Lapas attēli

with from eight to ten bunks, are used as sleeping quarters. Separate cars are used as kitchens and as dining-rooms. The bunks in the sleeping cars have been roughly put together, four in either end of each car, leaving ample space in the middle even when two extra bunks are crowded in. There is usually a table in this clear space where the men play cards and sometimes eat instead of in the regular mess car. Even with ten men in one car, they could not be described as crowded.

The kitchen car is fitted with a range, tables, an ice-chest, and numerous lockers in which the provisions are kept. The cook or cooks sleep here in one end of the car, and sometimes an interpreter is with them. The mess car is always next to the kitchen. Through its entire length, in the middle, runs a plain board table, a bench of equal length on either side, with lockers on the walls where the tableware is kept. Usually these cars are found to be neatly kept, for this is the business of the cooks (about one to each thirty men), and they have no work other than this and their cooking. There is always drinking water in plenty, supplied in buckets by the water boys, iced when spring water is not available.

The Greeks and Italians are the most unclean in their living arrangements. The Italians are fond of decorative effects, hanging out flags and gaily-colored rags, and sometimes the outsides of their cars are lined with growing plants in boxes.

The camps are on sidings, ladders being raised to the open doorways. So long as the work is within several miles of the camp, the car is not moved, the men traveling to and fro on hand cars; but when necessary, a switch-engine appears and hauls the entire

camp to the next siding, or switch, causing the men no other inconvenience than, in case of those who bake their own bread, the building of a new bake oven— a small cave in an embankment or hillside often furnishing ample convenience.

Each gang is a racial unit, living in separate cars and usually in a separate camp. Sometimes Bulgarians and Croatians, Croatians and Rumanians and Italians, were found in the same camp, but it seemed that Greeks could not live peaceably with any other race. Croatians and Bulgarians, speaking practically the same language, fraternize readily; but Bulgarians and Rumanians must be kept apart from Greeks, both of the former being secessionists from the Church of the Greek Patriarch, with tendencies anti-fraternal in high degree.

Everywhere the men pay their own living expenses. The companies pay the wages of the cooks, equal to those of the laborers. Fuel, sometimes old ties, sometimes coal, sometimes both, is supplied free. The cooking ranges and the kitchen utensils are bought by the men. Theoretically, the men may buy their provisions from whom they please. The average amount put into the common living fund is from $6 to $10 a month. The Croatians seem to live most generously; the Greeks and Bulgarians most plainly. The reputation of the Croatians among the foremen for generous living may rest, however, more on their propensity to use liquor; for only they of all the races are not sober, tho their sprees are periodical rather than continuous. But even the Bulgarians, said to be the most sober, have acquired the almost universal habit of beer drinking.

Working and Living Conditions in the South

The houses occupied by the laborers on construction work throughout the South are of cheap construction and built for only temporary use. The mild climate does not require houses as closely built as are needed farther north, and tents are often used when the work is of short duration. The houses most frequently seen are shanties built of rough lumber and covered with tar paper. In building them cheapness is the governing principle. A frame-work of scantling is set up, on which boards are nailed vertically, forming the sides, which may or may not be covered with tar paper. Sometimes there are no floors, and the foundation on which the shanty rests is a pile of flat stones or of ends of planks placed under each corner. They are about eight feet high from the floor to the eaves, fourteen feet wide, and from fourteen to sixty feet long. They usually have a comb roof of about four feet pitch, which gives more air space than the flat tops which are more rarely found. Bunks built one above the other, against the walls, serve as beds, while a stove in the center furnishes both cooking and heating accommodations. All bedding is supplied by the men, and consists in most cases of a pile of straw, obtained from a nearby farm, sometimes in a filthy case, but often lying loose in the bunk.

From twenty to thirty men occupy a bunk-house fifty feet long. Cooking is done on the stoves in the houses in winter; in summer out-of-doors, or in little huts built by the men themselves. These huts built by the immigrants are usually of sod, placed in a frame of poles, and are either square with a flat top, or cone-shaped like an Indian tepee. Others are built

of odd ends of plank, scraps of tar paper or tin. Some of the Italians build very attractive huts of discarded powder cans. By cutting the cans down the side seam, after the ends are knocked out, small rectangular blocks of tin are obtained, and by nailing these over a frame of boards the appearance of a corrugated iron house is given.

Where the work is double-tracking, box cars placed on a temporary track near the work and fitted up as camp cars are used. These cars have a stove in the center, a double deck of berths at either end, and windows about eighteen inches square cut in either side. In the cases where a married man, usually a foreman, is among the immigrants, the house is of a better grade. Altho built of the same material as the shanties, they are more closely built and are usually lined with paper. The general plan followed is a three-room, one-story house, one room being used for cooking and dining, and the remaining two as living and sleeping rooms.

The majority of the immigrants do their own cooking, each man for himself, or else they form groups of five to ten, when the men take it by turns to do the cooking for the others in the group. There are a few boarding places on the American plan, but these are rare, and are always where there is a foreign foreman with his family on the work. An occasional boarding group is found where all the men buy their own provisions, each man for himself, having it cooked by the woman who conducts the house, and who charges the men $2.50 for cooking and washing. This custom is found more widely among the Croatians. Of all the different methods, individual cooking is the most prevalent. The cost of living is about

$10 per man for the Croatians, for a month, and the same for the Slovaks, and from $5 to $7 for the Italians. The Italians live mainly upon bread and macaroni and bologna sausage, which accounts for the extremely low cost of their maintenance. At their noon meal, on the work, a whole gang may be seen eating simply a loaf of bread and a pickle or a piece of bologna sausage. At night they cook a stew made of macaroni, tamales, and potatoes and a small scrap of meat. For breakfast they have bread and coffee and bologna sausage. When not working the majority of the Italians eat only two meals a day. The other foreign races eat meat for both supper and breakfast in addition to a good deal of canned food.

The Commissary in Southern Camps

The commissary, on construction work in the South, is an important part of the industry. In many cases the whole profit is from this source. In former years, when the negro was practically the only laborer, it was not unusual for a contractor to take work at cost, or even less, depending on the commissary for his profits. As the foreign laborer has been substituted for the negro, this custom has become less and less prevalent, as its existence depends upon the expenditures of the laborers, and the negroes are more extravagant than many others. Many of the larger Southern contracting firms have abandoned the commissary as a source of profit, since employing foreigners, and maintain it only as a convenience. This has given an opening for the padrones, who are becoming more and more numerous in Southern construction

« iepriekšējāTurpināt »