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The San Francisco call. (San Francisco [Calif.]) 1895-1913, April 03, 1898, Image 21

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Every-Day Scene in the Office Where All
Sorts of Men Are Volunteering for
Service on Uncle Sam's
New Battle-Ships.
AN hour at the naval recruiting
rendezvous down near the
water front is very interesting
just now.
This naval recruiting rendez
vous at California and Market
streets is quite typical of the many
places Jotting the American shore
line where the brawn and heart
and courage that must be the nation's
main reliance in any hour of struggle
that may come, is being given greater
volume. The good Annapolis and New
port braineries have finished their out
put of gallant order-givers and now
the recruiting: station looms up as the
nation's chief further reliance for fight
ing men.
It was easy enough to enter this por
tal of the naval service opened a few
days ago an telegraphic orders from
Washington. Up a dirty stairway,
past the big poster, "Wanted, for the
navy of the United States," etc., a turn
past a dozen or more men conversing
In the hallway, doubtful, willing or
eager about enlisting, and then ' the
welcoming sign "Enter without knock
ing." Easy enough it is to go in to
■ Uncle Sam and say: "Here I am, old
. man."
But if you have any pondering to do
before you sign those momentous iron
clad "articles of agreement," do the
pondering before you pass that invit
ing sign. Ponder as you walk the
streets penniless, my unlucky American
. friend, ponder the step at home or by
. your forge or among your fellows, my
' patriotic fellow citizen, and pause to
think it over again, as 1 found Jack
Kelso doing before that ilaming^oster
at the head of the stairs, but when you
. pass that door Uncle Sam won't sit
down and ponder the step cut with you.
You will earn a day's pay in the navy
or be out in the streets a gentleman
of peace in a very few minutes.
I went in with Jack Kelso, whose ac
quaintance I made before the big pos
ter. He was a slim, smooth-faced lad
of 23, with soft, rosy cheeks and a
light-hearted joke for everybody every
minute. He'll be the life of some steel
built forecastle and his mates will
warm to Jack. V- '
In the big bare reception room eight
men who had gone in a minute or two
before sat silently with hats respect
fully off, on two long benches that by
their folding iron legs and messroom
design were the sole symbols of the
Bait sea there, except for a few queer
iy knotted cords and cables in a cor
"Sit down a minute," said busy War
rant Officer Barr, and then from the
tarpeted front room there burst forth
a large, well-fed man with a kindly eye
and brisk voice and manner. Lieu
tenant George M. Btoney, in command
of the station, strode toward the door
of the medical examiner's room and ha
paused a moment for a sweeping glance
at the volunteers.
: "Here, you're too small, sir," and the
lieutenant had disposed of the wiry, lit
tle bit of a fellow at the end of a bench
and without a solitary word the poor
little fellow put on his hat and shot
out into the world with so quick an
ending to his ambition to battle with
'. Spain. That crisis in the little fellow's
life was over.
.'•. "And what do you want to enlist
■ for?" asked the lieutenant, quickly, of
a swarthy little fellow by the door.
: He wanted to go as a seaman.
: ."Where were you born?"
• "I was born In New Orleans, but I
.was" raised in France, sir," said the
curly headed little fellow, cowering a
trifle. »
• • "H'm! How can you prove that you
•were born in New Orleans?" asked
Lieutenant Stoney with a searching,
quizzical squint that helped emphasize
the glorious fact that no man but an
American citizen by birth or adoption
can get into the American navy these
days. •
. The little fellow was passed for ex
amination by the luck of a moment's
quick decision and Jack Kelso stood
up, clear eyed and strong limbed, to
answer boldly and cheerfully, "I want
to go as a coal passer."
"Born in this country?"
"Born and raised in San Francisco."
•: That was enough to pass Jack to the
medical examination that is the only
one required for coal passers.
"Send this man in, Mr. Barr," and
Jack went in to strip to the skin and
!■•• weighed, measured and thumped, to
show his teeth, read letters across the
room, name colors and let the surgeon
record every identifying mark and cer
tify that he was up to the unrelenting
Btandard of almust perfect physical
manhood that measures every last man
that rides the pea for Uncle Sam.
"Here, Peters, the doctor passes you.
Let's see what you know," said Officer
Barr to a waiting candidate for a sea
man's berth. "What's a topgallant
m'st?" "What's the opposite of east
by south?" A minute of such ques
tioning and then Peters sat down and
reeved a purchase and tied strange
knots that bind where the salt spray
flles and then he picked up a marlin
ppike and spliced two cable ends with
a mastery that backed up his account
of his sea experience.
Three minutes is enough for a sea
man to prove his seamanship to a sea
man, and then Peters in 1898 was not
enlisting for a frigate under Captain
Hull and a seaman's examination isn't
what it us?d to be when the engine
mom was aloft and when stray zephyrs
gave guns their quarry.
The clerk had a bunch of papers
ready and six waiting men who had
been passed were summoned to a table.
The decisive moment has come for you,
lads. There's a minute yet in which
to retreat.
"Here, Murphy, we haven't got the?
name of a relative in your record yet."
said the clerk to a brawny fellow with
an unshaven face and seedy clothes.
"I haven't got any relatives I can
give, sir."
'Well, give the name of some friend.
We've got to have somebody to send
your dead body to in case you die, you
see," was the kind and cheerfully mat
ter-of-fact explanation to Murphy.
The long articles of agreement were
perfunctorily read to each man in turn,
a dreary job to the clerk, and there
was a reverent seriousness in the atti
tude of each raw recruit as he listened
to the hard and fast covenant with Un
cle Sam which includes section 1422 of
the Revised Statutes.
"Now put your name here. Murphy,"
and "Daniel Murphy" is laboriously in
scribed on a blank line in a big six
page document.
"And now here in this book. And
now in this book."
"I didn't get that quite on the line,"
says Murphy, apologetically, as the job
ended in the register so full of ruled
"That's all right, Murphy. You be
long to Uncle Sam now and you've got
a day's pay coming to you," says the
good-natured clerk. "Be here at 3
o'clock to go to Mare Island."
And so a bunch of six more defenders
were added to Uncle Sam's force and
so the rapid, decisive routine of ac
ceptance and rejectment of men went
on through the day.
"They're coming in faster than we
con take care of them," explains Officer
Barr in a moment of leisure. "About
a hundred a day com > in and we accept
about twenty-five."
Seamen and coal passers are quickly
examined and accepted or rejected at
the rendezvous. The navy wants skilled
labor these days. It wants machinists,
bollermakers, blacksmiths, etc., for the
fighting machine of to-day is a big ma
chine shop, supplied with everything
but big shop machinery. And it wants
engineers and firemen as well as sea
men and coal heavers.
An engineer is at the rendezvous to
examine skilled laborers and when they
pass this and the rigid medical ex
amination they are sent to the shops
at Mare Island for another examina
tion by foremen and engineers there,
for Uncle Sam wants none not masters
of trades. Of course the skilled labor
enlisted is all for ships. The men in
the navy yard shops are merely hired
as civilians.
"He passed me qukk." said Jack
Kelso, jubilantly, twelve minutes after
he went into the surgeon. And in fif
teen minutes more Jack had made the
covenant with a jolly joke.
He sobered up and told why he went
into the navy.
"Now, I'm giving up a salary of »12 50
a week," he explained. "But I got tired
of San Francisco and just thought that
a change in my life would be good for
me. I wouldn't have enlisted if it hadn't
been for the war talk, but I don't care
whether there's a fight or not. If I get
into one I'm willing to take my
chances. There's nothing the matter
with me and I haven't smo-ked or
drank in four years. My folks don't
want me to go and they say I'll get to
be a bum, but I guess I'll come out all
There were boys like Jack in the
Maine, and there'll be anxious hearts
to follow Jack to sea from the Mission,
as anxious hearts all over this land
were with the boys on the Maine when
she moored in Havana harbor.
"Most of thes*e men going in ain't like
me," Jack continued. "I've talked with
fifty of them and they're going for all
sorts of reasons. Some say they want
to see a fight and some just go for the
excitement, but the most of them were
Just discouraged and on their uppers
more or less and want a chance for a
respectable living.
"I've talked with fellows that say
they've lost their grip somehow and
they think they can save their man
hood and sol f- respect and have a little
wad in three years by going into the
Jack was right. Amid all the motives
that bring the trooping recruits to the
naval rendezvous the chief one is un
doubtedly the new and better hold on
life that the service offers to men
weary of struggles with misfortune.
The long-used collars, the frayed hats
and the general appearance of many
who troop up those stairs are eloquent
of hard times.
IN the block on Clay street, which
is flanked by the thoroughfares of
Montgomery and Kearny. there are
a number of odd outposts of the
labor mart of San Francisco.
They call themselves labor bureaus,
and such they are, but in a wider sense
they are labor markets, the stalls to
which labor comes to barter itself to
capital, and where the bidding between
the two fixes the price for the com
modity of service in all branches
throughout the State of California.
For if the bid for labor here is high,
how long will men employed remain
at jobs which pay them less than the
rate here given? Straightway the door
of the labor emporium becomes
jammed with the dingily dressed toil
ers, and the jobs which they left go
upon the walls thereof calling for
hands at a higher wage.
Curious places are these, in number
half a dozen, perhaps, including one
bazar, which deals especially in the
Asiatic article, and about whose open
door the flat brown faces of the Japan
ese contrast with the rharp visages of
the Chinese in a different shade of
tan. A garnish of pawnshops, their
windows hung with cheap watches and
glittering with nickel-played pistols,
surround the labor joints, and the mo
notony of these is relieved by a sprink
ling of saloons and occasionally a ten
cent restaurant. These embellish
ments, divided by a narrow and very
dirty street, give character to the labor
market district.
There is especial and unusual activ
ity manifest at present in this region,
growing out of possibly the shaking up
which the labor conditions of the State
have had over the Alaska exodus. The
walls of the labor places are covered
with paper signs lettered in glaring red,
men surge in and out the crowded in
teriors and up and down through these
It will not be all coal-passing for
Jack Kelso. It will be "four hours on
and eight off" with him and plenty of
drill and other service, and in action
he would have his station and duty
when "off watch" below decks or at the
The little Sunol left for Mare Island
at 4 p. m., and twenty men were
marched fro-m the rendezvous to board
her, some within an hour after passing
examination. At the wharf a middle
aged little woman had a moment's
chance to give Jack Kelso a tearful
hug. Eighteen hours later Jack was
trigged out in his uniform on the re
ceiving shin at the navy yard and
lined up with an awkward squad in
front of the drill sergeant.
crowds go criers declaiming in loud
voices the jobs they have to offer and
calling upon those about them to accept
the same and go to work.
"Now I want five men to go to Marin
County." shouts one of these labor auc
tioneers. "Easy work, plowing between
vines. Here you get buttermilk, sweet
milk, butter on your bread; blankets at
night; fine climate; healthful work.
Sent off five this morning, want five
more to go on the boat to-night; who's
going? Now, boys, wake up, and go
to work. Here I want a cook for a coun
try hotel; wash his own dishes; twelve
regular boarders and forty at dinner;
must be an all-around cook— no restau
rant cook. Soup, roast meats and pas
try. Who'll take that job?"
No one in the crowd responds. They
Baunter about reading the glaring signs
calling for men to cut fifteen thousand
redwood ties at 8 cents each, woodchop
pers at $1 25 per cord and other pla
cards of the stock sort — apparently, for
no one seems ever to accept the offers,
and they hang there and become dis
Beneath these sensationally drawn
advertisements are seated upon
benches an unbeautiful row of wall
flowers, smoking dirty pipes and look
ing demure. Occasionally a word of
denunciatory comment escapes them.
"Here!" says the crier, buttonholing
one of the most passe of these, "Why
don't you take this job? What can
you do? Can you milk a cow? Fifteen
dollars and found to milk cows: ten
cows, twelve cows, maybe fifteen
cows; who wants this job? Can't do
that? Thirty cents a day and grub to
carry a sign through the streets for a
restaurant; city Job: who'll take that?
I want a dishwasher: fifteen a month
and found. Ain't there a man in the
crowd who can wash dishes?" Still
no one responds; only smoking and si
l*ne» and scuffling of feet.
Then the crier looks straight ahead
as though staring into space, becomes
red in the face and shouts:
"What's the matter with you fel
lers? Don't you want work? Ain't you
here fcr business? That's what I'm
here for. Are you waiting for better
jobs and more wages, or ain't you got
your money spent yet?" Then the
Cicero grows pessimistic: "I tell you,
boys," he asserts, "I never saw the
outlook for work so bad as it is to-day.
You want farm work, eh? Well, where
are you going to get it? The grain crop
is gone; all down the San Joaquin
it won't pay to cut it. They ain't
had no rain, and only a little around
Sacramento will be saved. If you're
waitin' for the grain crop to carry you
out you'll starve first. Now, mayb?
you're waitin' for the fruit crop to
take you out. Well, that crop's gone,
too. Didn't you read the papers about
that big frost on last Monday ni-erht;
well, that killed all the apricots and al
monds. Look right there on the wall;
that's a bank in the city here wantin'
to let a contract to cut two thousand
cord of stove wood: it's apricots and
almonds; and they're cutting out an
orchard because the trees ain't profita
ble any more."
"That's so," interrupts a searred
faced man with a black mustache, "I
went up on a ranch last week to work
apricots and was let out with six oth
ers when the frost struck." Groans
from the crowds follow this statement
and a florid Celt with a voice in high
key declares the scarred-race is a
booster for the house. This is indig
nantly denied by the owner of the
scar, and the pipes of the auctioneer
start up again leaving the quarrel to
bevel down to subsistence in groans.
Presently the voice stops and the
hum of conversation which resumes
from the crowd indicates that the auc
tioneer has retired. He has disappear
ed, indeed, and I seek him in a sid*»
apartment, where he materializes at a
disheveled desk in the midst of a bevy
of laborers who have drained them
selves out of the company in the ad
jacent hall, and have come to apply
for some of the much praised jobs.
"You're a Swede milker," says the
Crier, now transformed into a bustling
man of business, as he looks down up
on the hands of the first man beside
him. A moon face, brushed on the top
by a whisp of yellow hair, breaks into
curving wrinkles at this remark, and
a strong Norse voice asks, "How you
know dat?"
"I tell by that knot on your right
thumb," says the man of business.
"You strip the teat with your thumb
when you milk. You want that milker
Job, don't you? Well, where did you
work last?" and so a formula of -ques
tions and answers are rehearsed, the
Swode pays $2 and is given the address
of the employer, with a letter of intro
duction from the house.
"And what do you ant?" asked the
swift man of the scowling young coun
tenance next beside him.
"Want that buggy-washing job," is
the reply made with a swagger of the
head and a scuffle of the foot.
"Are you a buggy-washer?"
• "Yes.".
"Where did you ever wash buggies?"
"Smith & Mahoney's."
"How :do . you go about washing a
buggy?" ' . ... V '/: .7;;^
■■'■ "Well," with another swagger and
scuff, ;"I jack up the axle,' take the
wheel off the box and see if it needs
greasin'." ;
"You won't do; take another job,"
and he passes to the next man.
"Why didn't you take that man who
wanted the buggy-washing job?" . I
aske . the hustler, ter he Lad gone
through the company with Z much .of
that expedition and success with which
a circus rider gets through a hoop. '
"Why didn't I take him? < Because
the man who wants to do the hiring in
that job is a crank. That fellow is an
American \ and he's bad \ tempered. He
wouldn't last with that crank two days. :
Besides, .ie didn't know his work; he's
never • washed buggies, and there'd be
a row between them before they'd been
together, twenty-four hours. . ; I'll ' have
to put an easy-going German on that
job." •■-;- . :'<::■<
"How do you know he never washed
buggies?" I asked. ■•■■': :
"Because he didn't know how to start
the work.' In washing a buggy the first
thing you do is to take v out and dust
off the cushions : and carpet." • ;>
"The jobs you offer," I remarked,
"are pretty » good, ; are they not ? ; .: Why
Is it you must spend so much breath in
getting men :to * take : them? ; I have
■heard it said that a *ob if. any kind
! was ; hard to ; get in " San Francisco, . yet
you '; seem ' to have • plenty of work to
offer men ; and . you : find few takers.
How is that?" , T; - • •'<V*y--- T ;> : >.-5:' :'::■:;■,(
'■- "Well, i you see,"; returned : the : Crier,
"those men ; out there are .waiting ; for
higher wages. - They make ; the. rounds
of r the : whole street, • read : .the signs,*
' hear the : talk and see .what is ; offered.
They are : just, as . emphatio ,: connois
seurs in selecting a Job ;as ; your wife
is , in buying tea. ■£ They don't I pick iup
> anything f i that S comes - along; \ oh, no; I
I they're after snaps ; and they , are will
;; ing- to wait ; for them, ' They ; won't take
tnv old thins unless they hftTt to* and
they don't have to until the money
■with which they are paid off on their
last job is all gone; then they have to
take whatever they can get and get
"Many of those men you see out there
have been walking up and down this
street on a lookout 'for jobs for three
weeks past, and they haven't taken
one yet. They're holding off, on the bull
side of the market. The employer is
on the bear side. I tell you, the thing
just pivots on a nice center. Let the
newspapers print a report of anything
that is likely to throw a number of men
out of work — any general thing like a
high wind, beating rain, or a bad frost
that destroys crops or fruit — and I will
fee-1 the effects of it the very next day.
When the syndicate or the corporation
sends to this office for men it offers
less than it did the day before; and it
will n<>t offer more until it is absolutely
pinched by the refusal of men to take
its jobs; then its bid will go up a notch
and keep going until labor accepts.
It's a play on the laborer's bedrock
necessities every time."
The condition seems to militate
strongly against progeny, and therein
abides a most vital problem for the
study of economists. "There are thou
sands of families in San Francisco,"
said the Crier, "many of whom are in
the deepest destitution, who would be
glad to go to the country and work on
the farms. But they have children and
children are barred; all the orders I
get say, 'send man and wife; no, don't
want couple with children; we've got
children enough of our own.' So these
people have to stay in the city and do
the best they can; and many of them
have mighty poor pickings, I tell you."
And thereupon is the reflection con
jured, if society shuts off the laborer
from reproducing, who wilt do the la
bor work for the future generations?
"Why don't you take a Job and go
to work?" I asked of one of the men
behind a pipe who, seated on a wooa
bench, was ably sustaining the weight
of one leg upon the other. "What
kind of work do you do? Carpenter?
There you are; three dollars a day with
only 60 cents off for board, and take
your blankets. What do you want bet
ter than that?"
"Well, sur, to tell yez the truth, Ol
don't think the job Is wort' the money
—that is to say, Ol think it should pay
better than thot," was the reply.
"What class of work do you think
is the best for a man to engage in
now?" I asked.
"Well, sur, Oi should give it as me
opinion thot for an ordinary laborin'
mon, the best he could do wad be to be
a cook. There's always a demand for
thim; they get from thirty-five to forty
dollars a month an' found, an' the
clothes they wear costs thim next to
nothin'; an' what's more, the work's
easy, an', for the most part, he's hees
own boss. Did you ever hear thot
story about Alexander the Great an'
the Cynic? Well. Alexander, ye know,
said thot. 'If Oi war not Alexander Ol
wad be Diogene'; an' faith it's thot
way wid mesilf. If Oi war not a car
penter Oi wad be a cook."
The profits in conducting these labor
bourses must be very considerable,
since they are paid from $1 to $5 each
time they place an employe, the fee
invariably being the contribution of ths
One concern told me that its averags
placement was over twelve hundred per
month, and that its books for last year
showed over 17,000 made during that
twelvemonth. At that rate the in
come of this concern could not have
been less than $25,000 for the perioa
named. As there are six of these con
cerns in the city, I estimate that
through them no less than 50,000 per
sons find positions annually, and that
the aggregate sum paid" by the labor
ers for the service thus rendered is be
tween $75,000 and $100,000.
Mr. Thorold, an English gentleman
who has just arrived at Tunis in his
320 ton yacht Lady Godiva, has had
an amusing experience. He was walk
ing his deck one afternoon, when he es
pied a gorgeous Oriental, dressed in the
most striking red and green, being
rowed about in a barge, and evidently
admiring the yacht exceedingly. Being
good-natured and fond of Orientals, Mr.
Thorold engaged the stranger in con
versation, and, finding him interested
in yachts, invited him to come on
board. The invitation was accepted,
and the stranger took occasion to men
tion that he was Princo Mahomet, son
of the Bey of Tunis. Mr. Thorold was
considerably impressed, and, after hav
ing shown his guest all over the yacht,
took him to his saloon, which is fur
nished with wonderful embroideries
and adorned with water colors by the
best masters. The »rinc» won every
body's heart, smoking some excellent
havanas and drinking a bottle of cham
pagne with the utmost condescensio-n.
When at last he took his leave he in
vited his host to return the visit at the
palace of Marsa next day, offering to
send carriages to fetch him.
Mr. Thorold went to a photographer
in the Avenue de la Marine to order an
instantaneous apparatus, which he
thought might be useful at the palace,
particularly as the prince had prom
ised to introduce him to his harem.
Next day the prince came to fetch Mr.
Thorold and graciously consented to
stop at the photographer's on the way.
The man was rather slow, and Mr.
Thorold sought to hurry him up by
mentioning that his Highness Prince
Mahomet was waiting outside. The
photographer came out with the parcel
and found that "his Highness" was a
notorious guide who haunts the bazars
and has often imposed upon strangers
in the most barefaced way. He once
went to Malta, represented himself as
a member of the family of the Bey of
Tunis and was entertained by a number
of officers for several days undetected.
once took a show composed of
cowboys, Indians, Mexican va
queros and American sharp-
shooters through India, China,
Japan and the Malay Peninsula. He
was speaking yesterday of some of the
queer places he "showed" in during hia
tour in those far-away countries.
"I found," he said, "that the Parsees,
the fire worshipers, who are the real
natives of India, gave opera in a crude
form in India over one thousand years
ago, and to my surprise I had to show
against a strong, well equipped organ
iiauon known as the Parsee Victoria
Company, which travels about .Lower
lrtiia, giving seasons of opera in the
native language, with scenery, cos
tumes and properties manufactured en
tireiy by native artists and mechanics,
and presenting operas by native com
"In the hill towns and the coast cities
I found fairly well constructed, com
foriable theaters, but in the small
towns of the outlying districts we had
t » give our entertainments in huge
bamboo walled and plantain leaf
thatched edifices, constructed express
ly fcr their native opera season. These
great halls, often large enough to seat
one thousand people, are lighted vi'h
lamps and candles, and the effect of a
theatrical entertainment given under
conditions which necessarily exist can
be more easily imagined than described.
"On the Malay Peninsula there were
a number of enclosures devoted to dra-'
matic entertainments, where only the
actors are protected by a roof. There
were no seats for the audience, exceut
a few benches on each side of the stage,
which were reserved for the titled na
tives, but for which no extra charge
is made., My audiences squatted on th»
ground, and in the event of a shower
either relied upon umbrellas for pro
tection or dispersed. The stage and
dressing rooms for the actors were at
one end of the enclosure and covered
with a thatch. For lights, bamboo
poles were driven in the ground at reg
ular intervals, and on them were sus
pended cranes containing fire, which
were regularly fed with combustible
wood and tar. The walls were made
of bamboo poles driven into the ground
and braced from the inside. A money
taker and money changer sat on each
side of the single doorway and collected
the entrance fee.
"In upper Burmah I found dramatic
entertainments and pantomime given by
native companies on platforms at the
foot of gradually sloping hills, portions
of which are enclosed and used for the
audience. In nearly all hot countries
the dry season is the only theatrical
season, as it is impossible to give open
air entertainments during the mon
"In Japan I saw an entertainment
given in the dry bed of a river that
runs through th • city of Hiogo. The
sloping blinks on each side were crowd
ed with spectators, and over 200 geishas
marched in a bridal procession divert
during the performance. No admission
to the entertainment was asked, the ac
tors and singers being paid by public
subscription raised by the merchants
when arrangements were made for the
annual tea fair, which is conducted in a
manner somewhat similar to our coun
ty or agricultural State fairs in this
Tho humming: of telegraph wires I* a
phenomenon which has not yet been
satisfactorily explained. It is not caused
by wind, for it is heard during- perfect
calms. It has been conjectured that
changes of temperature, which tighten or
loosen the wires, probably produce the

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