Upton Sinclair: A banker’s post-war nightmare
From Boston (1928)
Rupert Alvin would have been worried about his runaway daughter, if he had not so many troubles at home to keep him occupied. It seemed as if all the devils in Puritan New England broke loose that summer of 1919. There were a couple of million soldier boys turned out of the training camps, and flotilla loads returning from France, and no jobs to go round. They took to crime, to bootlegging, to striking, to demanding bonuses, to all kinds of behavior which kept bankers lying awake at night. The war-orders, the great prop of prosperity, had been pulled from underneath, and business was like a man waking up on the morning after a celebration.
The cost of living had been going up all through the war, but now it went faster than ever; there was a shortage of everything, and nobody could live on his salary. Out in Seattle there was a general strike, almost a revolution; while close at home, in Lawrence, a strike of mill-workers had to be put down by kidnaping the leaders and beating them insensible with brass “knucks” and blackjacks. And then, in Boston, the most incredible event of all – a strike of policemen! Of the safest “cops” in the whole of civilization, Irish-Catholics trained in humility and obedience in parochial schools especially established for the purpose! Truly, it seemed the end of Rupert Alvin’s world.