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Chapter Six
The East and England, 1911

One of my closest friends at Mines was Bill Dugan, a post graduate from Norte Dame University where he had gained quite a reputation as a baseball pitcher, was known as Wild Bill. Bill and I got the wanderlust and itchy feet early in the spring of my sophomore year; he because of girl trouble as his girl Peggy Bryan had returned his engagement ring, I just because I wanted adventure. We first decided to go west and partly work our way around the world, another fellow, Davis from Pittsburgh had joined our idea then. Eventually Davis started west alone, never going further than San Francisco. Bill and I each had a little money, so foolishly started off first class, rather than conserving our money. We went to New Orleans, then around to New York by first class steamer. Wherever we stopped on this entire journey we always 'mooched' a few meals and lodging at the Sigma Nu house if there was a university or college there. The ones that strongly impressed us were the chapters at Tulane, Columbia, and Brown universities; we were not too proud of some of the others.

By the time we arrived in New York we were getting low on cash, but we had to see New York. We contacted a distant cousin of mine, Harry Biegg, in Brooklyn. Harry and his brother John owned and operated a large sewer pipe manufacturing company supplying in part, sewer pipe to the cities of Brooklyn and New York. Harry and his wife Mary had spent part of their honeymoon several years previously with us at our Denver Race Street house, so I knew them pretty well. They were well to do, had a big Locomobile automobile with full time chauffeur, but as New Yorkers so often do, lived in a small one bedroom apartment over on Front street in Brooklyn, so did not have room for Bill and I to sleep there. However, they took us in for any and all meals, and let us use the Locomobile and driver a great deal during the day time.

Harry knew all the politicians and night life people and at nights certainly showed Bill and me the night life of New York, at its best and worst. Of course Harry furnished all of the money and he was a jolly good spender. Being short of money, Bill and I put up at one of the famous Mills Hotels, which were built by a Mr. Mills to provide lodging for poor men down and out. I had a simple little room for 30 cents a night. To save face, Bill and I told Cousin Harry we were staying at some fairly good hotel; I have forgotten its name, nearby the Mills. So whenever Harry or the chauffeur would come after us, we would walk the few blocks from the Mills and be waiting for them at this better place; also we always had them drop us off there, but we really saw New York.

Soon we decided we had better get going if we were to go around the world as planned. We answered a want-ad from an employment agency. After paying a $6 fee, were given jobs as 'cattle tenders' on a big cattle boat sailing from Boston to Liverpool. That night we went to Boston, via one of the old Fall River Line boats, which was an overnight trip, at the expense of our employer; who was actually the 'Swift Packing Company.' We had to wait two days in Boston, which we spent as quests of the Prettie family. Young Joe Prettie was a Sigma Nu at Mines. Mr. Prettie owned a cigar factory in Boston. The Prettie's treated us royally and certainly showed us Boston, as much as possible in two days and nights.

Finally, we sailed early in the morning in this freighter cattle boat. It was a rather large boat, as I recall, about 10,000 tons. Its various decks were loaded with mostly cattle, but there were several hundred heads of sheep aboard, on the upper decks.

They put us cattle tenders n a large crude room at the stern of the boat down at about water level. When the weather was even slightly rough, we had to close all port holes and it was pretty close and stinky. There were about fifteen of us cattle tenders, all had to sleep and eat in this one small room. In the center of which was a plain wooden table -- our 'dining table.' Each of us were given a tin plate, tin cup, a tin knife, fork and spoon. These had to last the trip, no replacements. Around the edge or walls of this room were bunks, no mattresses nor pillows, just two light blankets. We'd use our suit cases for pillows. Besides Bill and myself only one other man could speak English, to any extent. The others, about a dozen of them, were Russian Jew immigrants who had not made it out in America and were working their way back to Russia. They were a dirty, stinking, lazy lot of low class men, all, as I recall, wore heavy full beards during the entire trip, which lasted fourteen days, as we encountered quite a little bad weather. Things became so foul in that room that I finally sneaked up on deck and slept on hay with the cattle.

We cattle tenders were treated disgracefully, more like animals than humans. No washing facilities other than the buckets we used to water the cattle. Of course the Russian-Jews probably would not have use bathroom facilities. During the two weeks the air was generally foul in that comparatively small room with port holes closed due to stormy weather. The food was disgusting and given to us as if we were animals. For breakfast we were given loaves and tea. The loaves were really large hard crusted rolls, certainly not fresh, no butter, jelly or jam. No milk nor cream, but they did put a small pitcher of molasses on the center of the table, for those who wanted to sweeten their tea -- try it sometime, it really is not bad. A few mornings they treated us to a mush, something like oatmeal with thinned milk and extra molasses for sweetening. The breakfast loaves were put on our common center table in a large pan, supposedly two for each of us, however, we had no table manners and would all start grabbing for as many as we could get so the distribution was seldom fair and uniform. Surprisingly there were no serious fights at meal times, but blows were the common thing.

At noon we usually had curry and rice, the curry in one large pan, the rice in another, never was there enough for hungry men, as we all grabbed with our hands or tin cups, of course not waiting our turns for the single serving spoon. At first, Bill and I could not stomach this curry and rice, after all those fellows had pawed into it with their filthy hands, but we soon became hungry enough to eat and relish it. Queer what animal instinct come out in all of us when we are actually hungry. In the evenings they again gave us loaves and tea, however, with jam but no butter of any kind.

Sometimes Bill and I, as did the others, would get an extra loaf in the scrambles and hide it amongst our clothes to eat in private later. Bill became very sea-sick and had to lay in his bunk shelf a couple of days and just could not eat anything. While he was sick, I walked by the foreman's bunk room, which was empty, and they had just finished eating; those bosses were given good normal food. They had left a tin bowl of apple butter on their table that was too much of a temptation for me. I immediately thought that Bill could and would eat one of our hidden loaves with some of this gorgeous apple butter on it. So, I hurriedly sneaked in and grabbed a handful and rushed back to our hole where Bill was alone in his bunk. I broke one of our loaves and smeared the apple butter on it, and Bill, much to my delight, asked for it. He took a big healthy bite in a hurry because we could not risk being caught with it. As he gulped it down, he gagged and spit and really turned sick. I took a bite to see what was wrong and did I find out? It was bitter crude brown soft soap!

We 'cattle tenders' in general had it easy as far as work was concerned, watering and feeding them twice a day, about three hours in the morning and three in the late afternoon. The rest of the time was our own which Bill and I spent on one of the rear decks, to which were restricted, not being allowed the run of the ship. The trip would have been a real pleasure, if we had known enough to have brought along some canned food and have been able to keep the others from stealing it. We received no pay of any kind, but under the law had the privilege of returning, without working, on that same boat on her next return trip; of course it was our intention to work our way around the world and we were not interested in this return trip until after our boat had sailed.

We were getting low on money, pitifully so, when we arrived in Liverpool, so we put up at a six-penny lodging house; i.e., twelve cents a night for the privilege of sleeping on cots in a room with about six other 'bums,' of course this was in the very poorest part of Liverpool. We ate at the cheapest places available, and they were cheap in every respect. We soon found the cheapest food available was fish and chips at low class eating places. For six pence they gave us a really big plate of fairly good fried fish and fried potatoes. Our other meal, breakfast, was consistently either scones or roll and tea, no butter, for tupense. We certainly saw the great city of Liverpool, walking all over it.

One night a fellow sleeper robbed Bill of what money he had. Ordinarily we each carried half of our limited cash, at nights putting it under or in our pillow. This night Bill carelessly left his in his pants that were on the little chair next to his cot. I was sort of half awake and heard two fellows near the door talking about money and jingling it. As one of them hurried out the door I smelled a rat so to say, so awakened Bill and upon checking found his money gone. I rushed down the stairs, told the watchman-clerk who in turn called the Bobbies, policemen. After hearing my story, they on their own arrested the fellow next to the door whom I had heard talking to the thief. They ordered Bill and me to appear in police court in the morning which we did. The arrested man soon cleared himself as he had only large denominations of money that he proved was his pay. He was a sailor and had just gotten into Liverpool that night on his ship. His ship was the famous Lusitania the sinking of which largely precipitated our entering World War I. Unless I am mistaken this was the Lusitania's maiden voyage.

Bill and I saw the 'people' of England as they really were, neither as tourists nor soldiers to whom the English are inclined to cater. The English could readily distinguish Bill and me as being Americans because we were wearing our college clothes, our pants being decidedly peg-leg pants, meaning very large and baggy at the top, tapering to tight at the ankles. This was then the style in America, in contrast to the then straight tight pants of the English. Bill also had two rather prominent front gold teeth, which marked him as being American. In those days the common run of English had very little dental work, only the rich and royalty enjoyed the luxury of gold capped teeth. So wherever we wandered we were marked as Americans. We tried to get any kind of work, digging ditches, anything.

Wherever we went, we generally were called 'Yankees.' And, I assure you the English then considered the word 'Yankee' as being about as low and contemptible a term as they could apply to anyone. We actually had school age children jeer at us on the street, yelling, 'Yankees!' When we appeared as witnesses in police court, as described above, the police sergeant balled us out as if we were the accused and told us, "We should go back and stay home with the rest of the damned Yankees." More than once when we asked for a laborer's job where they had Help Wanted signs, the foreman or boss would only answer in terms such as, "We don't want any damned Yankees around." As a result, I have had little love for the English and I am confident that their apparent friendship to America is nothing but hypocritical, selfish expediency and history bears me out in every detail.

After some twenty days in Liverpool, we became a little homesick, were discouraged in not getting work and were really short of cash. We got jobs to work our passage home on a freight, helping the cook. Bill's mother in Milwaukee had written him practically disowning him and refusing to even give him any more money, and because he had left school without telling her, and his fiancee had broken with him as you recall. Hence, Bill was not really as anxious about going home as I was. The evening before our boat was to sail, Bill became friendly with a Scotchman, who was bumming his way to London for the coming celebrations and coronation, and decided to join up to London. So I went home alone, giving Bill practically all the money we had, which was less than ten dollars.

Bill's crazy experiences were a story by themselves. They walked almost all the way from Liverpool to London, some 220 miles or so and arrived practically broke. Bill slept in parks and resorted to picking up, in a sense stealing, vegetables and fruit in the large markets where the farmers brought their produce into the city.

Eventually he tried to see the American Consul, but believe it or not, the butler slammed the door in his face; in those days you could not cablegram across the ocean collect. Finally he appealed to an American Relief Society, a group of American women who tried to help such as he, they gave him a ticket to Liverpool and enough money to eat on for a few days. In Liverpool he persuaded a sailor to hide him on a freighter going to Boston. So, he came home as a stowaway on a British boat; penalty if caught could have been a year in jail. The only trouble he had was getting off the boat in Boston; he jumped and swam ashore at night, his sailor friend bringing his few clothes ashore. With the help of the Prettie's he got a job running an elevator in a warehouse, something happened and he wrecked it through the roof. He then got a job with a cheap detective agency. Fortunately his mother soon relented, took him back into the fold, sent him to Columbia University where he received his Masters Degree. His ex-fiancee in Denver, Peggy Bryan, also made up. They were married and went to Los Angeles. Having taken engineering at Norte Dame, Colorado Mines and Columbia with two engineering degrees, of all things he started selling insurance and became manager for all of southern California for the Travelers Insurance Company and is now semi-retired. We enjoyed a short visit with them a few years ago; running into them at a national convention of Sigma Nu, at the Huntington in Pasadena. He was a real character, more personality, nerve, and all around talent probably than any of my friends, with a superb sense of humor.

I had an easy time working my way home on the freighter helping the cooks. All I did was peel and prepare the vegetables. It seemed to be mostly potatoes and onions, which I would peel a bushel at a time, doing so out on the deck. I soon learned the way to peel these, just take six deep cuts of both the onions and potatoes making cubes of them and throw the cuttings, the greater part in fact, overboard. So, they served all vegetables in the cubed form. I, of course, offered to do extra chores for the cooks and therefore was given the best of foods, the same as the ship's officers.

Upon landing in Boston I had about three dollars, went to Prettie's and telegraphed the Duchess, who sent me $75 which was plenty to get to Denver in those days, but not for rattle-brained me. I went down to Providence, Rhode Island, and spent about ten days with Uncle Jack Mullen and his wife Mary. Uncle Jack was my Grandpa Mullen's brother, and was a real character. During his younger days he had been on the stage with a dancing act and kept it up as a hobby on into his eighties. After he was well into his seventies, him and his old dancing partner more or less as a lark revived their old act, and toured all of New England for several months. During his career he had been a sailor, in fact a captain of some kind of government ship, so in his later years the government gave him a prize job. When I visited him he had charge of several, I believe it was seven, large lighthouses. He had two government motor launches, one large enough for two to comfortably eat, sleep and cook in. While I was there, I always made a tour of the lighthouses with him and he would let me run the launch at times. It took about four hours to make the inspection tour. There we would often spend the rest of the day fishing or going away out into the bay and ocean in the larger launch. Uncle Jack was a spry old man. He must have then been in his late sixties, and could jump around boats and climb lighthouse stairs much better than I. Several evenings he would take me to dances, as his fun and hobby was dancing. Believe me he knew all the young ladies and they seemed to enjoy dancing with him as old as he was, of course he could dance better than most of the young fellows, and was as entertaining man, you never thought of him as being old.

One evening at one of these dances, I was dancing with a nice girl who was going to college that fall. When she found I was from the West she, in her New England snobbery or superior attitude said, "I do not like the west." I said, "Have you ever been there?" She replied, "Yes, I spent last summer with my aunt in Rochester." Of course I told her, "We do not consider Minnesota as being out west." Darned if she answer did floor me, it was, "Oh, I don't mean Rochester Minnesota, I mean Rochester, New York." I had read and heard of the narrowness of real New Englanders, who even consider New York sort of being in the hickey west, but I had to hear this first hand to really appreciate it. However, I found New Yorkers just as bad and ignorant, comparatively. One learns that the most provincial people live in cities, the larger the city the more narrow and confined life becomes. Let's hope that the easy means of modern travel will tend to break this down, because it is not healthy for the most influential people in our country to be, by economic necessity, city folk; and, as a result the most narrow and provincial of our citizenry. Did I hear one of you say, 'Nuff of that this time grandpa?'

I enjoyed my Providence visit, learned a lot about another phase of life, and was proud to be the nephew of the interesting and so popular, Captain Jack, as everyone called him.

From Providence I went on down to Brooklyn, this time, being alone stayed with Cousin Harry and Mary Beig. By now I was really homesick and fully realized I wanted to go home and live forever in beloved Colorado. By this time the Duchess was disgusted with my aimless wanderings and refused to send me any more money, told me that I got there by my own choice and now I could get back on my own. Later I found that she made this decision upon the advice of a couple of our men friends, not on her own, and those men were right, it was about time I was settling down to something. However, I borrowed the money from Cousin Harry, it being just peanuts to him, and came home, surprising the Duchess and Louise in the middle of the night.

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©1958 James H. Zisch, ©1974 James H. Zisch, III