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This conversation with Pete Paolini took place at his home in Lewiston, Idahoon October 21, 1976. The interviewer was Sam Schrager.
SAM SCHRAGER: What was it like there where you grew up in Florence that madeyou want to leave?
PETE PAOLINI: I didn't grow up in the city, it was forty miles west of Florence.About half way between Florence and the west coast. Just exactly half way. Nice little town, they called it. We live amile and a quarter out of town in a little acreage there. ^probably eight or ten acres I would say. But we had the landlord then and that was rough. You know, half went to the landlord. Everything we raise and probably more sometimes.
SS: So you couldn't even make a living.
PP: No. No. It was really rough, and that's why my oldest brother,soon as he get out of the army, he came over. And then a sister and a brother follow him two year- no, I think the brother, he's over here in Wenatehee now, next to me, he left home, fourteen and a half years old. He came over to- what would you call a passport that wasn't his?
Well, would it been somebody else? The guy was old enough and smallso he took his name and passport and he came over. So when he apply for citizenship why he had to tell them the whole thing what happened, because he was anxious to come over but he couldn't; too young, you see, but^well developed and strong in you know. So they didn't punish him for that?
Oh, no, no, no, they just made him go through the regular-Yeah, like anybody else. Take out the first paper. I think he was in Alaska when he became a citizen. He went to Alaska when the sawmill up in Elk River shut down and no hope of a steady job so he went to Alaska.
SS: So when these brothers and your sister came over, where did they go,when they first came to the states?
PP: Wilson Creek.
SS: Wilson Creek.
PP: Wilson Creek was a railroad town; lively little town; lot of work.It was a division point on the railroad. You know what I mean, you understand what I mean?
PP: Freight, not passengers. A division point for freight. All the freightin those days, they only travel fifteen, twenty miles an hour and lots of traffic on the railroad then. And when they got 110 miles out of Spokane they had their eight hours in.
SS: What did they do on the railroad? What were they doing?
PP: Some of they on the section. This brother I got over here now, hewas a car inspector right in Wilson Creek. He pass on the freightthey all inspected, they wouldn't go by Wilson Creefyuntil all thewhat do you call the car? They call 'em hotboxes, you know when they start to get too hot, you know, they have to change the oil and then sometimes they change the plate. They don't make the freight car like they do now.
SS: Well, after the war there in Italy it was pretty rough, wasn't it?
It was rough during the war, too. There ain't no question about it.Too much everything was rationed, you know. And even though we out there on an acreage, why, the landlord took his share first- (Chuckles)
What did that mean, then, what did you eat mostly?
PP: Mostly what we call a pasta. You know it's made of such asmacaroni and spaghetti and beans, lentil beans and greens.
SS: Did you have to go in the army there?
PP: Well, that's why I'm over here. Not only looking for work, but I wasdue to go in the army within eight or nine months. But, ah, boy, I didn't like that, I seen enough of I just didn't want to go into the army.
SS: I heard a lot of people that were going in were just going up to thelines and getting shot and—
PP: Well, what the hell, the army- just some ruler decided to go to war,why, that's all there is to it. In those days dis country you didn't have no draft, you know, just a volunteer army. It was late to go to get a passport, but I had a cousin that work for the county in the office, and he said, "I think I can get you through." And he told me just what to do, you know and sure enough they send me to the city twenty-five miles west- and you go to Spokane to pass the physical for the army. Well, over there was a city and he got me some paper , got me started and I went and got a physical examination to see if I was fit to go to the army, before I was twenty-five I would come back, I signed an affidavit. And I passed the examination with kind of a doubt, guy told me what to do and fool the doctor; my heart.
SS: What did you do to do that?
PP: You know (breathes hard and fast).
SS: What did you do, jump around, run around?
PP: Yeah, and then if you started- breathes hard and fast again- yourstart beating faster, see. (Chuckles) Okay, you sign an affidavit before you're twenty-five you'd come back in and pass another examina tion, and see whether they let you stay over there. But I had a sis ter and three brothers by then over here, you see, and it made it a little easier. But unless I had this cousin working at the county, I wouldn't know what to do.
SS: So what year was this?
PP: 1920. In 1920 in April, yeah because by Easter we were out there inthe middle of the ocean; Easter Sunday.
SS: Did you go with friends? Or by yourself?
PP: No, there were a few friends. Not only friends there was a girl,therethat one of my brothers had gone with her, but he came out of the army too, and boy, he beat it! And then send for her and she was along..
SS: She was coming to marry him?
PP: Yeah, yeah. They got married the first day she got over here, gotmarried in Ephrata. They had a nice little girl, you know, gee, I played with her a lot. But his wife didn't like it over here. After three years he had to go back over. The kid, it bother me to see that little baby go back. But when she was twenty, she married a guy and he had some relation in Pittsburgh and she decided to come over. And at twenty or twenty-one, I couldn't tell you which, but one of the two, either twenty or twenty-one, she had a decision to make whether she wanted to stay there and become an Italian citizen or come back here and be an American citizen. So, she come back and the immigration people wrote me quite a few times, they want lot information and I couldn't tell them too much, you know, after all my knowledge limited but finally I happened to think this kid was baptised in Ephrata. So I wrote to them and told them to write at the Ephrata County, you know and the record was still there.
SS: And it was okay then
SS: Why didn't the mother like it here?
PP: Well, she couldn't talk. She didn't know anybody, just got disgustedright away. And it is kind of rough for a young hen you are young, you want to chase around and that was out.
SS: Were there other Italian women there that she could ... ?
PP: Yeah, my sister was there, you know, but that's all.
SS: That was it. Ive heard that most people that come over they lefttheir wives behind or they were bachelors. Isn't that true?
PP: Well, of course, in those days, that was before your time, but therewas a time when a guy could come over and work at least seven or eight months on the railroad and you had to tough her out. The railroad was kind of a rough business especially, you had some relation at the town, you live in a bunkhouse on a railroad car and do your own cook and your own washing and it's not very pleasant. But a lot of then those guys that did come over, and they either send their wife over to America, see.
SS: This living in a bunkhouse; that's what you did when you came overhere.
PP: No, I didn't because I had a sister; she was well established andher husband had a pretty good job, too. And they had a nice home right in town, right in Wilson Creek, nice home, so I stayed there and she done the washing and I slept there and I ate there and paid room and board to them. But it was more like a home than live in a bunkhouse on the railroad. You never get to talk to anybody and you don't know anybody and no entertainment of any kind. You can't go and do anything. You know , yourself when you were twenty years old and live that kind of a life for two or three years, you'd get disgusted, wouldn't you?
SS: Yeah. That would be tough.
PP: Yeah, it would be.
SS: To be doing that- not to have anybody to cook for 'em. Like in thelogging camps they always had a good cook.
PP: Logging camp, that's a different, I spent a year in the loggingcamp. I'm glad you mentioned that. They " the best, those lumberjack- I don't know about now, but in those days, the real lum berjack, they were good people. And play cards every night and cribbage- you know what that is, don't you? Play cribbage every night and talk. Everybody have a -some story you tell. Time went fast in a logging camp. the time I got into the logging camp- those camps, they was clean. You had the clean sheets every week, company furnished sheets, you know. You had the hot and cold water for shower. But two years before that, (Chuckles)the Wobblies got the woods on strike. And if it wasn't for the Wobblies -
SS: That's right, the Wobblies did-
PP: The Wobblies did- In fact, I have a neighbor over here, one of thebest of friends over here, he's been a vice-president for the PFI, you know, this outfit here, he's one of my best friends. And he ad mits, you know. (Chuckles) The Wobblies is what made them clean out the camps. They were full of lice and everything else.
SS: That's what I've heard. I've heard the Wobblies did a good job.
PP: Oh, it was the Wobblies, it was the Wobblies that done it. No question about it.
SS: What kind of a strike was it? In this area where you were, what wasthe camp that you were in?
SS: Elk River.
PP: Camp A up in Elk River. You know, out of Elk River.
SS: When they talked about that strike, did they say they shut everythingdown?
PP: Oh, yeah. Oh, you bet, you bet. The lumberjack usually they stickpretty much together. It isn't like- when we went on strike over here in the sawmill, you had so goddamn many scabs, that they finaly lost the strike. But thadlumberjacks— I've seen those guys- in those days I used to- you know, single, went to Spokane once in a while. Go down used to call^the skidway, Wobblies and all this, you know, but they would stop a guy, "I need a drink." And nobody ever refused them. Everybody would give 'em fifty cents. They were that kind of people.
SS: They took care of their own.
PP: You bet, you bet they did. In fact they were pretty wellIn order to get into Elk River you had to go to St. Maries on the Mil waukee, you know, and then from St. Maries, you took the little branch line or the passenger train that went into Elk River, I think right around sixty-five, seventy miles, I don't know. They made a run into Elk River and . But that conductor there, the only conductor I know, and the lumberjacks come in from Spokane going up to Elk River or stop at Bovill or Clarkia. They knew each other from a hundred miles around. And they didn't have any , no money, but up there the conductor would never throw 'em out. But he said h e never lost a cent. You bet, and something else. I put a year in there and the trouble was that when I got ready to go back to work, to the camps, they were still shut down and I wasn't used to loafing around so I went to work in the sawmill. But otherwise, I want to go back in the woods so bad. You get so that you like that kind of work. You like the people.
SS: The camps were shut down because of the weather or because of thestrike?
PP: Yeah. I've seen in those days, course in those days you had a horse.You didn t have you have today. Everything was a crosscut and a horse to skid your logs, you know, and it got too soft. I've seen the time that you went into Spokane looking for a skiner, they used to call him; two sawyers; four sawyers job to do after the Fourth. Yes, many, many places it was still wet up til the Fourth.
SS: Short season.
PP: Yeah, it was season work, that's what it was. That's why the lumberjack, you never found one that had a wife, you know, they were all single guys. They went to Spokane with a couple hundred bucks-two hundred bucks in day was a lot of money, two three hundred bucks, in about a week or two week's time come back broke.
SS: And drink. Drink, right?
PP: Oh, yeah. Moonshine! In those days nothing but moonshine. (Chuckles)
SS: And then there were all the prostitutes.
PP: Oh, yeah, right. Oh, yeah. And some of those smart gals they wouldget ahold of guy they'd stay with him, you know, and probably took his money away and say,. because he'll get drunk. And some of those prostitutes they'd be honest enough, you know, to, not to gyp him too much. But they got pretty well paid.
SS: These guys though- it's a funny thing about- One thing, you look backat it, you know- It seems that when you blow in- it meant a guy'd make a lot of money and then it's all gone. Right? Then start from scratch again.
PP: You don't have a wife, you don't have a family, no responsibility, nonothin', and it gets so you've been broke once or twice, but you never suffer because somebody carry you along. See. You done the same thing for somebody else. It's unbelieveable. But the lumber jack, they stuck together and they understood it. If a guy was drunk they knew how he went broke, see.
SS: Did you have to know the guy very good?
PP: A lumberjack—»You could spot a lumberjack a mile away.(Laughs)
SS: How was that?
PP: Oh, yeah.
SS: How can you spot 'em? They way he was dressed?
PP: They way they talk, you know. They all had that dirty word in theirmouth, you know. Never open their mouth unless they said, "Dammit!" or, "Fuck you." Or nonsense like that! That's the way they talk. It was no place for a lady to be around. See.
SS: Did you really like the class of people that were lumberjacks betterthen the guys that were at the sawmills?
PP: Yes, I did, I did. There's no question about it. I could tell youthat I've been beat out of a few hundred, quite a few, too, but never from a lumberjack.
SS: What's the difference like between those guys and the sawmillers?The guys in the sawmill at Elk River?
PP: Well, the sawmill, it's different. It's a different breed of a people,The sawmill; you have a family. You go home, you know, to your family every day, but the lumberjack's a different guy, see. He didn't have responsibility. And that's why they live different. But they were honest.
SS: What did you do when you were working in the woods as a lumberjack?
PP: When I went in the woods I saw. Saw, gyppo, see. So much a thousand.
SS: That was you and your brother?
PP: And my brother, yeah. Then you see in those days, what we do, wewent to any camp, if they didn't have a job right then, they'll hold you to stay in and they find somebody, you know. And most of the time it take two or four guys to what they call a strip of timber to log that off. Bring them down to the railroad. In those days, like I say, they logged different. They built the railroad into the woods. Like I said, when we went up in the woods, you know, we went in there and the foreman said they wait a day or two We ate in there. And sure enough it was only a day and a half or so and here comes a couple guys. So the four would go to gether. One was what they call a swamper, and one the skinner, see, and I and my brother were the sawyers. We saw the logs in teen foot length. And the swamper would see that the guy with the team, have a load ready for him to take along. When we got half way through this- our job, those guys, they were both Frenchmen, and they " a fight among themselves, so one pull off and went. And we had so damn much money accumulated- because we were getting just the wage, I think it was $3.40, $3.50 a day-
SS: And you get a bonus.
PP: And the bonus. That was cash you see, but we had to finish our jobin order to collect that. The strip was. so much a thousand.
SS: And you get the bonus on every thousand, right?
PP: Bonus on every thousand at the end of the job. The end of the jobthe foreman would come out and look the strip over and see if it was okay, and then they pay you off.
SS: So what happened when they left?
PP: Then we handle between the three of us, you see. If they get somebody else in probably that guy would have give him $150- 200 bucks. So we done it ourselves.
SS: You handled it, the three of you?
PP: The three of us, yeah.
SS: Could you handle it?
PP: Well, we did this way In order to fix the road, the skid road,sometime we go out after supper, see, and do the little bit of a jobs. Because they won't let you keep any team out, you know, after eight hours. But you could go out and fix your trail. Or if you had a bad tree that was leaning in a different way and it took you a long time to do just what you wanted.
SS: You'd do that after supper?
SS: So did you have to work really hard on that strip?
PP: It was hard until you got onto it. I was new. Just a young punk ofa kid, you know. But stayed with it and we done it, in fact we built a little reputation for doing it.
SS: You mean for doing it- just the three of you doing it?
SS: Did you join the IWW when you came there?
PP: No, no. In fact. They didn't bother you too much then, either. Ifit had come around, But by then they didn't bother you. The IWW, they pulled that strike then that was it. And I don't know, I couldn't tell you too much about that because, just like I said, they didn't bother us. And I kind of think they left you alone for a year or so. Join the IWW, they want to be sure that you meant it. You know and stay with it. I kind of think, that's the way I got it.
SS: Now what year was it that you were in the woods there?
SS: Okay, well, going back a little before that; when you first cameWhen you first came here from Italy; when you first got out there, how did you go, did you take the train all the way out?
PP: Yes, I did. In fact I stopped in Chicago. Course, you know by thattime I was told just what to do, writing to my brother, and he had grown kids- he had a widow. And he told me what to do, so I stopped in Chicago and some people there and they found a guy that was coming into Spokane. So I went into St. Paul with this guy and the railroad give me a pass to come out West. That was pretty nice but they done it right along.. They did want to build the West anyhow. Beside I knew I couldn't go out and do anything else by railroad, see. And I did. I went out on the railroad.
SS: How come you knew railroad was the only job you could do?
PP: Well, what else could you do when you can't talk? And who would hireyou? See, even in the sawmill, unless you know, you know, can talk a little bit so the foreman can But on the railroad, just one job and after one day or two you're on your own.
SS: But you'd never done that back in Italy? Railroads?
PP: Oh, no, no.
SS: So what was it like with the language? To not know English. Wasthat hard at first?
PP: Well, yeah. But what I mean, but not to work, because like I said,it's a job that you learn it so quick, you see, that most particular job was it-
SS: What was it? What was it that you did on that job?
PP: he marked the bad one to pull out and you placed th e newone. See, the track you know what you do there.
SS: Were most of the guys on that crew Italian?
PP: No. NO.
SS: Just you?
SS: What do you mean, you couldn't buy your own cigarettes?
PP: Well, gosh dammit, I finally got so that I listened to them guys, youknow, And and so, cigarrette, cigarrette. (Chuckles) But they would say, "What kind?" Well, I had an idea what they said, and in those days, it was Camel, Chesterfield and Lucky Strike; you very seldom see any other brand.
SS: What about the work itself? Was it hard? Was it real hard work?
PP: Well, its not easy work, no. It's plenty hard, you bet. It's pickand shovel, you know. It's not for a sissy! But, what the hell! You. over here to work! But when a guy is twenty, you know nine- in teen and twenty, afte^ you once get. on the job, it's not too bad.
SS: How was your brother coming along, your other brothers and the sister that were here; were they learning the language fast?
PP: Well, just about like I did, but the^had the 1 anguage pretty good,except they- this one over here at Wenatchee he talk pretty good be cause he came over, I told you, when he was thirteen and a half years old. But, you learn. Jrrom Wilson Creek- I had a brotherthe oldest brother he was in Montana, east of Libby, thirty miles, and he wanted me to go over there, work for him. He was a forman. And once in a while I'd go over there and then I stay there.
SS: What kind of foreman?
PP: He was a section foreman. I told him once, I said, "is there anyin order place that I can get a newspaper, that I can read?" And he point to the Spokesman Review. I said, I can't- and he said, "Keep on looking at it. You can look at it, if you can't read it, forget it." He said, "You got to learn the English sometime."
SS: You spent most of your time with the family. You'd be speaking Italian,you wouldn't be speaking English.
PP: Well, not only that, otherwise, what the hell could you do? Go outDon't like that. to the goddamn bunkhouse and So, I stay with my brother he was married and had family there, and pay board and room with her.
SS: Do you remember when you were first here and like over there, everhaving a hard time because you were a foreigner? Because you didn't speak English? People held it against you because-
PP: Why sure, no question about it, you kind of up against it all the time.You are handicap. You bet.
SS: Did you ever get in fights over that? Somebody give yo u a hard time?
PP: No. No. I know it, even when I first started talking, you know, sometimes they kind of laugh. You know, let 'em laugh. You'd be surprised how many time I laugh at some of those guys trying to say something * (Chuckles) No, I didn't let that bother me too much. You see I was right around twenty-five years old before I even started going out with any girls, you see.
SS: Where was that, in Elk River?
PP: Elk River.
SS: When you started going out with girls at Elk River, who were they?Were they girls whose parents were—
PP: No, they were English. They were born over here. But, you know, toa show here and there, you know. Those days I didn't go to dances much. You don't speak the language good, you know, you kind of holdi^ yourself back.
SS: Well, those local girls, you know, they were kind of like the ElkRiver girls.—
PP: Oh, yeah, some of 'em. This Ilk here is one. ^ retiresheretire over here. Went to a show quite a few times with her. I see her few times, nothing serious. When I finally got serious with one, she was from Deary, married her, Jesus Christ she turn out to be not so good. Give me a couple kids and then I had to kick her out. That was rough. You bet. And that was in the '30's, the early '30's.
SS: In the Depression.
PP: But I this place, I had bought a piece of land over here, youknow, two bits down, two bits month, you know. Tore down the old bath and everything house up in Elk River. I bought five room house for $100 and tore it down and try to rebuild it over here, but soon as I got the roof on and move it in- Those days they were bad ones.
SS: What happened? Didn't the house come back together right?
PP: Well, just tore it down piece by piece, but all the windows and doorsand bathroom fixtures and lot of that stuff you know-
SS: You could use that?
PP: Oh, yes, I could use that.
SS: Didn't some people move the whole house out?
PP: Well, no, it's pretty hard to do that, you know, in those days specially. Now they have the means of moving them so lot of house was moved alright, but just like I did. This big house, we can see it from here, now we got the biggest story houseA here , move it, too. There you can see part of the garage and the window
SS: When you decided to leave and to come to Elk River area with yourbrother, what kind of strike was that? Had you gone on strike, too, on the section?
PP: No, this wasn't on the section. He was a-
SS: Car inspector.
PP: Car inspector, yeah, and the car inspector they went on strike andthey lost out in the strike. And it probably was a good move for me to go with him then, see. And I finally ended up over here.
SS: Did he lose his job in that strike?
SS: What was the union I wonder at that time.
PP: Well, the union, of course they still got it now, too. Under thiskind of a system you had the engineer, you had the fireman, you had the conductor, you had the brakeman, you had the sectionman, you had the car inspector. You had so many different branches into that union.
SS: Oh, they were all different?
PP: You see, what they call the Craft Union.
SS: Craft Union, yeah.
PP: Yeah, sure, that's what we had over here in the sawmill under theAF of L and finally we organized the CIO.
SS: The CIO is an industrial union, it's everybody.
PP: That's right, that's right it's everybody belong to the same union.
SS: That works better.
PP: Well, it sure worked better, you bet. Yeah, he lost out. As I say,that was probably for the best because I ended up with a pretty fair job over here. I got to be a pretty good grader, lumber grader.
SS: How did you get into the mill? Was there a lot of jobs at the time?Openings in the mill?
SS: Elk River.
PP: Elk River of course in those days was at the end of the line and help,good help especially was hard to get. So there was no problem going and get a job in the sawmill. So, then when the sawmill shut down, of course, by that time I was married, family. And it shut down, the doggone thing, and never started anymore. There was a superin tendent down here,' and he knew that there were a lot of people up in Elk River yet, you know work in the sawmill and they udnerstood lumber, knew what they were doing and rather than hire a new guy they would call those guys, not only it was kind of an obligation for the company too to get some of those guys because it's in the company, see.
SS: They'd laid them all off.
PP: Yes. So, it was on the Fourth of July- on the fifth of July in '33why- in the meantime there was quite a few guys over here already from Elk River and this guy had told him about me and another guy, so they called us to come down. We come down and get a job alright. Anyway, six hours a day, two days a week.
SS: Doing what? What were you doing?
PP: Well, lumber; just anything.
SS: What year was that?
PP: In '33.
SS: Two days a week, huh?
PP: Two days a week- three days a week- you go to work eight o'clock,sometime eleven o'clock, well, that's all for the day. One department shut down. When we come back- who called you?
somebody else, some neighbor. And then try to catch a ride with somebody all the time. There's was five- one guy would pick us up, you know, there'd be four and the driver. Many time lose our ride. The driver he was a MoAMtal driver,maybe get to work til five that day or maybe sometime it was his turn to go home early and we had to work another hour.
SS: What did you do then? You didn't have a ride home.
PP: Walk. Iwent two years withQut an automobile. Walk from the sawmill over here.
SS: How far would that be?
PP: About six mile- six, seven.
SS: Each way?
SS: For how much money?
PP: I was making right on an average of twenty, twenty-one, two dollarsfor two weeks work. Every payday.
SS: Did you live on that?
PP: No. But I got acquaint with lot of those guys. One guy still up herenow, Harry Eisman, Most of 'em are dead now. But they had big gar dens, they were raising gardens and they all produced to sell, fruit, cherry, peaches, anything, you know. Whenever I didn't have nothing else to do, I was home, I used to go over and help those guys and I would get produce, fruit for free. And any time they had a cherry tree that was dying out, I could have it if I dug it by the roots for my winter wood.
PP: Don't tell me it was rough! It was rough. No question about it. Butsome of those guys, they don't believe it. But I made it, I paid my bills. Took a long time to do it.
SS: Is that when you and your wife split up?
PP: Yeah, I had it pretty rough because you see then I have to have ahousekeeper, pay a housekeeper.
SS: Did you keep the kids?
PP: Yeah, I kept the kids. Yes, you bet. Oh, yeah, the neighbors wouldif I hadn't.
SS: The neighbors?
PP: Yeah, oh, yeah, all the neighbors stuck up for me. They help me outthat way, you know.
SS: She must not have been much of a mother then for the kids.
PP: No. No, In those days, the youngest kid wasn't quite five and theother one six they thought it was a mean daddy that they had, see.
SS: So, you kind of raised the kids yourself?
PP: Oh, yeah, sure. You bet. And then finally I married this gal overhere, We've been married almost thirty years now and we have a girl twenty-five years old. She got married after she a good job,
SS: Was it - for you to kind of take care of the kids- was that hard tokind of be a mother to themttod?
PP: Well, sure, course. Course, it is like I say, I had pretty good neighbors. One neighbor live in this double house over here, both are dead now, they were wonderful people to me.
SS: They took care of them?
PP: Oh, yeah, they- between them and the housekeeper. But it was rough.I had the debts to pay, you see.
SS: You had the hosuekeeper right during the Depression, then? '33?
PP: Oh, yes, sure, sure.
SS: Well, Elk River, when you were there; what was the town like in the'20's? Was it a booming town?
PP: It was. It was. Just like I said, it was a wonderful little town.Everybody had money because everybody work. There wasn't a guy that didn't have a job. The bums, they didn't even show up. You know those days, on the mainline railroad, bums seemed to go by by the hundreds, you know, but not at Elk River. Everybody worked there, everybody had money. Everybody happy. Saturday night they would have a dance a picture show.A In the wintertime you couldn't go out of town with the car. (Chuckles)
SS: So that meant-during the winter was there a lot of social life in thetown, right in the town?
PP: Well, yes.
SS: I heard that they shut down the picture show on Sundays in Elk River.Pp: Yes, once in a while they get what you call one/horse town, a guy that run the sawmill, the big boss, you know, he wants to be elected the mayor of the town. He wants to run the schoolboard, he wants to run it, not only the sawmill, he wants to run the town, too. (Chuckles) You've heard of a one-horse town, haven't you? That was one-horse town. Just like I say, nobody minded.
SS: Was that Bloom?
SS: Was that his idea to shut down the movies? I've heard that it wassome of the church people —
PP: He was a religious man, too, see. Angie Bloom.
SS: What kind of boss was he?
PP: Well, of course, he didn't have nothing to do with the men. He wasthe general superintendent. He couldn't talk English any better than I can now. Well, I don't know what I should say- but he was a timber cruiser. He made a living as a timber cruiser. In those days everybody, they could steal from Uncle Sam, that had done it, see what I mean? This old cruiser got to know how many million feet of the timber went into the Potlatch for nothing, so he got a job out of it, see. Not that he knew how to run a sawmill. Don't repeat this now!
SS: So he helped 'em set up.
SS: Well, I've heard the same thing about Deary in Potlatch.
PP: Oh, yeah. Well, it was just as much to work then as it is today.Politics, what have you.
SS: And there was all that timber just sitting there, and nobody had usedit or nothing.
PP: Well, this people over here that I told you got to be my best friendduring the Depression? The old man, he was- he run the firs t camp for the original Weyerhaeusers. He ran the first camp. And he said, "Boy, did we get the timber." Weyerhaeusr in those days- the Forest Service was different; A guy would go in there and say, "I want a strip of a timber'.'And he'd buy a section of timber. But he don't buy it over here handy, he'd go two, three miles back over here. "That's the timber I want." And then he gets to cut a right-of-way for nothing He got to get into it. (Chuckles) And this guy, is his name. He said, "We got more timber for free than what Weyerhaeuser bought.
SS: Was that in Idaho?
PP: No, no, no, Cloquet.
SS: Oh, Minnesota, yeah. Cloquet, Minnesota.
PP: Yeah, Yeah.But he had he story. When they first opened up this camp and Johan Neil supposed to run it, and one day it was raining. Here comes the Old Man Weyerhaeuser himself up to the camp. They said he got inside and looking out and he said, "Jo, what a day for horses! What a day for the horses!" And he kept it up for about an hour. Finally said, "Jo, go tell those guys to bring in the horses." Well, I shouldn't talk, I shouldn't tell those things! (Laughter)
SS: It*s okay.
PP: Don't repeat it!
SS: Well, that kind of story- I heard stories about Old Man Weyerhaeuserbefore.
PP: Well, that's the way he got started by stealing.
SS: That's what everybody said. That's nothing new. (Chuckles)Well, in Elk River when you were there; were there many other guys that were Italian working in the sawmill?
PP: No. Well, I would say, there was quite a bunch at that. There wasone bunch - they came right from the border between Austria and Italy there and I couldn't tell whether they were Italian, they talked both languages.
SS: Italian and German, too?
PP: Austrian, yeah, they were Austrian. And they talked bot h the language,And there's one up here now still alive, he's been sick a lot he was from Venice. There was two, three families from Venice. And then there was probably, oh, five, six or seven of those guys from way up north. Right up on the line.
SS: How many families were there? There was some with families, some—
PP: Yes, they had some family, just five, six, seven.
SS: Didn't have families?
PP: Uh-huh, yeah.
SS: And then there were just more guys just by themselves?
PP: Yeah, single guys. There was a boardinghouse- a woman ran a boardinghouse-she had lost her husband and she had two kids; one was name John, the other was Louie. And John finally went to Spokane just be fore sawmill shut down up at Elk River and he went into the freight business. Started in with an old beat up truck and he ended up with owning the United Freight Line and in no time at all got to be a multi millionaire. And I have seen the day that I loan him four bits to go to a dance! See how it goes.
SS: Is that luck?
PP: Well, there was luck and he had guts, too. He had the guts and hehad the mama to back him up. The mama- even the Depression didn't hurt too much because she kept her money, so she had enough moneythe way he started out with a service station, Spokane, and finally bought himself an old beat up truck and he got to running from- Seattle, Portland to Spokane. But he got one of those big outfits - Monkey Ward or Sears or some of those big chain stores, you know, do all the hauling. And the first thing you know he got himself a fleet of trucks finally spread out clear to Alaska. And finally it was sold to United Buckingham. You ever see that United Buckingham.
PP: For a while it was just United, J was ;and I think nowit is run by Buckingham. But to me, I remember many times, he say, "Come on, fellow," because he always had an automobile up there, and money, Mama, see. He worked just like I did, you know, down in the sawmill; the check went to mama and then mama Bought the car alright, but check him down, you see. So he invited me to go to Moscow.or someplace, you know, because he knew that I had a dollar in my pocket. Yeah, and then, first thing you know, the guy's a multimillionaire and I'm a poor guy trying to make a living!
SS: That's the way most of us are. Well, when you started in the mill,what did you start doing?What was your first job?
PP: Loading lumber. In those days we had lots of handwork you know, handlumber, you know. Handling lumber. Especially at Elk River, most of the lumber was dried out in the yard. And I and my brother went out to gyppo work; it was all glyppo work then.
SS: Was that pretty good money?
PP: Well, we made a wage, you know, doubled our wage, see. In thosedays I think, wage was forty cents an hour.
SS: But you could make eighty cents an hour loading?
PP: Oh, yeah.
SS: And you would just work eight hours?
PP: Yeah. Well, course, just about eight hours and maybe any more thanthat. We ate probably lunch and go right back work, but then we quit-
SS: What was it like with the guys in the mill? How did they get along?Did they tease each other a lot, joking?
PP: Well, yeah, but of course, you couldn't talk to the guy in the sawmillRight in the sawmill they never would. Mostly fin the h side. In the dry lumber side. And finally in the sawmill I went and pulled lumber on the greenchain one year. And that was a pretty fair job, it paid, I think it was fifty cents an hour in those days.
SS: But these guys in the sawmill, they weren't as close as the guys werein the camps?
PP: Oh, no, no, no. Because I told you that they're a different breedof a people. Family people, see.
SS: You mean like maybe they had other ties so they weren't- they didn'tcare about the-
PP: No, everybody for themself, you know. In other words, sure somebodydown-and-out they took up a collection anytime; a guy throw in two bits, you see, but a lumberjack if he was down-and-out, still he was drinking and he wants another drink, he didn't make any bones about it, he asked you for a drink; the price for a drink, and he got it.
SS: Okay. But in the mill, why weren't these guys the same way?
PP: They were friendly. But if you ever was drunk and you spend all yourmoney, "To hell with you, I got kids to feed," See. But the lum berjack, he was single guy, he didn't have any kids, he share his last dollar.
SS: Okay. What about say, the union with these guys in the sawmill?Did they care about the union?
PP: They didn't have any union. Finally came, the company union came.
SS: Oh, is that the Four L?
PP: The Four L. And I and a little young Swede, we were working on thegreenchain and we decided, goddamn, we wasn't going to join it. And finally the boss come out, said, "I'm sorry, I don't want to see you go, I don't want to let you go, both of you guys pretty good men, but you got to join the union." Forced us into it. Then when we came down over here, they didn't even ask us to join, just started taking the money from the payroll to pay for the Four L.
SS: Did the Four L do anything for the men that you could see? Did theydo good?
PP: Oh, yes. Yeah, yeah, they did because I- I didn't lost my job, butI lost my advancement three or four times to the boss's son to the boss's son-in-law to the boss's cousin; and if it were not for the union, "Oh, boy," he said, "one nice thing about belong to the union over here," he said, "a guy don't have to. job. If he don't like it, he can go." That's what they told you.
SS: Do you mean that they protected your job?
PP: Protection one way,you had better like it or you could quit.
SS: That's no protection, is it?
PP: Because, they told me it was. You see, in other word, this was inRussia, they didn't hold me over here, like I was free to go. The business agent and timekeeper for the union was a Jerry Johnston was the timekeeper.
PP: find and then the company started to having what theycalled the students, you know, those college guys from Moscow, they come in sometime and they would have 'em in bunches, they'd bring in eight or ten, some of the top guy, you know. Then they put one with me, one with somebody else, one with somebody else, you know, to train 'em, so they would learn the trick with the lumber. Well, okay. I'd train 'em, show them the grade and then once in a while the guy would say, "How do you scale lumber?" Well, showed them how to scale lumber. I didn't have to, but I told 'em. Here comes the first of the year take an inventory, shut the whole thing down; those guys they got to work and I stay to home. And I want to work so damn bad because we wasn't working enough. After I taught those guys, they was the ones that got that extra work and not me.
SS: Were they working regular during that time or were they just bringingthem out from Moscow-
PP: Bringing them from Moscow and they spend four, five, six- it dependsfrom here whatever the supervisor thought, then they send them.to another sawmill out on the coast, you know and made a salesman out of them. See. That's what they were doing. And that's why - when I finally joined the CIO I stayed with the union, and boy, I never missed a meeting. .
SS: Wait a minute; one more thing about this Four L. They didn't stop,say, the boss from giving a job to his son over you? I mean, what happened? Did you lose?
PP: They advance, especially in grading oralmost anything, there's always a job that pay from two and a half to five cents an hour more, you know, a better job. Okay, who gets that advance? The boss's son, the boss's son of a bitch or- you know what I mean. Or maybe the guy bought him a drink or bought him a bottle of whiskey.
SS: And that's the Four L?
PP: That was the Four L, yes. Then when Roosevelt come along and outlawed the company union, they come back from the backdoor. IEU, they called it a different name.
SS: It was the same union.
PP: Yeah, yeah, it was the same
SS: Did most of the men feel the same way you did?
PP: Sure. But what can you do about it?
SS: But you did get better jobs when you were there, right?
PP: After we got organized, yes. After we got organized.
SS: So this lumber grading you did after—
PP: Well, I was big even before the CIO, but never got any place, stayedon that job, never got to advance. But soon as we got organized I get up to the top in no time. And I want to tell you something else, lose the company didn't a goddamned thing by advancing me rather than advance-a guy that they didn't know anything- just because he was the boss's friend.
SS: Sure. Now, look when that started; that organizing- when did itstart?
PP: I wouldn't know.
SS: It was down here, right?
PP: It was down here, oh, yes..We went in with the AF of L, and that wasokay in one way, fairly good, but then, again, C. L. Billings told us "Boy,"he said,"today we have a war on," he say, "I don't want any strike, I don't want any wildcat strike or nothing," he said, "whehever thetoast have a raise, I'll see that you guys get a raise, too." Once, the coast, they got seven and a half cents raise and we didn't get nothing. And^we changed to the CIO.
SS: Is that what did it?
PP: He brought the leader of the AF of L, he got him in the main o-Md.*. S^So when a guy from Clarkston, Chauncey Noll- he was a radical guy, was smart- of course, they called him communist and everything else, but he was honest, I don't give a damn what he was, he was honest, and we organized.
SS: Was he the main organizer?Pi: Well, he was a no- course, they came from outside to organize to help and organize.
SS: Well, what was this guy? What was his name?
PP: Chauncey Noll.
SS: Chauncey Noll.
PP: Yeah, he died, too a couple of years ago.
SS: But what did he do? Was he the leader?
PP: He was just a working , the same as anybody else.
SS: But he was kind of a leader, I know that.
PP: But, boy, when he started in, he'd go to hell anytime for a guy, youknow. If he had a grievance, boy, he had the guts to open it up to the top man, if he had to. He wasn't afraid to fight.
SS: Did he become the head of the local; Chauncey Noll?
PP: Yeah, um-huh.
So, he really believed in the men? I mean, he was on your side?
Yes, no question about it. He was for 4A.
Did he talk much about unionism? You say, they called him a radical.He must have been pretty outspoken then.
He was, he was. The guy's still alive. He's a lawyer, but they madehim a vice president
Him and two other guys, but he was doing all the talking. He was representing the company all the time, you know, and boy, him and this Noll lock horn many times, even when it was this. But when Chauncey Noll died, this . was a pallbearer. And come out in the paper, and said, how did he say? Said, "The guy called me a son of a bitch once," and he said, "and "I was a pallbearer to his funeral." Yeah, he admitted that the guy was a radical and all that a a son of a bitch even, but the guy said that you couldn't buy him out.
SS: Was it hard to beat the AF of L and get the new union in?
PP: No, to beat them it was nothing but a vote and when all the membersfound out what they had done, you see, the labor voted to come in and held a election and we got the CIO and that's all there was to it. And then, of course, the people from Portland or some of them place, they come in and started us out.
SS: When there was a strike- the first strike that you were in herewasthere ever a strike at Elk River? In the mill when you were there?
PP: No. No. What the hell— How can you strike up there? I want to tellyou this story: We had the Hoover- Hoover, you know, you heard about Hoover?
PP: Okay, okay. They shut the goddamn plant down and the superintendentcome out saying to be sure to vote for Hoover. We want the sawmill to run^ And one guy said, " shit!" One guy heard him say that, "Say," he said, "you hear what he said?" He said, "You better vote for Hoover, I bought a house in this town, and I want this goddamn sawmill to run.
Over here, too, Roosevelt that you Couldn'tThe strike here, was that in '36 that they had that strike?
PP: I don't remember.
SS: Didn't they shut the mill down here?
PP: They called the strike and the company locked the gate, see for twoweeks or something like that and it was in the fall of the year. And then they got I don't know what would you call them- the company brought them out-
SS: The strike breakers.
PP: — and going back to work and all that stuff. Well, hell, they lostthe strike.
SS: Didn't they somebody like- the name was Potlatch Rose or somebody likethat?
PP: I called that gal an old bitch so damn many times she got to know me.Oh, probably, oh, maybe, eight or ten years after she was down there night, you know,any time something, you have to go to her, or if you^re lay off or get sick. One night, by gosh, I got a kink in my back; I went over to see her,and slept til time to come home and got paid for working and say, she treated me just like-(chuckles) Didn't they kind of bring her in to try to get the men to go back to work? Wasn't that why?
PP: Well, I told you, that bunch of those guys just like her afew of the leader, and few more of those guys, you know. They got em in give em free pop and a free lunch, a free show and all that.
SS: To get 'em to go back to work.
PP: Well, I tell you, money, money, look what fkxon- not with the money,with the people that want to elect him. him crooked, the first time he ran with Eisenhower, he was supposed to be impeach. Pictures in the paper and all the magazine in the country and then get elected. Why? They bought votes. Hundred and seventy-eight mil lion dollars.
SS: Yes, crooked as the day is long.
PP: They never told us, but Ifinally got itHe ended up with seven homes. Two in California and five in Florida. He sold two already.
SS: I want to ask a little more about Elk River when you were there. Mostof your friends, the people that you spent your time with; were they Italian or were they—?
PP: No, no, no, I didn't have any Italian friends any more than— I madefriends with other people; Swedes and what have you, Norwegians— see my first wife was Norwegian, and I know quite a few. No, plain Ameri can people. I got away from Italian people.
SS: Any reason?
PP: Reason enough. I told you five or six family, most of them they comefrom way up on the border and they were hard to understand and then there were four, five family from the South, the same way. So nobody talked my language, and I thought I might as well talk the English then.
SS: What about the bootlegging in those days? Wasn't there a lot?
PP: Lot of bootlegging.
SS: And drinking and boozing?
PP: Yeah. (Chuckles) One Monday morning I and my brother was coming homefor lunch; we jumped the fence and we had probably half a mile walking the railroad, good to walk in the railroad they kept it plowed out, snow bank that high both side, and all at once we seen something sticking out, that was a bottle, pop bottle full of moonshine, goddamit we was picking up probably fifteen or twenty. They were put in there on Saturday night for the dance, you see, and the guy probably got drunk and forgot 'em or couldn't find 'em, so we went back in there with a gunny sack and got 'em and we sold 'em. And that's how much bootlegging I done. In those day I didn't drink, I didn't touch it. I would like to drink some beer, oh, yeah, beer or wine, but not the whiskey. Now I drink whiskey, the doctor won't let me.
SS: Was there much drinking around the mill?
PP: No, not in the mill because they can you. They can you. But therewas a few of those guys they would start drink Saturday night, drink until Sunday night, and sometime they would come on the job not drunk but sick. Yeah, I ve seen that a lot. In fact there was guy there now, he d been having a hell of a time, operation and doctor. ' older than I am and he just had one foot in the grave long time. Abuse himself, you know.
SS: So there was some guys that did that? Maybe married men too, itwouldn't matter.
PP: Uh-huh. Oh, yes.
SS: What about the gambling? Was there much of that?
PP: Well, the gambling, it was not- say few friends get to gether, therewas nobody
SS: Then like there's a lot of guys played pool, didn't they in downtownElk River? Poolhalls and that kind of—?
PP: Uh-huh. But there was no money bet on pool. Up there, just like Isay, there was two or three poolhalls in there to go to, and cardplay card, you know.
SS: Who was that guy? Harry Adams had one of those poolhalls?
PP: Yes, I knew him so well. His son is the mayor of
SS: Yeah, that's right. I heard Harry was quite a- really knew how totell stories. Great liar, huh?
PP: Once, you know- he was baldheaded. The year before I came to ElkRiver, he had a poolhall right on the corner and everybody going to work would stop in there, you know and old Harry had this bald head. And one guy came along, he was going to work, felt his head, "By God it feel like my wife's ass." Old Harry, said, "It does, doesn't it?" Jesus christ the guy got mad, call him out. "I'll kill you son of a old bitch!" (Laughter) When the thing got rough, you know, "I'm not afraid of any damn man." I like him, he's a nice fellow.
PP: supposed to eat my lunch, if you want some more information, I'llbe over here in ten minutes.
SS: Well, maybe I should get going, I'm supposed to see somebody this afternoon. But maybe I'll try to stop by again another time when I come down.
PP: Fine, I'll be around.
SS: If I can, I will. The only thing I was going to ask you was; thedifference when you got up to get up, you know, you got to move up, was it in the lumber grading?
PP: Yeah, yeah, um-huh.
SS: What was the difference- at Elk River you had a low job-
PP: No, no. I didn't grade in Elk River. I started grading over here.And it was so- I got to be one of the top- that's why I don't hear any more, run one of the biggest machine they had, run big board that wide and that thick-
SS: The planer? Was it in the planer?
PP: In the planer, oh, yeah. Right next to the planer there, see, gradingit. But you know, even then, the boss And once I was supposed to go up again another nickle an hour- what they call a replane, and he passa me up, never say nothing, and I could a holler, but I didn't. I thought, well, I'm okay over here, it's okay. So something came up two, three months afterwards and I don't remember just exactly what went- finally then I nail him down. I said, "How come you pass me up two, three months ago?" Said, "I don't know, why?" So, I went over to the union right away. I said- you know, told the union what he'd done, told the steward and right away the boss said, "Well, I'll fix it up." So a job came up here to another sawmill four miles from here, they were buying all the lumber that the sawmill will cut, he send me up there to check out this lumber, and grading it and I would get a nickel an hour more and a half hour overtimeA making out my tally sheet.
SS: So that's what a union does for you?
PP: That right. That's right. If the union wasn't any good how come thelawyer, the dentist, the undertaker, the preachers, how come they be long to the union?
0:00 - Growing up in Italy with little farmland; family who was here already; why he came to America; getting out of army duty; where he lived.
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Segment Synopsis: He grew up forty miles west of Florence on a little acreage. Half of what they grew went to the landlord. His brother got a false passport to get to America. His siblings settled in Wilson Creek, a division point a hundred miles west of Spokane. He came to America because he wanted work and didn't want to go in the army. He got out of physical by making his heart beat fast. He crossed the ocean in 1920 with his brother's fiancée. She didn't like it in America and went back with her husband; her daughter returned when she was grown. Most men "toughed it out" working on railroad section. He boarded with brother and wife.
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Segment Synopsis: Lumberjacks were a great group of men. IWWs brought the better conditions. Lumberjacks stuck together, while many sawmillers were scabs. Lumberjacks gave their own money for drink; they always paid back the conductor on the line to Elk River. He only left woods for mill because of short season. Blowing in in Spokane - girls took the men's money. How lumberjacks stuck together. Unlike lumberjacks, sawmillers were family men.
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30:00 - Brother forcing him to read the Spokesman Review; dating in Elk River at 25; unhappy first marriage, tearing down his house in Elk River and rebuilding in Lewiston
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Segment Synopsis: Section work was hard. His brother made him read the Spokesman Review when he wanted an Italian paper. Foreigners were "up against it." Dating at Elk River when he was 25 - movies, not many dances. Unhappy first marriage. Tearing down his house at Elk River, he rebuilt on a lot in Lewiston.
39:00 - Brother losing his job due to strike; coming to Elk River and availability of jobs; working in the orchards in Lewiston; who raised his children after wife left
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Segment Synopsis: Brother lost job in car inspector's strike, so they came to Elk River. Availability of jobs in Elk River. Preference at Lewiston for ex-Elk River workers in 1933 - little work and lots of walking. He worked on orchards farms for free produce and wood. Housekeeper and neighbors helped raise his children after wife was gone.
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58:00 - Loading lumber in Elk River; forced to join four L's at Elk River and Lewiston; not getting promoted
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Segment Synopsis: Loading lumber at Elk River mill. Sawmillers were family men so they didn't support each other like lumberjacks. Forced to join 4L union at Elk River and Lewiston. When the boss's relatives got promoted over him, the union representatives (who were company bosses) told him he was free to quit.
63:00 - College students getting men's jobs; favoritism in promotion in the company; how Potlatch got around company union outlaw
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Segment Synopsis: College students got men's jobs for extra work after the men trained them. Favoritism in promotion. After Roosevelt outlawed company unions, Potlatch came through the back door with IEU. His commitment to unionism - as soon as they got organized, he went to the top. Changing from AFL to CIO - Billings failed to live up to promise to raise wages when they raised on the coast. Chauncey Afoll, the head of the (cut off)
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77:00 - Not interacting with other Italian-Americans; selling bootleg whiskey; no drinking at the mill; being fearless
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Segment Synopsis: He had little to do with Italians, whose dialects he couldn't understand. Discovering and selling a cache of bootleg whiskey. No drinking in mill, but some came in sick Monday morning. Little heavy gambling. Harry Adams' joke about his bald head and another man's wife; his fearlessness.