Much of the news of late seems to center around people looking for a home. The migrants, the homeless, the wanderers and the transients capture a share of nearly every newscast. One might say it’s a sign of the times, but those times have been with us for many, many years.
I was recently reading a copy of the Dec. 5, 1934, Slater News. The Great Depression was slowly winding down and the headlines were not screaming doom and despair. Instead, people were starting to look back at the terrible times they had suffered through. Editor Andrew Maland had evidently decided it was time to visit the town’s “oasis for the traveling unfortunates” and get a first-hand view of its inhabitants.
“For years transients, generally called ‘bums’ have been given the freedom of Slater’s city hall, there to make themselves ‘at home’. The town has provided them a stove and coal and a place to sleep, including a steel cot and quilts.
“Many have appreciated the facilities thus provided. Others again have greatly abused the freedom accorded them and left dirt, filth and vermin behind them till the place was almost unfit for use.
“Because of these infractions, the council closed city hall to the travelers but purchased a frame building which was to be used entirely for those unfortunates. Not only were beds, bedding, cooking utensils and a table provided, an axe and wood was also available. The only requirement was that the tenants must cut their own wood and keep the place clean.
“One of the travelers to use the facilities was busy cleaning the shed. He told of riding on a freight train and nearly freezing to death during a blizzard. He was spending a few days in the new building before traveling on.
“He stated, ‘You don’t know how I hate to ask for favors, brother. I am not a bum – just one of the many unfortunate ones you see these days. I have worked on big projects in California, Idaho, and other places. Early in September I lost my job, saying they had no use for me. I’m now on my way to Wisconsin where I have two sons as unfortunate as myself, but I have friends there – men with whom I played as a boy and later attended college together. I hope to be there by Christmas, but not with many storms like this last one.’
“He then reflected and added, ‘Well, I don’t care much. It won’t be like Christmas with no home, nobody waiting at the door.’”
Wouldn’t it be nice if those problems no longer existed?
Ed Rood is a former publisher of the Tri-County Times.