In Poverty Street

Image from the Old Picture of the Day blog. (LINK)

We’re coming up on Labor Day, the economy is in the toilet, and the unemployment numbers are not looking good. Pretty soon we will all be:

IN POVERTY STREET.

It’s dirty, ill-smelling,
Its fellows the same,
With hardly a dwelling
Deserving the name;
It’s noisy and narrow,
With angles replete —
Not straight as an arrow
Is Poverty street.

Its houses are battered,
Unheated and small,
While children all tattered
Respond to the call;
There’s nothing inviting
That’s likely to greet
The stranger alighting
In Poverty street.

But something redeeming
Lies under it all —
Ambition is dreaming
In some little hall;
Some mother is praying
Successes may meet
The boy who is playing
In Poverty street.

Some fathers, depriving
Themselves of all joys,
Are valiantly striving
For sake of their boys;
Some sisters or brothers,
In sacrifice sweet,
Are living for others
In Poverty street.

Though lacking in glory,
And lacking in art,
There’s many a story
Appeals to the heart;
And years that are blighting
With tales of defeat
Find heroes still fighting
In Poverty street.

–Chicago Post.

Carroll Herald (Carroll, Iowa) Apr 15, 1896

Notice this poem was published on April 15th, ha ha!

Image by Paula Krugerud at http://www.pbase.com)

RENO REVUE

By GLADYS ROWLEY

So they buried Banker Bill. And there is mourning in Shantytown…

The first news accounts of an accident, last week, stated that an aged man, identified only as “Pat,” had been instantly killed when he walked into a moving car on the highway between Reno and Sparks.

Next day his identity has been established: He was John Elliott, stated the Journal, “81-year-old former sheepherder…a native of Missouri…a resident of Nevada for 45 years.”

But to his friends — and he had many — he was otherwise known. To them he was “Banker Bill” — who lived in “the big house” — in Shantytown.

Those who live along the river banks, on the outskirts of Reno, don’t bother much about names. The rest of us may call the section “Hoover Island” or “Shantytown.” Still others see it in a modern version of pioneer days, and think it should be called the “Reno Frontier.”

But the men, women and children who live there have other things to worry about. Only one name did I see when I visited a neighbor of Banker Bill’s. Neatly lettered on the side of a box-car house, a realist had written his address: 1000 POVERTY STREET.

There they do the best they can about the business of living. They have learned to minimize their requirements. A little fuel, for warmth, for cooking, is made to go a long way. They frequently go for it to a wood and coal company nearby. Sometimes it goes “on the cuf.” And before the bundle is carried home, they pass the time of day with the company’s proprietors.

So it was that I heard they were “grieving for Banker Bill.”

Mrs. Malcolm P. Armstrong knew him. And knew that the man identified as John Elliott “had been sort of got to these people.”

She introduced John W. Brandenburg, who told me, “We called him ‘Banker Bill’ because we always went to him about money matters.

“If you had to have five dollars, for instance, he’d just hand it to you,” he explained. “But if you asked for $20, he’d ask some questions about your ability to repay the loan.”

Mr. Brandenburg thought that I should talk with another friend of Banker Bill’s, Glen Hinkley, so we went to his home on the river bank — just below “the big house” back of the mill where “the banker” had lived.

Asked where Banker Bill had obtained capital for his simplified system of finance, both men assured me that he had received an old age pension, and had further eked it out with odd jobs, “though his age was against him there.”

Sometimes he had done a little mining. and then there were the borrowers who repaid him – sometimes — with interest:

“He always exacted interest,” said Mr. Hinckley, “if he knew the borrower could afford it.

“But he never collected half of what was owed him.”

Other things, too, the man had shared with his friends:

“He might have seemed kind of cranky — if you didn’t know him,” they said, “but he never turned anybody away without help.

“He’d share his own food, and his own blankets, before he’d let anybody go hungry or cold. No matter what they needed, if they deserved it, they got it from Banker Bill.”

Not often is such a floral offering seen at a funeral as that sent by his friends for Banker Bill’s last rites. He would have liked it, they knew:

“He was just crazy about wild flowers,” they said. “So we went out and gathered a great big bunch of wild flowers for when he was buried this afternoon.”

Nevada State Journal (Reno, Nevada) May 2, 1940

“The Salvation Army Home Service Campaign for $13,000,000 will be conducted during the week of May 19-26. It will spend every cent of the amount in the “Poverty Streets” of the United States.”

POVERTY STREET

The way lies crooked — winding ’round,
Ever, descending — leading down
To alleys dark where children creep;
To gaudy halls where women weep;
In Poverty Street.

One path cuts through the gloomy way,
One woman walked it day by day.
Midst vice and squalor she alone
Calls to the weary — leads them home
In Poverty Street.

They call her “Angel of the Slums”
Ever devoted, on she comes
Ever consoling, gentle, kind
She lifts the fallen, leads the blind
In Poverty Street.

E.M. Clary

Evening Telegram (Elyria, Ohio) Apr 28, 1919

The Old Court Leet in Cross Street ( Image from http://www.thepotteries.org)

THE MEETING PLACE

(A Warning)

I saw my fellows
In Poverty Street, –
Bitter and black with life’s defeat,
Ill-fed, ill-housed, of ills complete.
And I said to myself, —
“Surely death were sweet
To the people who live in Poverty Street.”

I saw my fellows
In Market Place, —
Avid and anxious, and hard of face,
Sweating their soul in the Godless race.
And I said to myself, —
“How shall these find grace
Who tread Him to death in the Market Place?”

I saw my fellows
In Vanity Fair, —
Revelling, rollicking, debonair,
Life all a Gaudy-Show, never a care.
And I said to myself, —
“Is there place for these
In my Lord’s well-appointed policies?”

I saw my fellows
In Old Church Row, —
Hot in discussion of things High and Low,
Cold to the seething volcano below.
And I said to myself, —
“The leaven is dead.The salt has no savour. The Spirit fled.”

I saw my fellows
As men and men, —
The Men of Pain, and the Men of Gain,
And the Men who lived in Gallanty-Lane.
And I said to myself, —
“What if those should dare
To claim from these others their rightful share?”

I saw them all
Where the Cross-Roads meet; —
Vanity Fair, and Poverty Street,
And the Mart, and the Church, — when the Red Drums beat,
And summoned them all to The Great Court-Leet.
And I cried unto God, —
“Now grant us Thy grace!”

*     *     *     *     *     *

For that was a terrible Meeting-Place.

Title: All’s Well!
Author: John Oxenham
Publisher: G.H. Doran, 1916
Pages 72-74

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One Response to “In Poverty Street”

  1. Helen Says:

    Thanks for the link – I’ll go check it now 🙂
    Great post, if aslightly depressing choice of content

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