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I took my mother her medication, today.  She's 87, so I fill up her plastic, daily medication boxes.  We almost lost her a year ago, due to getting just one pill wrong on a prescription it turned out she no longer needed, so I am very happy to do this small task for my beloved Mom.

As I filled the boxes, she chatted with me ... before the holiday, she'd had a lovely phone conversation with her only cousin still left alive ... and look what she'd sent in her Christmas card:

The dead man leaves a wife and two children.

It was a copy of a micro fiche page from a Philadelphia newspaper from May 2, 1894.  The page contained the story about how my great grandfather died, at work, as an engineer for the Southern Electric Light Company.

At 7:45, he noticed that the large eight inch pipe that supplies the big 500 horse power dynamo was vibrating.  Thinking he could remedy the trouble, he climbed to the top of the pipe,

For those who think we can still afford the luxury of meta-play on this electronic playground, I'd like to share some personal family history and what I'm looking at on this one newspaper page from 1894.

One of the children left orphaned was my grandfather.  He grew up to be quite an agitator and was part of the strike that finally brought the UAW to Fords.  He died with his union pin in his lapel, but on the day his father died, he was just 2 years old.  

... but the vibration was so great that he crawled back to the platform that runs along the the south side of the building.  On this at the time were the engineer and the others injured.  The pipe runs through the partition and over the top of the boiler.  Five minutes after the engineer had crawled down a creaking sound was heard, quickly followed by a loud report.  The pipe snapped ... and with all the force of 1000 horsepower means it crashed through the double wainscotting that divided the engine room from the dynamo room ...before they could escape ... the engineer was almost directly in front of the hole made by the force of the steam and inhaled its full force.

There were three others who were badly injured, but survived. One is recognized as a hero in the article.  

An alarm was sent out ... as soon as the steam was sufficiently cleared away, the prostrate body of [one of the workers] was found in front of the boiler.  He had fallen after he'd climbed to the top of the boiler and shut off the steam.  His bravery may have cost him his life. The skin was peeled off his face, arms, and breast, and must have been in this condition when he went to turn off the steam.  This, in addition to the shock received in the falling, nakes his condition serious.


My great grandfather was not so recognized in print, but the family story has it that his co-worker did live and later visited my great grandmother to tell her that my great grandfather pushed him out of the way of the first, horrific blast of steam, and that's why my great grandfather was in the direct fire of it.

Regardless of whether or not he was a hero, or if it was just a story told to a grieving widow recently immigrated to this country with 2 children under the age of 5 --  he was dead.

Very sad.

Awful story.

Tragic even.

But here is what I want ALL of you to hear, know, and hopefully keep in mind:

The Southern Electric Light Company didn't even pay to bury my great grandfather.

Let that sink in.  

He was dead.  No income coming in at all, so his widow took out a loan with the local undertaker to put him in the ground. And, she took in laundry to keep her 2 orphaned children alive.  And, the undertaker collected his 10 cent payment, after mass, every Sunday on the church steps.

There was no Social Security to help keep his orphaned children alive.
There was no disability for the maimed hero.
There was nothing.
Bumpkiss for that immigrant Irish widow and her two kids.  

Let me share with you some of the other news in the this one page of this newspaper on that ONE day:


Police Charge a Mob of Thousands and Several Heads are Broken

Five Hundred Militiamen Under Arms for a Summons

Workman driven from factories by unemployed -- Attempt to hold up a train -- The Mayor puts a stop to Public Gatherings

The trouble began this forenoon when a mob of about 2000 started to raid the factories on the flats and drive from work the men employed therein.  The first attack was made on the Variety Iron Works ... a force of seventy-five policemen were called out.

Fight on the Bridge

The rioters proceeded to the Upson Bolt Works where 1500 men were induced to quit work before officers arrived.  When the police came upon the scene the men made a stand and hurled bricks and stones at the officers.

Orders were given to charge them with clubs.

Militia Under Arms

This afternoon, Mayor Blec announced that no more rioting would be permitted. He issued a proclamation commanding people not to assemble on the the streets and called upon the Cleveland Grays, the Gaitling Gun Battery and resident companies of the Ohio Guard to assemble their armories and await his call.

And, for some happier news, at least from my perspective.


The Great Northern [Railroad] Men Win Their Right for Restoration of Wages.

Minneapolis, MN - After weeks of idleness the employees of Great Northern Railroad go back to work after having won their fight through the medium of arbitration.

I actually found a link about that one win with Google, hence the link. :)  But lest you think the news of the day on this one page is only about parboiled worker's deaths and the working class being pitted against one another for survival, here is another article about something else to consider:

Accused of Extreme Cruelty to Aged Lancaster County Paupers

Lancaster -- It became known here to-day that the State Board of Charities, at the instance of Governor Pattison, has for some time past been conducting an exhaustive inquiry into the administration of the county almhouse in this city.

Specific charges are made against the matron who is accused of extreme cruelty to some of the aged inmates  She is said to have prevented them from recieving food and delicacies sent to them by friend while sick; to have locked them in their rooms, and to have subjected them to such inhumane treatment that several of them have died as the result of it.

Which brings me back to my beloved, Mama, at 87 who is living out her life in dignified independence supported in half by Social Security and by the other half by her three daughters (the great granddaughters of that dead man) who got to go through college with grants and student loans at state universities.

So.  Here is my BIG question to ALL of you:  

When do we cut with the meta-divisions and UNITE to take to the streets with a strategy for UNITY and the best defense is a pro-active offence?

I'll end this trip through one very real day in history, and my day today, with a final rant and plea I put together using Martin Niemöller as my inspiration:

They came the for immigrants whose first-language was Spanish to toss them back into homelands we’d made un-livable with corporate sponsored wars and drug lords, and I didn’t speak up, because I was a native born, US citizen and I was scared about unemployment.

They came for the 4 million teachers and their unions claiming THEY are to blame for dismal education test results (using testing data put out by the very industry crew that is trying to dismantle the public school system and tap into on of the last bastions of public wealth) , because some teachers and some schools are not good.  [Can we talk about using a shred of truth compared with the great reality to do a great evil here?]  BTW This is a two-fer for them.  End an educated electorate AND rob the public piggy bank.

They came for civil servants’ pensions who paid into those funds for 20-30 years at rates like 9.7% of their salaries and weren’t allowed to be a part of Social Security, and sold everyone we should just trash those agreements with the people who taught our kids, policed our street, plowed our snow, put out the fires, and took our loved ones to the hospital – let them starve in old age and be homeless – because we don’t care about the people who spent their lives supporting the CIVIL SOCIETY in this country.

They came for the citizens below 60, 50, 45 or some negotiated age, regarding Social Security as an "entitlement program," because I’ve bought the upper 1%’s kool-aid that all that wealth and surplus we collectively built up, together, is some sort of a welfare program.

They came for the planet! that they wanted to keep raping and pillaging because it made them a buck, and I’m sorry.  I’m frankly too exhausted with the 2 jobs and paperwork efforts to keep the banksters from taking my home to tackle THAT issue, too, because I need to be able to drive the car I have to the low wage job that there is no mass transit to get to.  Oh God, what is the gas price, today?

They came for all of us and sold us fear and war without end to feed the MIC, because we were afraid of mushroom clouds and the death of all of our children ...  but now, I’m so scared about my underwater mortgage and unemployed spouse ... and ... you want to talk with me about torture prosecutions?

They came for the labor movement, long ago.  And it appears that they have won, because doesn’t EVERYONE hate unions, now?

They came with a R or D behind their elected name, and started doing deals, and negotiating compromises on issues we didn't care about, because the Supreme Court right now sucks ... and companies can buy any law or decision or elections they want.  What does it matter what I think or want?

Kos community, I love you, and I have a little hope left, so I have a plea.  I'm begging you all abjectly.  Please.  Please. We can continue to play intellectual meta with and against one another, OR we can choose to draw a line, together.  We can be a real force if we band together and use this community to support fighting against this nation devolving into becoming a repeat of the one page in history I shared ... or we can use our time and power to well, debate if God exists.

I humbly suggest the following for a UNITED focus for this year:

  1. Social Security as a firm Third Rail.
  1. End the Wars!  No more treasure there.
  1. Support the remnants of our Union Movement, including the Teacher's Union and Public Education.

Best wishes and now, I'm a bit emotionally exhausted.  I'll try to respond if this diary gets any traction.

UPDATE: Holy cow.  Rec List, that fast? Hopefully that means we have a hunger, and a growing awareness that we need some solidarity, here, given what we're facing?  Lord, I hope so folks because I sure as hell don't want to see this historical, newspaper page become current news for me or you or our kids or our parents. Thx all.

Originally posted to bkamr on Sun Jan 02, 2011 at 05:14 PM PST.

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