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If They Went Broke

Prominent Fort Dodge Citizens Tell a Messenger Reporter What They Would Do If They Awakened Christmas Morning Without a Cent

The Fort Dodge Messenger, Saturday, December 13, 1902

J.B. Hine

“What would I do if I were broke?” said Mr. Hine tugging at his chin with his hand, “well, I don’t know? That’s a pretty hard question to answer al. in a minute, but I suppose, why I’d go to work, of course. Anything honorable that I could get to do. Anything at all.
“Did you say you wanted to know how I earned my first hundred? Well, I’ll tell you, I earned my first hundred dollars selling papers. It was at the time of the Chicago fire; I was eleven years old and I made my first money selling those papers. I had the sale of all the papers in Muscatine all during the excitement of the fire.”

C.D. Case

“Well,” said Mr. Case, “I would try if I hadn’t a cent, to find some work for which I was adapted and if I couldn’t find anything I wouldn’t go on the street as a laborer, but I’d try to find a position as clerk. Of course, though,” he added, “I wouldn’t let things run too long. I’d work as a street laborer before I’d do that.

“I made my first hundred dollars clerking or rather, acting as cash boy in a large city dry good store, yes, that was the first money I ever made, as cash boy in a dry goods store.”

Charles Craft

“Well,” said Mr. Charles Craft, “I suppose if I had nothing I’d sponge off some of my friends. Oh, you want me to be serious? Well, I’d get to work, anything I could get, first and then, look for something for which I had a knack. I earned my first hundred dollars hauling coal from the coal mines to Fort Dodge, when I was a young man.”

J.C. Cheney

“Well,” said J.C. Cheney, “if I were without money I certainly would not expect to put up prescriptions in a drug store, or do work on the Messenger. Come to think about it, I think the best and pleasantest place about that time would be Coffin’s home. Yes, just say that I’d go to Coffin’s home.” But when confronted with the problem of how he would get there, he settled back in his chair with a rather baffled expression. Then he added, with a business-like air, “Of course if I was a young man, I’d work, of course.”

O.M. Oleson

Martin Oleson looked up from his books with surprise. “Why I’d get some work. I can’t tell you how or what kind, because there are a thousand different circumstances which would require a thousand different methods of action. I’d get some work to do, tho. You might say I’d just hustle. Yes, hustle around and make some more money.” And from the expression on his face, one would be led to think he could do it.

P.T. Johns

“Well,” said Mr. Johns, of the Johns Dry Goods Company, “I should not worry. No, I never do that. I’m one of these fellows who,m if the whole world went back on me, I’d be just as jolly as I am now. When I got burnt out in North Dakota, I didn’t worry any.” And then a far-a-way look made him remain silent for a moment, but he laughed and said: “When I lived in the old country I used to give my last shilling to the church, but I always made more before the week was up,” and he laughed as he nervously rustled the leaves of a “War Cry” on the desk before him.

(Editor’s note: The War Cry is the official news publication of The Salvation Army.)

Dr. Alton

“Well,” said Dr. Alton, “it depends on where I might be. If I were in a foreign country with no friends and no money, it would be a pretty serious matter. Well, I’d probably look for a job and take the first thing available, anything that would bring me an honest meal. Did you read ‘New Samaria’ by S. Weir Mitchell, in Lippincott’s a few months ago? Well, that man was in just such a fix. He went to this place called ‘New Samaria,’ to look over some mines, and while riding out to them, was held up and chloroformed, and all his papers of identity as well as his valuables taken.

“He awoke in a hospital to find his reputation made as a horse thief, who was drunk in a buggy which he had stolen. He had had a runaway and was dangerously injured.

“Of course no one would believe he was a millionaire and he went thru all manner of difficulties before he could get money. That’s just the same case exactly, only it was a very improbable story, as he never once thought of getting work.

“Anybody would do that as the first resource, if only enough to pay for a telegram sent to obtain his I earn my first hundred dollars? Teaching school. Yes, I’ve been a school teacher.”

L.A. Thorson

L.A. Thomson spoke up in amazement, “Why, I’d work, of course. Work right here on the street, if I couldn’t get anything better, but I wouldn’t be content with that. I’d hurry up and do something better. I earned my first money, exactly $126, by farming for seven weeks steady, with only half a day rest, when I was sick and couldn’t work. I was busy so much that I didn’t have time to spend my money, and what I did spend I squandered on overalls, hickory shirts, a denim Jacket and a straw hats. That outfit cost just five dollars so then I has $121 left as capital to go on.” (Editor’s note: $126 in 1902 is approximately $3,820 today; $5 is about $152, and $121 is about $3,669.)

L. E. Armstrong

L.E. Armstrong said that he would get out on a farm away from the city and start anew amid the green fields and lowing cattle and he did not seem to loathe the newly formed idea in the least. “I made my first money,” he said, “clerking in a store.”

Louis Charon

”if I was left without any money or friends,” said Mr. Charon of the Boston Store, “I would try to get some work. I would hunt for the kind of work that would help me back to the kind of business I had been in and would work with that object in view, getting back to where I had been before I lost my money. I earned my first money clerking, and I learned my grade much as it said in the paper that the English people had to. I was in Germany, tho, and it wasn’t so strict.”

M.J. Haire

“If I went broke, it would not give me much concern,” remarked M.J. Haire, general manager of the Haire Clothing company. “I think I would return to the occupation at which I earned my first hundred dollars, that is farming. I would go directly back to the soil, where there is more calm contentment than in the whirl of commerce.”

C.M. Rudesill

“Well,” said Mr. Rudesill, while he smiled reminiscently, “I earned my first money selling apples on an apple wagon at a political convention. Sold them by the dimes’ and nickels’ worth to the men at the convention. Then I took that money and bought myself an organ to learn to play on. If I was left without any money or friends I think I’d find something to do. That would certainly not be impossible in this day and age.”

D.C. Meloy

“I don’t know what I would do.” Said D.C. Meloy. “I suppose I’d have to work, tho, anything honorable that I could find. I earned my first one hundred dollars clerking in a store; a grocery store.”

S.J. Bennett

”In answer to your question as to what I would do if I was broke, and as to how I made my first $100, I will say: If I was broke, I would catch onto the first job that was offered me if it was honorable. I would not haggle about hours, or conditions, if I could stand them. And I would hold down my job as long as it lasted, or until I could better my condition. The first $100 I earned, according to my recollection, I made working on a farm. I worked from daylight to dark and milked twenty cows after the day’s work was over.”

(Editor’s note: $100 in 1902 dollars is about $3,032 today. However, these men were talking about thei