, industrialization, and urbanization and, as such, captured the attention of early – twentieth – century reformers. Tremendous economic investment, social capital, and political will was mobilized to ensure the welfare of children and keep them on the ”right path” to adulthood. Reformers and advocates kept pace with the latest progressive practices and used Butte as the proving ground for both the need for and the possibility of positive intervention. It could be argued that response to conditions affecting children and youth in Butte defined the direction for child – focused policy and practice in Montana.
Unidentified children, circa 1950s, with Kelley Mine headframe behind them. Children who grew up in neighborhoods adjacent to the mines developed an intimate connection to and practical knowledge of the industrial workings of mining.
In sum, while accounts of children and experiences of childhood have largely been relegated to the margins of Butte’s story, children themselves have been central to Butte’s history. They were, quite simply, Butte’s reason to be. Copper was merely the means to support them.
Note from Don Johnson: I was raised in Butte Montana, but not in the days described in this article. My time was from 1944 to 1963, and my growing up was quite different and easier than what you will read below.
But my mother (Greta) and grandmother (Amanda), and five aunts and an uncle lived the life described – the tough years in a mining town and through the Great Depression. Mom and her twin sister Gladys were the oldest girls of the family, and Elmer, the boy, was the oldest. Mom’s dad died of the “miner’s con” when mom was 12, so the twins took on much of the burden of raising the rest of the family. They lived in a small house on a small piece of land at the 3 1/2 Mile in the “flat” south of town.
Gramma, like many women in her situation did many things to keep the family fed. She raised pigs, goats, chickens, geese, rabbits — and of course kids. Growing up, I saw many of those animals “out the house” as we called it. She also had a still and made moonshine, as did many of the neighbors. Growing up we heard stories of those days and I for one was captivated and fascinated. But stories told by uncle Elmer always ended with an admonition “those were bad days — we never knew if the meal we just ate would be the last one.”
Gramma’s cars, of course, were old even for that era and I remember some of them. Stories were told of one such car that she drove around town to bakeries and restaurants gathering ‘slop’ to feed the pigs, she would just throw it in the trunk and back seat and be on her way. And the car could only turn one direction so she planned her route accordingly – clockwise?
Gramma also swamped the bars which was a clean up in bars, many of which never closed in those days. “Leave it for the swamper” was an expression used when a coin was dropped on the floor, and it provided additional income.
These stories are undoubtedly not unique to Butte in those years, I’m sure other towns and cities have similar stories.
The escape(?) for many of these kids were the beaches of Normandy or the Pacific battles of WW-II. But for many who survived all this, and I have known a few, they became “The Greatest Generation” and I for one am a grateful recipient of their sacrifice and contributions.
Now to the book chapter … enjoy.
Chapter Six: Learning to Labor
Learning to Labor Selling papers was good work. Every kid wanted to do it. And it made you aggressive, very aggressive. When you had a district, your area that you sold papers in, nobody could come into that area and sell a paper unless you weren’t tough enough to stop it. He either bought the paper back off of you, or you fought ’em. —Kevin Shannon
BUTTE CHILDREN honed their entrepreneurial spirits from a tender age through their paid and unpaid labors and acquired lessons in responsibility, economics, and justice along the way. Women, men, and children alike pooled their labors, resources, and earnings to hold the body and soul of family and community together. In reflecting on the place of labor in their childhood experience, men and women who grew up in Butte from the early 1900s through the post–World War II era described work as a key part of their lives. For some youngsters, opportunities for education were curtailed when they were called upon to work full-time after losing their fathers to mine-related illnesses or accident. As Jule McHugh described: All the Gulch kids went to work early, as our fathers died so young from the mines. It used to be said, “Many a Gulch kid raised his mother.” My father was fifty-two when he died from silicosis, and Tom’s father was killed in the Speculator fire. That’s why Tom didn’t go to high school. He had to quit and go to work. The family was only here for one year from Aspen when their father was killed, and Grandma was left with seven kids. She went to work, too.
Jule herself went to work as a teenager, sacrificing school for work. She got a job at the Blanchard Creamery wrapping butter. It was way down on the south of Butte, and the Gulch was on the north. And I had to work from 8:00 to 5:00, so I ran all those blocks every morning. There were no coffee breaks, and when we got there, we went into a room and put on some kind of wooden clogs. And we stood all day in the brine from the butter vat. There were about eight of us on both sides of the table, and no one was allowed to speak. The boss would put up this big block of butter, and when he cut it into pounds, we had the wrappers ready. And then they were moved to the end of the table and packed in boxes…. I had to quit school to take the job, and a few days after school got out, we were laid off since we were extras on temporarily. There I was with no job and no school. Tony Canonica, who grew up on Butte’s East Side, began working at age nine. He attended Sacred Heart School, served as an altar boy, and belonged to the choir, but he claimed his real education came from the Butte streets. At various times in his young career, Tony was a newspaper boy for the Free Press, Eye Opener, Butte Daily Post, and Montana Standard. He also worked for People’s, Belway, Liberty, Ansonia, American, and Rialto theaters as ticket seller, usher, janitor, advertiser, and film carrier. He became an iconic figure in Uptown Butte as he carted heavy cans of film to theaters in his little red wagon. Many children juggled the demands of work and school in order to contribute to their family income. Accounts of children’s paid and unpaid work are inflected with both pride and resignation. These are not stories of victims forced to toil against their will or of Dickensonian maltreatment. Rather, they speak to the complex economic lives of children. Children were players in a family and community economy, both contributors and consumers. And for many working-class children, there were harsh lessons learned early in life about the value of hard work. Despite the grinding efforts of their fathers and mothers in mines, smelters, garages, stores, boardinghouses, hospitals, and restaurants, economic security often remained an elusive goal. Historical Perspective Child labor had become an issue of public concern by the turn of the twentieth century. At that time, nearly seven million children were engaged in some form of paid labor in the United States. Children worked in mines, mills, factories, agriculture, and on the streets. Social reformers who were coming to view children as a special group in need of protection took up the cause of child labor. Labor unions also championed the cause, although not necessarily for the altruistic purpose of protecting children. From a union perspective, child labor could be exploited by industry to undercut wages and protections for adult workers. Thus, the cause of child labor reform also served as a means of protecting the rights and gains of adult union workers. Montana took up the issue of child labor early on. Otto Schoenfeld, the first director of Montana’s State Bureau of Child and Animal Protection, addressed the issue in his first biennial report to the state legislature in 1904. He noted that the law was very clear in prohibiting the employment of children under fourteen years of age and that no children under the age of sixteen could be employed in the mines. He addressed the importance of compulsory education, making the point that children deserved the right to an education and that parents had the obligation to protect them from work that would interfere with their schooling. Schoenfeld concluded: “It is not the object of the law to bring children up in idleness, and no one objects to teaching children at a very early age to be useful. Every person of good judgment will approve training children in habits of industry and usefulness, but child labor, as meaning work injurious to the bodies, minds, and souls of children, is a wholly different matter and one the people of this State will not tolerate.” While reformers voiced concerns over the exploitation of children’s labor, educators championed innovations in manual labor training to prepare youngsters for careers in the trades and domestic service. Both of these adult preoccupations seem somewhat disconnected from the on-the-ground realities of many young people in Butte. The homes, streets, and businesses of Butte provided many children with hands-on work experience well before they had reached their fourteenth birthdays. Children contributed to household work and family income starting at a young age. They sold newspapers and magazines, filled miners’ lunch-buckets, and worked in stores, restaurants, and private homes. Newsboys Many a Butte boy earned his first dollars selling magazines and newspapers on the city’s busy streets. Boys purchased the papers at two for a nickel and sold them for a nickel a piece. They established their street corner turf and defended it with their fists as necessary. Once established, the rights to the corner might be passed along to younger siblings as an older boy moved on to other employment. By 1903 newsboys hawking the Anaconda Standard, the Butte Daily Post, and the Butte Miner numbered in the hundreds. That year, a curious combination of temperance advocates, businessmen, and union leaders joined forces to form the Butte Newsboys Club to provide organized recreation and supervision of these young entrepreneurs who “roamed the streets” of Butte. The weekly meetings of the club soon drew upward of one hundred participants to conduct formal business, hear guest speakers, and enjoy a variety of entertainment. On one memorable occasion, the boys were treated to an inspirational speech by “Noodles” Fagan, honorary national president of the newsboys club, at the Majestic Theater on Broadway Street. The club was designed on the model of a miniature city, with boys elected to positions of mayor, city council members, and aldermen charged with oversight of the social and moral discipline of the members. The Carpenters’ Union provided free use of its union hall as a meeting space. Other community members donated apples and candy for snacks at meetings. Members of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union were also on hand to intervene with boys deemed in need of “reclamation.” In addition to regular business meetings, the organizers arranged outings to Columbia Gardens and Gregson Hot Springs and annual banquets in their efforts to mold streetwise youngsters into “future citizens.” They presented each member with a club badge to attach to the lapel of his coat and wear with pride. The club also sought to represent the boys in the business dealings with the newspapers.
However, the newsboys developed their own sense of political organization as well, adopting strategies of collective action from Butte’s unions. For example, as Dale Martin described, Butte newsboys went on strike on January 5, 1914, when the Butte Daily Post changed the rates it charged boys for the papers. Carriers with regular routes did not join the strike, and they were subject to attack by the striking newsboys. “The striking newsboys cast about the business district, seizing the Post from sellers who were still working, from carriers, and even customers…. City police eventually acted to clear the areas around the newspaper office. Two truant officers had little effect on the rambunctious newsboys, many of whom stayed on the streets after curfew.” The next day, the Post refused to reduce its wholesale prices and halted street sales. In the afternoon, the boys marched through Uptown Butte with banners supplied by the IWW that read “An injury to one is an injury to all” and “Direct action gets the goods,” among other slogans. The Daily Post would not negotiate. Local elders, who had played key roles in the organizing of the newsboys club, urged the boys to end the strike. Club officials claimed that members were not responsible for the sporadic acts of violence and that those acts were incited by IWW activists and carried out by youth who were not members. The boys soon voted to go back to work, but they called another strike in 1919, resulting in a one-day disruption of delivery. The next day, soldiers garrisoned in Butte took over the delivery. The Butte Newsboys Club remained active until 1931, when it was officially disbanded by Judge Frank Riley, who ruled that it had outlived its usefulness. According to Riley, the club had been established at a time when organized recreation for Butte children was sorely lacking. With organizations such as the YMCA to provide recreational outlets, Riley contended, the club was no longer needed. Many men who grew up in Butte had powerful memories of their work on the streets selling newspapers and magazines. Their efforts to establish their turf, their sense of place in the city’s social and economic life, and their dedication to long hours were formative childhood experiences. However, membership in the Butte Newsboys Club was not often part of their stories. Perhaps the club meant more to the adult organizers than to the boys themselves.
John Sheehy began his career in newspaper sales at age eight. His earnings went to help support his family. He recalled taking part in one of the fabled newsboys’ strike. Whatever I did make, I turned everything over to my mother. Twenty-five or thirty cents. I sold the Butte Daily Post until I was about a sophomore in high school. I don’t understand how [the strike] got started. There were all kinds of us. I remember that we all gathered in front of the Butte Daily Post. This was the alley side of the Butte Daily Post. And going down these stairways, the presses were down in the basement. And on the other side going down, it was Galena Street, Galena and Main Street. We all crowded around the front of that building, making all kinds of noise. We got two papers for five cents. And you sold them for a nickel, so you made two and a half cents. For a dime, we got four newspapers, so you got two for a nickel. And we struck for three for a nickel. And there were two hundred or so newsboys. [I was] not quite in high school but coming close to it. The police came down in what they called the “Black Mariahs.” That’s another name for the paddy wagon. Well, the Black Mariahs came down, which were actually just trucks with a section in the back with two seats on each side. They same down, and we all crowded around the Black Mariahs and said, “Take us all.” And they gave up. The policemen left. They didn’t take anybody because they couldn’t figure out who to take. There was a Dr. Staples in Butte, who was a generation later than mine. Dr. Staples’s father was the head security guard for the Anaconda Company. Dr. Staples once told someone in my family that his father had told him that I was leader of the newsboys. I really don’t think that’s quite accurate, but, anyway, that is what he was told. The older Staples kind of remembered me as being a radical, I think. He told his son that. But the newspaper strikes, there were probably two of them. We never did get three [papers] for a nickel. John Sheehy’s work as a newsboy made him intimately familiar with mines, miners, and the street corners of Uptown Butte. I had the Terminal Drug corner. It would be on the corner of Park Street and Dakota. The J.C. Penney Company was next door and across the street was the Terminal Drugstore. Across Dakota Street was Symon’s store, and across from it was a bank. One of the banks was a Yegen Bank…. What I remember about it, neon signs had come out—it was the early days of neon signs—and on the top of that building they had a great big “6,” which meant that they’d pay you 6 percent for your savings deposit…. [I would sell the paper] in the afternoon. It was an afternoon paper. It came out at 4:00 or 4:30, something like that, right after school. [I would earn two bits or so] if I sold them all. Now, what made that possible—you’ve got to remember this—that all around the downtown area were places where the tenants were the men who worked in the mines, who were bachelors, where one room was enough for them. They lived in one room, went to a boardinghouse for a meal or one of the restaurants in town. That was your market for the newspapers because if they had a house, they would be on a regular newspaper route. There was a large number of bachelors, and they were the ones who’d buy those papers. And any time of the day or night Butte would be busy because those streetcars I mentioned brought them up to the mines before automobiles were so prevalent. So they ride up to the mine and come back. If they were on day shift, they’d come down into Butte. The day shift got off at 4:30, and they’d come pouring down from the Hill, hundreds of men. Every corner, all through Park Street and Broadway, had newsboys on them. We claimed those corners as our property. [You established your corner] with your fists. Once it was established, it was pretty much yours then. My brothers then worked that corner. [It got handed down.] And the Sunday paper, there was an afternoon edition of that as well. There was an afternoon edition of the Butte Miner. The Sunday edition of that paper would come out on Saturday night. The first edition, which they called the “bulldog edition,” came out about 6:00 P.M. And we got those papers and stayed all night, until about 6:00 in the morning, out on the street selling those papers. And the reason we would do that is the day shift was getting off at 4:30. The night shift began at 6:00 and got off at 2:30 in the morning. And so, even at that morning hour, there would be another whole shift coming out of the Hill. Hundreds of men. So that would be the market for Saturday night and Sunday morning. I do remember as a newsboy a special time was Christmastime. It was quite a joy to see. It was made joyous by the downtown merchants. They kept their stores open until nine o’clock at night from Thanksgiving to Christmas itself. They usually closed at 6:00. At that particular time, there were all kinds of people downtown shopping and so on. By that time, they had developed [phonographs], [and] people could listen to records. Music stores had loudspeakers outside their stores blasting out music. That’s how I became a fan of Bing Crosby singing some of those Christmas songs. And there was a store not far from my corner, the Dreibelbis Music Company. It was about in the middle of this long block between Main Street and Dakota Street. John Mazzola started selling Liberty Magazine and the Saturday Evening Post when he was nine years old. I would make one and one half cents on each magazine that I sold for a nickel. So, I sold fifty Liberties a week, and that was seventy-five cents. And I sold fifty Saturday Evening Posts, and that was another seventy-five cents. That was a dollar and a half. Big money. I’d bring that home to my mother. That wasn’t my money. I’d bring that home. I never had to bring it home. I did it because I knew they needed it. I knew that, yes. I was proud to do that. My mother would hold out her apron, and I’d put the money in there. She managed to give me something, too, you know. If my mother was alive today, she’d kill me. I used to go all through the red-light district and sell them to the prostitutes. I thought a prostitute was a telephone operator. I didn’t know what they were. They were good about it. And once in while they’d give me an extra nickel even. I’d go all through there. I’d go to Chinatown. I’d go to the bars—the M&M, Walker’s, all those places—and sell my magazines. Kevin Shannon began selling newspapers when he was eight years old. You’d go down and you’d buy two papers for a nickel at the Butte Daily Post….
Sometimes [you would] only buy two, and then you’d sell them and go back for more. You sold ’em for a nickel apiece, you made two and a half cents a paper. After [the miners’ shift change] was [when] you sold the papers. I sold my papers at Hamilton and Broadway. [I had to fight for that spot.] I’d say that’s what made us all aggressive. And you heard of Butte kids [being] tough. Well, to me that was one of the reasons. You had to physically fight him if you sold a paper in his district…. Naturally, the toughest kids had the best corner. Gus Carkulis had Park and Main. He was tough. He was tough. The Murphys had Dakota and Park. All the Murphys. It was up to the brothers to hold it. They had St. James Hospital in the morning. You had to be an independent [and establish your own corner]. [I sold papers] after school and then on Saturday night. The Sunday paper would come out early, and you’d go down and get them on Saturday night. Micah Downs’s first job was also selling papers. Most of my customers were in the Board of Trade and down to the Greek store on the corner across from Sundberg Electric and sometimes as far down as Sewell Hardware. Some of my best customers worked in the mines. They’d buy three or four papers from me. I’d sell one hundred papers a night. [I made] two and a half cents a paper. I’d go down there and flip my earnings with that guy that ran that Greek grocery store—big, tall, lanky guy. He’d flip for a dollar. I got onto him, though, because he’d cheat. He’d take my whole night’s earnings. The
Buckets, Boardinghouses, and Baby-Sitting For many Butte girls, childhood chores were training grounds for service work. Older children often bore care-giving responsibilities for younger siblings. While their fathers toiled in and around the mines, their mothers, too, often sought to juggle paid work with family responsibilities. Girls learned quickly to turn domestic and care-giving skills into paid labor. Catherine Hoy recalled her early childhood training that prepared her for boardinghouse work: I came from a family of six, and we each had our chores to do. My older sister had the two front rooms—we had six rooms—that consisted of a bedroom and a front room. My other sister had the kitchen, which was the hardest one of all, and I had the dining room area to do. And in that dining room we had a great big, long table. It was always set, and on the table we ate our meals. You know, we’d sit around that. At one time, we’d have from ten to twelve at that table. We always had a cousin or an uncle or an aunt or somebody living with us, you know. Just the old Irish tie…. That area was mine. I had to do that. And every Saturday, whether it needed it or not, we had to scrub the walls down…. And we didn’t slipshod it. We used soap and water, Naptha soap and water. Walls and woodwork and that. And that table had to be scrupulously clean or else you didn’t get your supper. It was just too bad…. We were assigned the chores, and that was it. You didn’t hesitate about it. My mother…ruled the roost…. And when she said it was to be done, it was to be done. The boys had to chop wood and the coal. You know how we’d get our coal sometimes? The coal cars would run back and forth on Anaconda Road. So, one kid would get in a coal car and throw out all of this coal. Then the rest of us would go along and pick it up and take it home. And the same with the mines. The mines would throw a lot of wood out, you know, that they’d bring up out of the mines. They’d give them ties and stuff like that. So, that was the boys’ chores, to bring the wood home and saw it on Saturdays.16 Catherine soon went to work in one of Butte’s many boardinghouses. I was what they called a bucket girl. And these bucket girls, you know, if the miners were nice to you, you gave them an extra cupcake or an extra piece of cake or an extra piece of fruit or something. But if they weren’t, you know, I mean [if they were] smart alecks or something like that, they just got their usual sandwich. And this was all made with homemade bread. And the slices were about a half an inch thick. And you slapped the meat in there, and then you put another big slice on there. They really had to use their jaws to get around some of these sandwiches. Catherine’s labors took her first to McManon’s boardinghouse and later to Symon’s Department Store. They’d feed from about two hundred men a day. See, they’d come in. The eight o’clock shift in the morning would be breakfast. And then there’d be lunch shift. And then there’d be the ones come off that shift at five o’clock, and they would come and get their supper. Then they’d go to their rooming house. A lot of them roomed. There was a lot of rooming houses, too. I think they only paid about three dollars a week or month or something. There was quite a few boarding and rooming houses there on Granite Street: the Big Ship, the Broadway, all those places. [Then] I worked at Symon’s. I was a cash girl there, which paid fifty cents a day or three dollars a week, big money in those days. We’d take that money home to my mother, and she’d give us fifty cents to spend…. Well, the shows were on Park Street then. There was the Ansonia or the Crystal, a few of those. They were only a nickel to get into, so we’d go and look at the double features. We’d stay there half the day. Get a sack of popcorn or some candy or something like that. That was the height of our amusement. Aili Goldberg’s father died when she was very small. Her mother worked in Finntown boardinghouses, and Aili, too, began working at a tender age. She gained employment as a nanny and domestic worker for some of Butte’s professional families. Aili recalled:
Their colleagues on the roof worked in the mine shop. Oh, yes, you took care of children and took care of cleaning and stuff. My first job was with Dr. McPherson. That was ten dollars a month, and you had Sunday and Thursday afternoon off. Dr. McPherson had three children…. You got up in the morning with them for breakfast time, and you worked until dinner was over. And if they went out in the evening, well, then you were expected to stay with the children…. With Dr. McPherson, I lived in. But I worked for Dr. Staples’s mother here, and then you didn’t live in there. I worked for them, too, after school and during summertime. And that was better. That was three dollars a week. You went in the morning at nine o’clock, but I was through at five or shortly thereafter, which was better than most of them. And the kids had to pitch in with dinner and dishes and pick up the table. They were different. They insisted that the kids had to take turns drying dishes. Aili later joined the brigade of bucket girls. Oh, buckets. Ohhh, buckets. Well, we’d have to know buckets. From early time, there was the old-fashioned—and I don’t know if you’ve ever seen them—round bucket. And it has a little pie plate on top, a little dish. Different men wanted different sandwiches. And, of course, Friday was fish day, and it was a matter of remembering who didn’t eat meat on Friday—it had to be cheese, or some wanted a jelly sandwich—who had milk and who had buttermilk and who had coffee, who had cream and no sugar, or sugar and cream. Oh, yes, we put up buckets…. The biggest job was washing the dirty things. Boardinghouse labor was not solely the domain of women and girls. Jim Hanley began his work life in a boardinghouse as well. One of Butte’s largest boardinghouses was the Mullen House, which was run by Paddy and Nora Harrington, who had emigrated from County Cork, Ireland. Paddy and Nora were my grandparents. It was a lot of work for them to run that place. As a kid, I had to help them by feeding and milking cows every day. The cows were kept behind the boardinghouse. During wintertime, I was required to haul coal and wood to the upper floors to help keep the place warm. There was just a ton of work that went into keeping up that place. As Bob Sherman recalled, there was work for “bucket boys” as well as girls. Those boardinghouses were a real plus for kids trying to earn some money. I would leave the Franklin School during a break, go over to the boardinghouse, and pack a couple of lunch-buckets up to the mines for the workers. The buckets contained tea in the bottom with a meal and pie above it. After school, I went back up to the mines to retrieve the buckets. I got paid five cents for every bucket that I delivered, which was big money in those days. Packey Buckley got his early work experience in the boardinghouse his mother ran out of a two-story home on North Wyoming Street. His mother ruled with “Irish brogue and iron will,” raising six children and providing room and board for seventeen miners for nearly fifty years. But Packey resisted kitchen duty. We used to call it the “graduation class.”…You got the apple box, and you would stand at the goddamn sink. And you washed the miners’ buckets, and they would have the ore on them. We used to call it the “graduation class.” And I made up my mind that I wasn’t going to “graduation class.” I went to work in 1924 for Clinton [Drugstore] rather than do dishes. What did I do with the rest of my life? I wound up washing glasses.
Clinton’s Drugstore was right below Maloney’s Bar. I was a freshman at Central, going on fourteen years old. I was thirteen. I worked there until 1928, and then I went to work at the Eclipse Grocery. I worked at the Eclipse after school. I would go to work at 3:00, and the store stayed open until late at night. If you had to stock the store, you would work ’til 7:00 and sometimes until 11:00. I would get out of school at 2:30 and run home and then go to 737 East Park and go to work. Even as the mining workforce contracted and boardinghouses were no longer a prominent feature of community life, children continued to contribute to the family economy.
Linda Raiha grew up on the East Side in the post–World War II years. As the oldest child in a large family, she had responsibilities from an early age. Linda began baby-sitting for other families when she was in the third grade. I had three families on the East Side that I used to babysit for. One of the families lived right alongside of Luigi’s on East Park. He worked for the railroad, and she was a stay-at-home mom, and they had three kids. I babysat for them in the evenings from 7:00 to 10:00. I’d walk over, and then they’d walk me back. It was the same way with the other families. I would walk to their houses, and then they’d walk me back. I would work on school nights every once in a while and then on weekends. I was already helping out with my sisters and brothers, so it just kind of lapped over into getting paid for it. I got paid about twenty-five cents an hour or whatever they could afford. They were just working families, too. It wasn’t a lot, but to me it was huge. The money came home and was given to my mom. It never occurred to me that that might not be the way to do things. It was just what we did. That same year, Linda began selling Cloverleaf Salve door to door in Finntown. With her sales, she earned points that could be redeemed for prizes. Linda had her eyes on a Kodak Brownie, and she hustled with sales until she earned the camera. With her Brownie in hand, Linda became the Raiha family photographer. In high school, Linda began working as a live-in weekend babysitter for a couple who ran a bar with live music and had to keep late-night hours. I would go on Friday night after school, and then my dad would pick me up or I would walk home on Sunday. I lived in, made meals, gave the kids baths, fixed their hair. I got them ready for Sunday school. Then the man and wife would get up, and I would go home. They had a little girl named Mary. I would have to sneak out because she wouldn’t want me to leave. They used to have to take her upstairs so she couldn’t see me leave. …They used to live by my house on the East Side. That’s how they found me. They lived by my parents. And then when we moved to McGlone Heights, it was inconvenient to bring me home at those late hours, so that is how I started staying there all weekend. I started that when I was fourteen, and I worked for them all through high school. We had a set amount that they paid me. I want to say it was fifteen dollars for the whole weekend. Somewhere like that. It would have been around 1957. That money went back into the family. We kids used to keep an allowance for ourselves. We paid our own way. We got our own annuals [school yearbooks], our own books, and stuff like that. If mom needed more money, she came and got it. We just gave her our earnings. She managed the household money.
Linda’s work responsibilities limited her social time. Throughout four years of high school, she was only able to attend one football game and one dance—on the same night—in her senior year. A Family Affair Many Butte families ran small businesses, and they counted on the labor of children to make a go of it. Some ran businesses in their homes, and others had family stores that provided employment opportunities to extended family and beyond. Many children juggled the dual demands of school and work from an early age. And some had the choice made for them. As Mabel Dean remembered: I was never allowed to go to high school, though, because the girls started smoking at the time, and my father said that you aren’t going to learn that. So he started a little grocery store in the neighborhood, and I had to work there. It started first in our home. He took one of the rooms that we had that was supposed to be our front room and turned it into a little neighborhood grocery. We had that for a number of years, so I worked in there. But it was right in our home, you know. John Sconfienza began working in his family’s Meaderville Bakery at age six. I had to work in the baker shop. My dad had the baker shop. Him and Savant, they had the baker shop, and then Savant quit and went to Walkerville. My dad bought his interest out, so him and my mother, they went ahead in the baker shop. As we kids got old enough to work there, we had to help out. There were no girls in the family. We had to rush home at noontime and help. My mother had two or three brothers there and a couple of cousins and all living in the same family. And I had to rush home and set the table and help her with dishes before I went back to school at lunchtime. Then after school, I had to rush home, help clean up in the baker shop. At ten years old, I started putting bread in the oven. My dad was slowing up. He didn’t get a chance to finish the oven, and here was the bread already baked, and he had to pull it out with the old peel. My oldest brother, he didn’t like to work in the shop. He done more work outside—on the wagon, the horse and wagon, delivering. I [worked] the inside. My dad got to slowing up, and at ten years old my mother said, “Let Johnny put the bread in the oven,” which I liked. I went ahead and learned to put the bread in the oven. I had to get up on a box to reach them out of the oven. Before I knew it, I was on a peel there, putting eleven loaves in at a time. You start off with five and get down to three, two, one. Start in the corner and then you work in the center. And in the center you get three or four lines, well, a full peel. Then you’d have to cut down as you’re coming into the corner. Cut down from eleven to nine and seven, five, three, and then when you get in the right corner, you have a shorter run, less bread on the line in order to fill your oven right. [The number of loaves baked] all depends how the business was. On Monday you start out with two sacks or maybe three sacks. Tuesday, you cut down. See, Monday, everybody would be out of bread, and you’d sell more bread. Then on the weekend, you’d make a little extra to carry you over for Sunday, Sunday being a holiday. You’d have to make a good deal more bread. It was all hand work. You made your own yeast. Kept you going all the time. You’re never through in the baker shop. There’s always work. When I finished eighth grade, I went in and took up bookkeeping. I went to night school because in the day I had to work in the shop. When things quieted down in the shop, I went to day school. Then I took up shorthand and typing. I wasn’t good in typing. But my shorthand, I could do shorthand all right. But the typing held me back. I had too many fingers. When they got busy, I had to work in the shop during the day, and I had to go to night school. As long as that didn’t interfere with helping at home, all right, I kept a-going. My dad first got the [delivery] truck in 1916. In fact, I was one of the youngest kids driving truck in the state, in 1916. I could just barely reach the pedals. I got in, and then my dad learned to drive the truck. It was harder for him, getting up in his age, learning shifting and that. I could shift, but my brother, ’cause he was the oldest, he wanted to go out on the truck. I had to work inside. Dorothy Martin’s family ran Rosenstein’s, a specialty market and ice-cream parlor in the heart of Uptown Butte. Dorothy had spent her early childhood years playing in the store and nearby neighborhood with her dog Tiny. She knew the store and clientele and made the transition from play to work readily. The miners didn’t come into our store too much. It was mostly business people. It was a lot like Gamer’s Confectionery. We had in the back-room marble tables with the chairs. We even had a little one with chairs for the little ones. I grew up working in the store. When I was a little older, I could sell cigarettes, tobacco, anything, you know, over the counter. It was pretty easy. [We sold] tobacco, candy, fruit. Our front window was filled with beautiful fruit. It wasn’t carried much in the grocery stores. In the wintertime, we imported. It was really fancy, like we would get grapes in great big barrels in sawdust shipped from California. And dates in big square blocks. And then at Christmastime, we made up dozens [of fruit baskets]. Just like people send out floral bouquets, they used to send out baskets of fruit. And I used to help my mother. We’d all work packing and decorating those baskets of fruit. [In the back of the store, we served] ice-cream sodas, and floats, root-beer floats, and the fancy dishes. They always had the fleur-de-lis glasses. Lots of [high school kids and young people who were courting would come in]. And after parties and parades…. There were loads of parades, you know. There was the Miners’ Union Day parade, there was the St. Patrick’s Day parade, the Fourth of July parade. We couldn’t handle the people almost. We employed several girls. Rosenstein’s employed many Butte youngsters over the years. Shirley Trevena began working as a young girl, helping out in the care of her younger siblings and then caring for neighbor children. Her father ran a barbershop and later a sports shop, and Shirley worked for him, sweeping and cleaning the barbershop and counting worms in the sports shop. Her father helped her find a job at Rosenstein’s, and Shirley gladly gave up worms for ice cream. The Rosensteins were a Jewish family. And they had this ice-cream parlor up on Broadway. They had this really old building with ice-cream tables and chairs and big counters with candies and nuts. It was a great place to work. And they were great. Isador was the owner. And there was Ann. And there was Jake Rosenstein. And we had nicknames for every one of them, all of us girls. It was a hangout for Boys Central, so I loved it. Anyway, Boys Central picked that as their place. They’d have ice-cream sodas and whatever and drive you crazy, but it was a neat place to work. [I worked there] after school and weekends for a couple of years. It was a fun job. And they had all kinds of knickknacks in that store, all kinds of Hummel statues and all kinds of glass cabinets. It was really a classy place, really nice.It was all marble and glass and whatever. It was a wonderful old place. My first paycheck I got I bought my mother a set of dishes. John Mazzola worked alongside his mother as a young boy, an able assistant for her home-based enterprises. Now, my mother was inventive. She used to make donuts. Now, the first Safeway store in Montana was right up the street here. And she had kind of a contract with them, or whatever you’d call it, and she supplied them with donuts in the morning. Before school I’d bring the donuts up. She made them by hand. The donuts were that skinny with a hole like that. And she used some kind of potato yeast or something. Her donuts got that big around. She sold the donuts for twenty-five cents a dozen. And she’d be up all night making donuts. And I’d be up in the morning before going to school, and I delivered all her donuts. Tom Holter began working at the McQueen Market at age ten. He went to work at his grandfather’s store at age eleven, shortly after his father passed away. When my dad was alive—I think I was ten years old—I worked at the McQueen Market. My cousin, his name was Tommy Fava. His boxing name was John Doe, he was a boxer. He and Tino Grosso, they opened a grocery store. It was a block away from Cesarini’s Grocery. When I was ten, eleven years old, I worked for them. It was every day after school and all day on Saturdays for two dollars a week. Two dollars a week. And I used to have to stock shelves, pluck the turkeys and chickens, and scrub off the meat block. And sometimes, like during the holidays, I used to have to help them with the delivery orders. Two dollars a week. Then I worked at my grandfather’s grocery store on the weekends when I was in school. And I helped him in the summertime. It was my grandfather who came from Italy. It was my uncle that was running the store. He’d take me down there, and he’d give me a dollar. And then when I was fourteen—he delivered his orders in a little Plymouth coupe—and that’s when I started to drive. He let me drive from one house to another, making deliveries.
Kay Antonetti earned her first wages in her uncle’s market as well. My uncle had the butcher shop on Caledonia and Excel[sior], the Excelsior Market. I worked in the butcher shop on Saturdays, washing the meat pans. I hated it. Washing the meat pans and cleaning up and stuff. I was about eleven or twelve. I would get two dollars for a Saturday. And sometimes, like for Christmas or Easter, he would give me four dollars, and I was thrilled. I’d go at twelve; I’d bring him his lunch-bucket. And most of the time I’d sit in this little tiny back room. And they had mice sometimes. And the guys would throw water over on me. And I had one of my cousins, and I’d beg him to come with me, but he didn’t like it…. Sometimes he’d come, and sometimes he wouldn’t. But I did it, and it was fun. And they were nice to me. Then I worked as an usher at the old American Theater. I was sixteen. And that was a ball. It was right on Park Street, so you saw everybody. I had a wonderful time. I worked after school so many nights a week. You’d get the last bus home. And then on Saturdays you’d open at twelve and work ’til it closed. Kitchen Crew Butte’s cosmopolitan flair featured a wide range of cafés, restaurants, and bars, where entrepreneurial youngsters were likely to find work. Lydia Micheletti came to Montana from Italy in 1922. Her family first settled in Elkhorn, outside of Butte. She learned to cook alongside her parents and began working in restaurants by age eleven. At age thirteen, Lydia began cooking for popular restaurateur Mike Solat in Meaderville, then moved on to other dining establishments throughout Meaderville. Lydia worked seven days a week for seven years without a day off. She recalled that the first time she had a day off was when she worked for Teddy Treparish, who ran the Rocky Mountain Café. She was amazed to see how beautiful the Mining City was, with its thousands of twinkling lights at night. So busy had she been in the kitchen that she had never had the chance to gaze at the night sky. Lydia earned respect from the kitchen crew and praise from diners, although some were not convinced that such a young girl could be the chef. Lydia recalled one time, during the big gambling days at the Rocky Mountain Café, when a man came into the kitchen with a roll of cash for the cook. According to Lydia, “I kept on saying I was the cook. But he didn’t believe me. He asked the other girls in the kitchen, and they told him I was the cook, too, but he said I didn’t look like a cook.” He put all the money, except for a single dollar, back in his pocket and handed Lydia the dollar. Lydia went on to manage restaurants and later to open her own restaurant in Butte, which became a community institution. Many youngsters earned their wages bussing tables at Lydia’s. Tom Holter was among them. When I was fifteen years old, I was bussing for Lydia at the old Lydia’s [restaurant]. Lydia’s, where it is now—she had another place just south of there. I was bussing for her when I was fourteen or fifteen years old, and my mother was washing dishes. I did that for a couple of years. And, oh, boy, when you’d get through there, you were tired. I would bus for Lydia’s sisters, Connie, Constanza, and Rosella. They used to have the front part of Lydia’s. And then the other waitresses had the back part of the room. They trusted me. When I’d clear the tables, I’d pick up their tips, and I’d put it in their spots. And they knew, well, I wouldn’t dare cheat them. And they’d help me, and Lydia paid me. At eleven o’clock, Lydia fed everybody. She’d close the place, and you could have anything but steak. We had chicken, spaghetti, raviolis, and she’d feed you at eleven o’clock. And by eleven o’clock we were tired, tired and hungry. That was a busy place. Every night it was a busy place. In addition to his early-morning donut deliveries, John Mazzola found lots of ways to earn money, including working in his uncles’ restaurant. When I was a kid, I cleaned sidewalks and chimneys, beat mattresses, rugs. I cleaned brick, anything that we could do to get a buck or two. When I was fourteen years old, my uncles owned Walker’s Café and Bar, that was like the M&M. I asked him for a job. My older brother was working there as a dishwasher. He said, “Tell Johnnie to come up and talk to me.” He said, “You’re kind of young, and you’ll have to get a permit because you’re underage—the child labor law. You get the permit, I’ll hire you as a dishwasher.” For two dollars and fifty cents a day. And you talk about work—hard, hard work. But I made up for all that hard work, you know, because the cooks, the chefs mostly, everything they cooked was in butter. And, boy, could they cook. They were wonderful cooks. So, there were Serbs, Croats, Italian cooks, Scandinavian cooks. And, boy, I’ll tell you they were good. Anyway, there were all these chefs, you know, and they like to drink. It’s hot behind those stoves. So I’d go downstairs for the vegetables, and I’d bring them four or five bottles of beer. And when I got off work, boy, I’d have a t-bone steak and all the trimmings. That was pretty good. And I got two dollars and fifty cents a day. That was pretty good money. I brought that home to my mother. I worked in the summers, too. And there again the prostitutes, they would come up to the restaurant at night when they got off work. I’d save a few little pork chop bones and stuff for them, and they’d give me a nickel or dime or twenty-five cents. So that was extra pocket money. The close proximity of Walker’s Café to a local candy factory offered John another money-making opportunity. The people upstairs above Walker’s ran a candy factory, made caramel candies. And she said to my uncle, I remember, she said, “I wonder if Johnnie could get here in the morning before he goes to school and clean this place up for us, and we’d pay him a buck a day.” I’d get there at six o’clock in the morning, and I’d clean the place up. And they’d take like darning needles—like this, two of them, one in each hand—and they’d poke a caramel like that. The tabletop was marble, and they’d take the caramel, and they’d stick it in the hot chocolate and put it on the table and stick it there like that and make a little swirl on top. And she said, “Try it.” They were nice people. I started making caramels, but they never looked good, and she said, “Well, you can have all of your mistakes.” So I’d go to school with a big bag of candy for my friends and one for my mother. And I juggled all of that work and in the evening washing dishes. I juggled all that work and school. And I was a good student. I got good grades, I was on the track team, I was having fun, and I liked the girls, too. [I would work at the restaurant] ’til 11:00. From 3:00 to 11:00. By the time I got home, I was exhausted. But I was having fun. You realize in those days you could get a hamburger for five cents, a nice hamburger, better than you get at Wendy’s for a buck today. And a bottle of Green River pop for a nickel. You’d get a whole pie for fifty cents. That money went a long way. And my friends weren’t working. I was lucky to have a job. They weren’t working, so I tried to finance them, too, you know. And we’d go out, and we’d buy four pies, pineapple, pumpkin, apple, cherry. We’d cut them into four pieces, and we’d each have a slice of each pie. We’d each eat a whole pie. I mean a fourteen-year-old could eat a whole pie. Wow. Helen Evankovich worked at the S & L Ice Cream Parlor after school as a young girl. She grew up in Finntown and had absorbed the language as a child. She recalled: A lot of the Finn people came in, and I’d listen to them and understand them. One time, this Finn kid came in and asked his mom what she wanted [in Finnish], and she told him. Well, I went and got it and came back. And he looked at me and asked, “How’d you know that?” Everybody thought I was Irish because I had dark hair, and they’d say, “I’ve never seen a Finlander with dark hair.” Val Webster was born into the world of boardinghouses and restaurant work. Her mother was working at the Mullen House when she met Val’s father. Her father died when Val was only six years old, and her mother remarried a few years later. Val began work as a dishwasher at the Silver Bow Café as a young girl. The man that run the place knew me, and he knew I was a young kid, but he kept me. When the union woman would come around—Sarah Michaels was the business agent—he’d duck and say I was the babysitter for his daughter, which I was, too. He was very good to me. Through the rushes, I’d have to stay and wash the dishes and wipe the silver, but they were good to me. They were Greek. They were fabulous people to work for. When I first went to work, I was making about five dollars a week. Val joined the Women’s Protective Union at age sixteen. There she found an extended family of women workers under the fierce and dynamic leadership of Bridget Shea. Val herself went on to an illustrious career as business agent for the WPU. Entrepreneurial Spirits A striking feature of children’s work in Butte is the entrepreneurial spirit kids brought to their money-making endeavors. Children fit work into the larger structure of their lives, getting up to make deliveries before school, delivering handbills for stores and theaters, running home on the lunch hour to pack lunch-buckets or iron shirts, and balancing school with live-in housekeeping and child-care employment. While many turned their wages over to their mothers, work also provided access to a little spending money to call their own. Many children, like John Wallace Cochrane, had sampled a variety of jobs before they reached their teen years. When I was a kid, I earned spending money by working at different jobs. For a time on Saturday mornings, I sold Liberty and Saturday Evening Post magazines house to house. Sometimes I gathered waste coal and ice at the Northern Pacific yards and resold it. I tried my hand at selling the Butte Daily Post newspaper on the street, even in the red-light district. Later I delivered newspapers house to house, the Montana Standard in the mornings and the Butte Daily Post in the evenings. The biggest event of my boyhood summers was the arrival of the circus. I remember rising at four in the morning to watch the three sections of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey train wind its way down the grade along the mountain ridge east of Butte as it descended from the Continental Divide. Later in the morning, I would help the circus people set up their tents, working for a pass to see the show later under the big top. Some of my spending money went for movies, and many were the Westerns featuring Harry Carey, Hoot Gibson, or Tom Mix that I sat through. Admission at the Ansonia on West Park Street was a dime, while at the Liberty on West Broadway, it was only a nickel. Occasionally, I delivered handbills for the Harrison Avenue theater and received free tickets as pay. Kevin Shannon turned his fine singing voice and keen ear for Irish tunes into a money-making endeavor as a young boy. I used to sing. And I knew all the Irish songs. I capitalized on the Irish songs—the happy war songs and sad love songs. I knew all the songs, and I’d go into the bars, the old Irish bars, and sing those songs. And they’d see me coming, “Hey, kid, sing me a ‘Come All Ye.’” You know what a “Come All Ye” is? Every Irish song starts with “Come All Ye.” So they called them “Come All Ye’s.” And you’d sing ’em, and they’d pay you…maybe a quarter or more. I was maybe nine, ten years old. I have a terrific memory of all these old Irish songs. My dad collected records. He had some records you couldn’t believe, of the rebel songs and John McCormick and all of those. I was raised around all the Irish—Irish from all counties. I knew what the Donegal people liked to hear, I knew what the Corkonians liked to hear, I knew what the Clare people liked to hear, and I knew these places. If you were from Donegal, you went to Boyle’s Bar. Oh, they loved dear old Donegal, yeah. I can remember exactly the first time I went into a bar and sang. It was in Con Bonner’s bar, and Honey McDevitt was playing the “fuddle.” He called it a “fuddle.” He was playing “The Rising of the Moon,” and I started right in singing it. I was makin’ $4.00 a day through my singing and my route. It all went to my mother. I think she knew how I was makin’ money, but she didn’t say anything. She didn’t want me in the joints. Then when I was fifteen, I went to work as a railroad man. I had been making $4.00 a day, and I went to work for $3.76. Young Frank Dornhofer had the job of getting ice for his family’s icebox. When I was maybe ten years old, everybody had iceboxes in them days. The Butte Ice Company was at Lake Avoca, where the Country Club is now. The Butte Ice Company had a big business right at the end of the lake. Well, in the wintertime, they’d cut ice. They’d use a long scissor-saw and drill a hole in the ice, then saw the blocks up, and they’d come up big and high. Then they’d put them in a warehouse that was full of sawdust. You could keep the ice all summer if it was covered with sawdust. Sawdust is real good insulation, and the ice wouldn’t melt. So, when we were kids, my brother and I had a little wagon. At seven, eight, nine in the morning, we’d go down to the ice company, and they’d be loading their truck with ice to be delivered. They used to chip the blocks, and there’d be chunks left, so they’d give us the chunks. We’d put them in the wagon and haul them home. And we’d have ice in the icebox.
While hauling ice home did not earn Frank money, the trips to Lake Avoca provided inspiration for his boyhood money-making schemes. There was a wooden spillway at Lake Avoca. The lake would go so high, and then the water would go over the spillway. There used to be shiners, little fish, and all the people that fished used to love them for baiting minnows. Well, we’d go down there with a gunnysack or a net and catch the minnows, then take them up to these sporting goods shops. There were three or four of them—Al Jackson’s and the Bug House and two or three more. We’d sell them to the fishermen. People didn’t have no money, so the only way kids could get money was to earn it themselves. We used to go down to where the highway now comes up from Father Sheehan Park. There was a county dump right in there. We used to be on the lookout if somebody’s dog would die or a horse would die and they’d take it down to the dump. Well, in two or three days it would be loaded with maggots. So we’d go down there with buckets and shovels and shovel all the rotten meat up and the maggots and take it home. We had quite a system. We had two or three nets or screens of different sizes. So we dumped the bucket of stuff on the top screen, and the maggots would wiggle down through the screen, and they’d hit the next one. And by the time they hit the third screen, it was just pure maggots. Then we’d take the maggots and put them in cornmeal and leave them in cornmeal for a day or so. And all the odor and everything—cleaned them right up. At the time, cigarette and pipe tobacco used to come in what we called tobacco cans. We’d put one hundred maggots in a can with cornmeal, and we’d take them and sell them at the same places that we sold the fish. We used to get ten cents a can, and they’d sell ’em for two bits. Frank and his brother were adept at mixing work and play. “We used to spend half the summer down there at Bell Creek. You’d build a dam three or four feet high, then dig a ditch so the water would run around it, and you’d have a swimming hole, three or four feet deep.” In May and June, they would head to a marshy area south of town after a rainstorm. “Mushrooms would grow. We’d go down and pick them and take them to a café on Main Street and sell them. We’d fill a big bucket and get a dollar for it. That night the café would have a steak and mushroom special. That’s how we made money.” According to Edward Jursnich, many Butte youngsters earned cash working as shoeshine boys. Shoeshine kits were favorite projects for youngsters in manual-training class. Boys would build a hollow pine box with a hinged door and a raised piece of wood on top where customers would rest their feet. They filled the boxes with basic supplies, then headed for busy street corners in search of customers—ten cents a shine. The Depression Era and the Labors of Children Many Butte children growing up in the Depression Era knew poverty. It became harder and harder for their fathers and mothers to provide for them. And, at a time when their earnings were all the more needed for family survival, young people found it harder and harder to contribute. It was not until 1933 that the Federal Emergency Relief Act and the Civil Works Administration began to offer jobs to needy workers in Butte. Most relief efforts were directed toward adult men, and men with dependents were able to get more hours of work than single men. Single men with no dependents could work enough hours to earn up to $32.40 per month. Married men without children could earn up to $35.50 per month. A man with two dependents could earn up to $46.00 per month, and maximum earning for men with a large number of dependents was $62.00 per month.47 Women were able to secure some employment through the WPA sewing rooms. And one special program of FERA offered an eight-week vocational summer camp for girls and young women ages sixteen to thirty-five. While many young people took advantage of the sports and recreation programs sponsored by the WPA, more vivid memories remained of hard times and efforts to contribute to the family’s economic survival. As John Sconfienza recalled: I kept working in the baker shop until the Depression. The bakers at that time, they were the first hit. Nobody was working, and the government was doling out the flour, everybody baking their own bread. The baker shop, we were small, and we were the first hit. Then when Roosevelt got in, everybody was on the dole—you couldn’t blame them. And, in fact, people were getting the flour. I was bootlegging flour. People couldn’t bake bread or didn’t know how, so, all right, I’d take your twenty-five-pound bag or two, take it home, the folks would bake it, and give them bread. They done the work, and we traded and bartered. John Wallace Cochrane helped his father and neighbors haul wood from the national forests near Butte. The wood was burned during the winters in the stoves and furnaces of the Cochrane, Johnson, and Moore families. Two of the favorite places to go were the Roosevelt Drive south of Butte and Sawmill Canyon west of Anaconda. My father had bought a secondhand Dodge truck (with an upside-down gear shift), and it was the job of either Mr. Johnson or Mr. Moore to drive the truck, for Dad never learned to drive. Sometimes the cutting crew spent several nights in a row in the forests—felling trees and sawing them into truck-body lengths—while the truck driver, whoever he was, made several trips back and forth. Even after the wood had been stacked in the family yards, the work was not over, for it was then necessary to saw the five-foot lengths into short pieces that could be more easily handled. The national forest issued permits to people to cut and remove this timber if the people would confine their cutting to “bug-kills,” trees which had been attacked by pine beetles and whose needles were turning from green to brown. John Sheehy worked as a newsboy until he was a sophomore in high school, then got a paper route. However, he recalled, “That was right in the middle of the Depression. Boy, that was a tough time to be in the business of selling papers. Nobody had any money.” Alex Koprivica began working as a young child during the Depression: “I remember as a kid taking my little red wagon with my brother George to the business district. We collected as many cardboard boxes as we could for resale at two cents a box to merchants in the fish market. It was one of the few ways to make money in those days. The wooden boxes we found were taken home to use as firewood. It was not an easy time for anyone.” Joe Roberts was nine years old at the start of the Depression. During the 1920s, he recalled that his father had bought him “only the finest” toys, including a ditchdigger and a little bus that he could ride on. His family was able to weather the economic downturn due to his father’s work as a plumber and pipe fitter. Still, he recalled the hard work and entrepreneurial effort it took to get by. [When] we came home from school, we worked, we chopped wood. We used to steal wood, steal coal. We used to go to the warehouses in those days. All the fresh food came in on bunker cars, and they would empty the cars. And then we would climb in, and we would steal the ice and we’d lift the pallets on the floors of the cars and pick up all of the vegetables that had fallen out of the boxes. And we would sell the ice and we would sell the vegetables, and we’d sometimes make as much as a dollar. At age fourteen, Joe saw an opportunity to earn money as a result of the federal work projects in Butte. He sold all of his childhood toys and put the money toward the purchase of a car. “I bought a Model T, and we made a truck out of it. And, of course, the people up where we lived on Wyoming Street, they had to find a way to get to the tannery on South Montana Street, the site of the WPA sewing room, so we used to haul them for fifty cents a week. Five days a week we would take them out and bring them back. Fifty cents apiece. Of course, gasoline in those days was six cents a gallon. It was a different life.” Amidst the struggles of those years, there was an occasional triumph as well. Montana’s first drive-in restaurant, Matt’s Drive-in, opened in Butte in 1930. Mae Waddell became a regular customer as a girl. She and a girlfriend would walk from town to visit the cemetery on South Montana Street. Her friend’s mother would give the girls a nickel so that they could stop and have a grape drink at Matt’s Drive-in on the way home. The grape drink was a special recipe that the owner created from his father’s wine recipe. As a teen, Mae got a job as a “curb girl” at Matt’s. And the drive-in was where she met her husband. Mae and her husband later purchased the drive-in, ran it together, and employed their family members. The restaurant was home for their infant daughter Robin, who greeted customers first from her buggy and then from her walker. Once she could lift a tray, Robin was waiting on cars. When one customer suggested that she send her mommy out, Robin made it clear that she was the one to take his order. These accounts of childhood labor provide insights into the complex economic lives of children. Children, especially working-class children, developed a critical understanding of work and wages from a young age. Their stories also suggest that miners struggled to earn a “family wage,” wherein the income of a single wage earner supported a family. In many cases, the money children earned made the difference between getting by or going without. Much of children’s labor was also tied to a broader network of family and neighborhood businesses, and their contributions helped to sustain those businesses and strengthen family ties. Children took pride in their economic contribution as they honed their business acumen, awareness of family circumstances, and understanding of the lines between the haves and the have-nots. Their stories broaden our appreciation for the many forms of labor needed to sustain the “Richest Hill on Earth.”
I don’t think I’ve ever read anything more powerful than this piece.
It was written by Ted Nugent
Take a little trip to Valley Forge in January. Hold a musket ball in your Fingers and imagine it piercing your flesh and breaking a bone or two. There won’t be a doctor or trainer to assist you until after the battle, so Just wait your turn. Take your cleats and socks off to get a real Experience.
Then, take a knee on the beach in Normandy where man after American man Stormed the beach, even as the one in front of him was shot to pieces, the Very sea stained with American blood. The only blockers most had were the
Dead bodies in front of them, riddled with bullets from enemy fire.
Take a knee in the sweat soaked jungles of Vietnam. From Khe Sanh to Saigon, anywhere will do. Americans died in all those jungles. There was no Playbook that told them what was next, but they knew what flag they Represented. When they came home, they were protested as well, and spit on f or reasons only cowards know.
Take another knee in the blood drenched sands of Fallujah in 110 degree Heat. Wear your Kevlar helmet and battle dress. Your number won’t be Printed on it unless your number is up! You’ll need to stay hydrated but There won’t be anyone to squirt Gatorade into your mouth. You’re on your Own.
There are a lot of places to take a knee where Americans have given their Lives all over the world. When you use the banner under which they fought As a source for your displeasure, you dishonor the memories of those who
Bled for the very freedoms you have. That’s what the red stripes mean. It Represents the blood of those who spilled a sea of it defending your Liberty.
While you’re on your knee, pray for those that came before you, not on a Manicured lawn striped and printed with numbers to announce every inch of Ground taken, but on nameless hills and bloodied beaches and sweltering
Forests and bitter cold mountains, every inch marked by an American life Lost serving that flag you protest.
No cheerleaders, no announcers, no coaches, no fans, just American men and Women, delivering the real fight against those who chose to harm us, Blazing a path so you would have the right to “take a knee.” You haven’t Any inkling of what it took to get you where you are, but your “protest” is d uly noted. Not only is it disgraceful to a nation of real heroes, it serves the purpose of pointing to your ingratitude for those who chose to defend you under that banner that will still wave long after your jersey is retired.
If you really feel the need to take a knee, come with me to church on Sunday and we’ll both kneel before Almighty God. We’ll thank Him for Preserving this country for as long as He has. We’ll beg forgiveness for our Ingratitude for all He has provided us. We’ll appeal to Him for Understanding and wisdom. We’ll pray for liberty and justice for all,
Because He is the one who provides those things.
But there will be no Protest. There will only be gratitude for His provision and a plea for His Continued grace and mercy on the land of the free and the home of the Brave.
We used to gather in the assembly room of Edgewood Elementary School just around the corner where our three grandchildren grew up. On the walls on both sides of the stage in large size were a couple of songs we often sang, including the one above.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
At the time these words were written and attested to by 56 English colonialists desiring independence, the phrase was far from true and certainly not self evident to many in the colonies, in England and around the world. Men, women and children within those thirteen colonies and elsewhere around the world were human beings, but also property owned by other human beings.
Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were slave holders as were others among those 56 men, and they personally and collectively were denying Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness to their human property, and had the “right” to deny life as well.
So that’s how this nation, the United States of America began …
But a great irony is that those words – that phrase – was the “little acorn” that has grown into a “Mighty Oak Tree.”
And like that little acorn, birthed beneath the dirt, alive but not yet an oak tree – liberty and the pursuit of happiness was yet to come.
But come it did, but not without struggle – too much struggle and too much time. Consider that the time line for this struggle should not be viewed as the time from 1776 to our present day, but rather be measured back to the time of the Exodus of the Hebrews from an ancient Egyptian Pharaoh some 3200 years prior to the little acorn of Jefferson’s words.
But the acorn was yearning for the sun and the air and the chance to grow into a mighty oak. Likewise, there was a yearning for liberty in the colonies, and especially those enslaved.
Liberty took root in 1776 with those words of Jefferson. Liberty began to sprout in 1776 with those words of Jefferson. The acorn of American liberty was then watered with the blood of patriots during the 8 years of war against England. At Yorktown, the acorn sprouted as liberty was gained and the yoke of the English throne was cast aside.
Branches formed from the trunk of liberty as a new independent government was formed. A Continental Congress grew, but was a frail branch with little strength against the challenges of life amongst the vultures of the world. It was soon discarded as a convention was formed to reform the Articles of Confederation. Instead, a strong branch was formed behind the closed doors in Philadelphia in 1787. But that strong branch of a brand new constitution needed further protection, and a Bill of Rights was added giving protection to individual citizens against a federal government that someday might seek to put a boot to the God given rights of individual citizens. This new and unique constitution was ratified and gave life to the 13 states in 1789.
The oak tree of liberty grew, but liberty remained denied to those who were property of others. The tree was diseased and split, perhaps fatally, with this disease of slavery. A new branch grew from the tree of liberty, a new political party – the Republican Party grew with the intent of stopping the spread of slavery into new territories of the Republic.
A great storm was brewing, one that would pit ‘free‘ states against ‘slave‘ states. Many in the ‘free‘ states worked tirelessly to abolish this dark sin of slavery – they were called Abolitionists. Ominous clouds formed on the near horizon.
The Republicans elected Abraham Lincoln as president, a man of humble beginnings in Illinois.
The diseased ‘slave‘ states, threatened with the destruction of their way of life, rebelled and declared once again their independence from a government they deemed oppressive. They took up arms and violently rebelled and fought for their independence. War was at hand, and the survival of the republic of 1789 was threatened.
President Lincoln and the Union prevailed and the war was won preserving the 13 states as one nation. But the cost was high – six hundred thousand died in that struggle. But the disease was confronted and defeated.
Three new branched then grew from that oak tree of liberty. Three amendments to the Constitution of 1789.
The Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads:
Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
The Fourteenth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution reads:
Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
Section 2. Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.”
Section 3. No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support he Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.”
Section 4. The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.”
Section 5. The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.”
The Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads:
Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
Section 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
That little acorn, the words of Thomas Jefferson written in 1776 finally achieved the intent of 1776, and of 1789 – all men are created equal,and no human could own another human in these United States of America.
But the disease lingers on in the heats of individuals to this day and threatens the mighty oak tree of liberty.
Moving forward into the twentieth century we see the mighty oak tree of America spawning branches of liberty in other places around the world, the most vivid examples being World Wat II, followed by the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Following the World War I defeat of Germany and the humiliating conditions imposed on Germany, Adolf Hitler and his Nazi party came to power and rebuilt a formidable military power with a matching appetite for conquest and revenge. Along with Imperial Japan, the entire world was plunged into war, and countless millions brought into bondage from foreign powers.
The United States was brought into World War II on December 7,1941 with the attack on Pearl Harbor. At that time, the Germans had conquered most of Western Europe and was invading the Soviet Union. The Japanese were in the process of conquering much of the western Pacific including China and South East Asia, and had attacked Australia.
On June 6, 1944 the Allied forces invaded German occupied France and proceeded to battle German forces through western Europe with the Soviet Red Army pressing Germany from the east. The final defeat of Germany was May 8, 1945.
In June 1950, Soviet client state North Korea invaded South Korea and came close to capturing the entire Korean peninsula. The United Nations, led by the United States, pushed back the invasion and pushed the North Koreans back to the border of China. It appeared the war would soon be over and the peninsula united as one nation. But China entered that war and the war dragged on to 1953 as a stalemate. But South Korea survived as a nation, and over the years since has emerged as a strong democratic nation and an economic power house. South Korea – another branch grafted into the tree of liberty.
The final defeat of Germany liberated the western European nations, and other branches were grafted into the oak tree of Liberty. The US sponsored Marshall Plan and the formation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) solidified these branches and representative constitutional governments were established.
Later on August 14, 1945 Japan surrendered. American General Douglas MacArthur stayed on in Japan and formed a representative constitutional government which over the years brought liberty to that nation, thus another branch was grafted into the tree of liberty.
The end of war in Europe brought liberty to the nations of western Europe, but for the nations of eastern Europe, dominated by the Soviet Union, it was a very different story. Communism was forced onto those nations. The brutality of these Soviet Union communist satellite nations is now somewhat well known, but was for the most part hidden behind what Winston Churchill called the Iron Curtain. That changed with the collapse of the Soviet Union as East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania transitioned to the freedom of representative governments. These new branches were grafted into the tree of liberty. The United States under President Ronald Reagan was largely responsible for the collapse of the Soviet Union and the subsequent liberation of those eastern European nations. My wife and I have traveled to some of those formerly captive nations and have friends in Germany, Croatia, Hungary and the Czech Republic.
On this July 4, 2020 American Independence Day we must recognize that we no longer live in 1619 when the first slaves arrived on these shores, we no longer live in the days of slavery, we no longer live in the days when there was structural and systemic racism. The little acorn has grown into a Mighty Oak Tree providing liberty and opportunity for all who seek it.
We must be diligent and hold fast to that little acorn – those words of Thomas Jefferson. We must protect that mighty oak tree of liberty.
When I first wrote my book Yearning for Liberty, I had no idea that its relevance would soon become evident in today’s turbulent world. The book is my personal attempt to be a part of the preservation of liberty in America, and preventing America from sliding into the depravity experienced by far too many around the world in all ages including our own.
Here is the book, and please continue below where I will point out some of what I am seeing as points of relevance.
The fuze that set off this present turmoil was the death of George Floyd at the knee of a Minneapolis Police Officer. The protests expanded with riots, property destruction, business destruction, injuries and deaths. One demonstration/riot resulted in the seizure of a section of Seattle that was declared a sovereign nation. Many other cities saw similar mayhem.
The philosophical/political root of this nationwide mayhem is the notion that America is irredeemably and systemically white racist, and has been since its supposed founding in 1619 when the first slaves arrived in the colonies – according to the New York Times. This notion is a lie!
The first relevance of my book to the mayhem in today’s America is the cover of the book. Read what I say about the covers in the chapter –
About the cover photos
Normandy Entering the small village of Sainte-Mere-Eglise just inland from the beaches of Normandy, we come across this bronze sculpture. Upon first seeing it, and in the days and weeks following, I came to see it as if I were one of those it represents – a captive in that small French village, and in a larger sense — the condition of humanity.
We see gnarled and tortured hands reaching out to the falling parachute – the liberator. Chains are broken and falling off the reaching hands. We see the cliffs and a ladder where US Army Rangers scaled from the rocky beach below. There is a rusty defunct machine gun – the defeated evil that had occupied the land. There is a church and a hanging paratrooper, a warrior for liberty. And we see the flame of liberty flowing from the base of the falling parachute.
Now look at the Emancipation memorial in Washington DC.
And do you see the similarities between this one and the one at Normandy. We see shackled hands reaching to freedom. Chains are broken and falling off the wrists. We see the freed man looking upwards towards freedom. We see the Presidents Emancipation Proclamation Declaration with the President’s hand upon it, and the bold letters EMANCIPATION just below the two men. We see Lincoln’s hand waving as if to say – “you are free – go in peace.” We see the profile of George Washington, the first president who owned slaves looking at the now free man.
Perhaps those that cannot see the symbolism of Emancipation depicted in this monument – and intended by those freed slaves who payed for it – have a different agenda: are they are working towards a one-party socialist country – utopia?
The tragic ending of the Vietnam War was not without its moments of humanity in the midst of that inhumanity.
When the North Vietnamese army overwhelmed and captured Saigon, many South Vietnamese attempted escape from the impending tyranny. Many died in their attempts at freedom, including many at sea known as “the boat people.”
But many were rescued, and this lady is one of those and is remembering and honoring a name on “the wall” In the pages to follow you will find an abbreviated account of an incredible rescue of 30,000+ Vietnamese credited to the crew of USS Kirk, a small US Navy frigate.
And look at the contempt and hatred seen in this veterans memorial – with names no less. This is an abysmal hatred and contempt for not only those names on the wall, but for that Vietnamese women who remembers a name – nay a person – who liberated her and her family.
In my chapter titled LIBERTY – ITS VALUE, I have an extensive section reporting on the post Civil War legislative struggle to address the lingering racism and discrimination following the Civil War and the passage of the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution. The record shows a long record of predominantly white Americans actively opposing the racism of slavery from long before the Civil War.
“… Most people are aware of the civil rights movement of the 1960’s and the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. Most of us, however, don’t realize that both had already happened – nearly 100 years earlier.
“Complete liberty and exact equality in the enjoyment of all civil, political and public rights should be established and effectually maintained throughout the Union by efficient and appropriate state and federal legislation. Neither the law nor its administration should admit any discrimination in respect of citizens by reason of African Americans, creed, color, or previous condition of servitude.”
This quote, which sounds like it could be right out of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, was actually from the Republican Party platform in 1872. This, a big steppingstone in the fight for equal civil rights for blacks, was certainly not the first.
The first major civil rights law was actually passed in 1866, right after the conclusion of the Civil War and nearly 100 years before the C.R.A. of 1964. This truly landmark legislation stated that citizens of the United States, no matter their color, shall have the same right to “make and enforce contracts, to sue, be parties, and give evidence, to inherit, purchase, lease, sell, hold, and convey real and person property, and to the full and equal benefit of all laws…for the security of person and property, as is enjoyed by white citizens.”
The voting record for this bill speaks to the level and type of support it had at the time. The bill sailed through the House 111-38 and found equal support in the Senate, passing 33-12. Not one of the Democrats at the time voted in favor of the bill.
After Republicans passed this civil rights legislation in Congress, it was sent to then President Andrew Johnson, who had assumed power after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Johnson, a Democrat, vetoed the bill. In less than two weeks after that veto, the Senate and the House voted to override Johnson’s veto by votes of 33-15 and 122-41 respectively. The Republicans would not take no for an answer.
Then came the civil rights law of 1870 which declared and enforced that any citizen who was qualified to vote in the U.S. “shall be entitled and allowed to vote at all such elections, without distinction of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”
This bill backed up, in legislation, the 15th Amendment which had been ratified only months before. The punishment for refusing to allow someone to vote was harsh. The offender was forced to pay a $500 fine (remember this is 1870!) to the wronged party and could serve one month to one year in jail. This bill, like the one in 1866, was easily passed through the Senate and the House by votes of 43-8 and 131-43 showing huge and almost universal support among Republicans while getting none from the Democrats.
The last of the major civil rights bills in that time came in 1875. This remarkable bill fulfilled that party platform three years earlier and prohibited the discrimination against blacks in nearly every imaginable circumstance:
“All persons within the jurisdiction of the United States shall be entitled to the full and equal and enjoyment of the accommodations, advantages, facilities, and privileges of inns, public conveyances on land or water, theaters, and other places of public amusement…applicable alike to citizens of every race and color, regardless of any previous condition of servitude.”
What is amazing about this bill, along with the previous two, is that by 1875, full and equal civil rights for blacks had been passed and signed into law, solely by Republicans I might add. The achievements of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which we all know, had already been realized 90 years earlier!
So what happened?
The first problem to arise was a Supreme Court decision in 1883 that declared the civil rights law of 1875 unconstitutional. The court declared, almost unanimously, that Congress lacked the authority to outlaw discrimination by private citizens and organizations, and that their authority only extended to federal, state and local governments. This decision opened the door for widespread discrimination and segregation for the next 70 years.
The discrimination of blacks and their gross mistreatment for the next several decades was the result of a free, yet immoral society whose moral conscience had not yet caught up with the rolling tide of civil rights laws that had been recently enacted. Those several decades, however, were not without a continued fight.
In 1922, the House passed one of manyanti-lynching bills by a vote of 230-120, enjoying only eight Democrat votes in favor. The bill reached the Senate but was never taken up due to a filibuster by southern Democrats. A similar fate met the Costigan-Wagner Act in 1934-35 as well as numerous other anti-lynching laws brought up in Congress.
Finally, in 1957, after a long hiatus, the Civil Rights Act of 1957 was passed and signed into law by Republican President Dwight Eisenhower. This law was vitally important for voting rights and prohibited intimidating, coercing, or otherwise interfering with the rights of persons to vote. This landmark legislation, which mirrored the act passed in 1870, was voted through the Senate and the House by votes of 72-18 and 285-126 respectively.
The Democrat opposition in the Senate created the longest filibuster on record, stretching over 24 hours of non-stop speaking by Strom Thurmond. This bill also established the Commission on Civil Rights which was in large part responsible for the famous bill in 1964.
Before that famous legislation, however, there was yet another bill in 1960 that was passed to further strengthen voting rights for blacks. This bill, as is the case with every other that preceded it, enjoyed near unanimous support from Republicans.
Momentum for civil rights had never been stronger. The moral compass of the country, which had previously lagged greatly behind the legislation, was starting to catch up. The civil rights movement in the south had begun to change the attitudes of many in the nation as we saw blacks in the south targeted, abused, beaten and oppressed for merely wanting equal rights. This discord led to the passage of the 24th Amendment and the famous Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Two things surprised me during the research of this piece. First, the modern civil rights bills passed between 1957–1965 were basically retreads of the bills passed nearly 100 years earlier. Most people can tell you at least something about the civil rights movement in the 1960′s, but very few know about that same movement in the 1860′s and the great successes that it had at that time. For some reason, this era of civil rights struggle and great achievements is rarely taught or explored and should be looked at more often.
The other thing that surprised me was that not only have Republicans never blocked a major civil rights bill, but not one single time have major civil rights bills enjoyed a higher support from Democrats than they did from Republicans, regardless of the era in which they were passed. …”
Does this record look like a nation that is irredeemably racist at its core? There were many formidable obstacles to full liberty for blacks post war and up to 1964 and beyond. But many white Americans persevered with efforts of giving every citizen, regardless of color the freedom and opportunity first spoken of in the Declaration of Independence. Have you heard that little song “from tiny acorns mighty oak trees grow”? The expression of slave holding Thomas Jefferson “We hold these truths to be self evident – that all men are created equal” was that tiny acorn that grew into that mighty oak tree that is American civilization.
If America is that irredeemable racist white supremist nation, then explain to me: Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S Grant, Fredrich Douglass, Condoleezza Rice, Barack Obama, Susan Rice, Collin Powell, Thomas Sewell, Larry Elder, Ken Blackwell, Don Lemon, Armstrong Williams, Dinesh D’Souza, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jordon, Jesse Owens, Mohammad Ali, Sammy Davis Jr, Wilmot Collins, Wilma Rudolf, Senator Tim Scott … and many more.
If you want to see a truly irredeemable racist white supremist nation, crack open a history book (mine will show you enough) and take a look at Nazi Germany not that many decades ago. The record above shows that the Untied States of America, though still flawed and a work in process, is not the irredeemable racist white supremist nation presented by the left.
Take a look at the chapter in the book, LIBERTY – IN ITS ABSENSE: HORROR AND SAVEGRY, it may cause you to step back, slam the book shut and weep – as you should.
Another facet of Liberty I cover in the book is LIBERTY – ITS REMEMBERANCE
In this facet you will see a variety of remembrances, some noble and honoring and some ugly and dishonoring, but in most, if not all instances – remembrances. Here are a few from the book:
In the Hebrew book of Exodus, the Bible tells that God helped the Children of Israel escape from their slavery in Egypt by inflicting ten plagues upon the ancient Egyptians before the Pharaoh would release his Israelite slaves; the tenth and worst of the plagues was the death of the Egyptian first-born.
The Israelites were instructed to mark the doorposts of their homes with the blood of a slaughtered spring lamb and, upon seeing this, the spirit of the Lord knew to pass over the first-born in these homes, hence the English name of the holiday. Unlike most cultures throughout history, the Jews have not erected monuments to commemorate historical events or people. The Passover, the single most important holiday/event in Jewish life, has been remembered by a ritualistic passing down of the remembrance of that day from generation to generation. In this remembrance, the Seder dinner is the centerpiece of the celebration. Details of the Seder dinner can be found in numerous places on the internet.
Having carried out the Seder service properly, we are sure that it has been well received by the Almighty. We then say “Leshanah haba’ah b’Yerushalayim—Next year in Jerusalem.”
In Normandy France we see another “Statue of Liberty.”
… we see the parachute sculpture as we entered the town square of this small French town so close to the liberating armies landing beaches. Looking closely, we can see profound symbolism — the parachute descending from above … two hands reaching up to that parachute … broken chains falling away from the hands … the church … and a defunct and obsolete symbol of war – the machine gun. And at the base we see the cliffs which US Army Rangers scaled in order to silence the German heavy artillery positioned to shell the landing beaches and the ships offshore. Note also the rope ladder those Rangers used to scale the cliffs.
The beloved “Gooney Bird”
Normandy, France — Doing what no woman could have done in 1944, Dr. Annette Dusseau jumped out of a World War II plane June 5 over Normandy, commemorating the actions of the heroic paratroopers who spurred the Allies epochal 1945 victory in Europe.
The Montana dentist and her husband, Shawn Modula, were among the more than 200 people from around the world who jumped out of WW II-era planes over what was once a French war zone to honor the D-Day invasion of June 6, 1944.
“I am still tingling ”Dr. Dusseau said three weeks after the event, in which she wore a WW II paratrooper uniform replica and jumped from a Missoula C-47 plane, dubbed Miss Montana. Once owned by the Johnson Brothers Flying Service of Missoula for smokejumpers, the aircraft was built in 1944.
Returning now to the lie of ‘irredeemable systemic racism in America.‘
From Encyclopedia Britannica Critical race theory (CRT), the view that the law and legal institutions are inherently racist and that race itself, instead of being biologically grounded and natural, is a socially constructed concept that is used by white people to further their economic and political interests at the expense of people of colour. According to critical race theory (CRT), racial inequality emerges from the social, economic, and legal differences that white people create between “races” to maintain elite white interests in labour markets and politics, giving rise to poverty and criminality in many minority communities. Source: https://www.britannica.com/topic/critical-race-theory
This is the predominant view of race relations being taught in many, if not most, American Universities, and popularized by a recent New York Times series 1619 which places the founding of the United States not in 1776 or 1789, but in 1619 when the first African slaves arrived in the British colonies. This view is where such terms as “white privilege” “white guilt” “white supremacy” and now “white fragility” emanate.
This is not new or novel teaching, but goes back as far as humanity has been on the scene. Rulers from ancient times to todays world have set themselves up, individually and as classes to be above other less exalted classes. The Pharaohs of Egypt considered themselves as gods and not to be challenged. Kings and Queens ruled from a position of Devine Right. Czars likewise were the exalted ruling class lording over the serfs. Karl Marx and Fredrich Engels came along with the idea of a classless society, but viewed history in terms of class struggle, and set up an “us” and “them” system of the ‘Proletariat‘ and the ‘Bourgeoisie.’ Lenin and Stalin then grasped this Marxist ideology, and with an iron fist created the modern Communist system of unequalled brutality upon the classes they ruled over.
So ‘Critical Race Theory’ is more of the same, but with an interesting twist. The theory seems to acknowledge the white race as the superior class, and places it as the class that ‘lords over’ other lesser classes, those being ‘people of color.‘ What the theory seems to be doing in the culture at large, and in practice, is to overthrow that ‘irredeemably racist white supremist system’ and replace it with a new system – presumably with those advocates of the theory, thus setting up a new class based governance not a whole lot unlike those systems I’ve outlined above.
This class based view of governance is known as the ‘collectivist‘ view. People are not viewed as individuals with individual worth. dignity and rights, but are viewed as members of a collective whose worth and rights are those of the ‘collective’ class. Stalin is claimed to have said “a single death is a tragedy, a million deaths are a statistic.” Think on that for a bit as you confront the reality of a body count of some 100 million souls, a mere statistic, scarified on the alter of the collective mind set.
Then came 1776 and 1789 with a radically new idea and a question – “Can Man Govern Himself?” The answer to that question was answered in 1776 with the words of Thomas Jefferson – “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal . . .” Those words, like the tiny acorn were to grow through many storms and winters into a still growing mighty oak tree. The seed was planted, but all men were not equal. The revolutionaries were not free, nor were the men, women and children held as property by some of those revolutionaries. Not all were free – but the seed was planted. The year was 1789 and the revolution threw off the oppression of the English King George. A group of men gathered in Philadelphia and created a new phrase “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America” – the opening lines of a new form of government answering that question “Can Man Govern Himself?”
This constitution and the government it birthed caused much growth in that struggling oak tree called America. But all men were still not equal, and would not be until many hard winters passed and much hardship – but like that oak tree, the nation struggled, survived and grew.
The choice is ours as a nation, literally right in the streets before our eyes. Do we chop down and burn that mighty oak tree? Or do we lean into yet another season of storms and cause that tree to flourish once more?
“Freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation away from extinction. It is not ours by inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation, for it comes only once to a people. Those who have known freedom and then lost it have never known it again.” Ronald Reagan
What can be done?
The horse is long gone from the barn. But what needs to be done is to correct the American educational system. Many have been fighting this battle for decades, I am by no means the first. But Critical Race Theory needs to be discredited far and wide, and as I have shown here, that is not hard to do and does not require a PhD in history or political science. In fact, a degree in history from many of our institutes of higher learning would be an obstacle to educational reform.
Teaching of American history needs to be taught in ways that show the path Americans have taken on the long hard road towards liberty. The road trip of liberty has not been easy and there have been many obstacles and setbacks along the way and there will be many more to come. Proper teaching of history must include the evils along the way and the evil men and women encountered, but not at the expense of the successes of the nation and the successes of so many good people of all races.
Critical Race Theory, if it comes to complete fruition, most likely will not end well for those unfortunate classes who find themselves ruled by the new ‘exalted‘ class.