Like a Pack of Alaskan Dogs


“Ed Paulsen was nineteen in 1931. He was a job applicant. San Francisco. ‘I’d get up at five in the morning and head for the waterfront. Outside the Spreckels Sugar Refinery, outside the gates, there would be a thousand men. You know dang well there’s only three or four jobs.

The guys would come out with two little Pinkerton cops: “I need two guys for the bull gang. Two guys to go into the hole.” A thousand men would fight like a pack of Alaskan dogs to get through there. Only four of us would get through.’

Young Paulsen took to the road, along with millions of others. He rode the freights. Half the time, the boxcar, standing room only, was his home. Somewhere out there, in Kansas or Nebraska or who knows where, there might be a job of some sort.”

Some perspective via Studs Terkel, from the introduction to the 1986 edition of Hard Times (1970), an oral history of the Great Depression.

Jeremy Hatch is a writer, musician, and professional bookseller leading a cheerful, aimless life in San Francisco. He is the Junior Literary Editor of the Rumpus and has a blog which he updates once in a while. More from this author →