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Opinion >  Column

100 years ago in Spokane: A social services leader proposed making ‘hobos’ cut wood in exchange for help

 (Spokane Daily Chronicle archives )
(Spokane Daily Chronicle archives )

The head of Spokane’s social services bureau said he had a plan that would solve the city’s unemployment problem, the city’s “hobo” problem and the city’s heating-fuel problem, all at once.

The plan? A city wood-cutting yard.

“There will be a pile of wood and a bucksaw ready for the man who comes to any of the relief organizations of the city for help this winter,” M.H. Pasley said.

He said the plan would reduce the number of men who come in to the relief bureau seeking a meal and a bed, because “now they know they will have to earn what they get.” He said the bureau had been deluged with men coming in off the freight trains “with a hard luck story and an appeal for something to eat.”

“The average hobo objects to cutting wood,” he said.

From the transit beat: D.L. Huntington, the head of The Washington Water Power Co., offered a simple solution to the city’s acrimonious streetcar dispute: Let the people decide.

He said the public should vote on whether streetcars or jitneys (private vans and buses) would be the city’s transit future. It had to be one or the other, because the streetcar system could not be profitable if jitneys were allowed. The people should be the ones to decide, Huntington said. As head of one of Spokane’s two streetcar systems, Huntington clearly believed that streetcars would win any such referendum.

The city commissioners were unenthusiastic about the election idea. They said that if WWP wanted an election, WWP would have to pay for it. They also said any vote against jitneys would not be binding, since the city had issued jitney licenses for a full year and they could not be “arbitrarily canceled.”

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