”Men, go back to work. When I get home I will give you a square deal! ”
It was 1919 and President Wilson was in France orchestrating the c reati on of the League of Nati ons.
In New York a seaman’s strike had paral yzed harbor shipping.
TidellV Dan Roland, second engineer with the Red Star Towing Company, listened as the Presidenti al te legram was read to a packed-to-capac ity union ha ll crowd.
The President ex horted the men to “go back to work” for the sake of the country and the regional economy.
Dan remarked that “when the President of the country speaks to you like that, you couldn ‘ t turn him down! ” And the seamen went back to work.
TidellV Those were less compli- cated times when c iti zens were more like ly to believe a Presidenti al promise and working craft were powered by coalfired boilers and ” up-and- down” rec iprocating steam engines.
Dan’s and others’ recollections create a picture of life aboard when bulk cargoes were transported by barges pulled by steam tugs.
The anecdotes are imbued with an immedi acy and presence, and details are fl shed-out in the vernacul ar,
for the recoll ecti ons are alive with the excitement or tension of the long ago event.
“One spring day in 1919 I heard fo ur short blasts, the danger signal! I looked out the engine room port.
There she was, the Mexpect, the Mexican Petrol eum Company ‘s tug, one of the most powerful in the port of New York.
We were on a collision course just west of Buttermilk Channel, the tide ebbing fast.
To starboard, the Mexpect, smoke pouring out of her stack, a huge bow wave and a light scow side-tied, had the tide fair and was bearing down on us.
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