The Hardest Hard Time

Continue reading “The Hardest Hard Time”

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How’s a Man to Find Hope in these Hard Times?

Image  Bowery men waiting for bread in bread line, [New York City] George Grantham Bain Collection, U.S. Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-63966

Lyrics

When things went bad back in Twenty Nine
I would start my days on the hiring line
‘Till the man said stand for relief instead
I got a cup of cold coffee and a stale loaf of bread
Pride stuck in my gullet, eyes square on the floor
I said “with kids at home sir—could I have a little more?”
You’ll find me broke up, beat down, threadbare and poor
Shuffling along killing time
In the weeks months and years since they shut down that hiring line

Your almighty dollar says “in God we trust”
Tell where was he sir when the banks went bust?
And big backroom bailouts left us in the lurch—
You know that way back when they threw the bankers out of church
But now the fix is in and nobody cares
About their big corner offices and big leather chairs
That they made out like bandits and they’re still sitting there
While we’re scratching for nickels and dimes
In the weeks months and years since they shut down those hiring lines

Fear will hollow you out from the inside my friend
When you’re scared as hell they’ll never come round hiring again
We’re just heart broke and desperate shadows of men
Doing what we can to survive
In the weeks months and years since they shut down the hiring line

‘Cause I did fifteen years on the factory floor
And if I had my way sir I’d a done fifty more
Back when they turned us out I odd-jobbed for a spell
For a while had me Mr. Sicker’s apples to sell
But in nineteen hundred and thirty two
There are too many men chasing not enough to do–
Now I end my nights in a Hooverville
And if he ain’t gonna help us tell me who the hell will?
How’s a man to find hope in this hard time
In the weeks months and years since they shut down the hiring line

Copyright 2013 by Bryan Kirschner

In these Hard Times that We Might See Justice

Image:  Scottsboro (vicinity), Alabama. Children of a resettlement farmer at Cumberland Mountain Farms, a U.S. Resettlement project,  Farm Security Administration – Office of War Information Photograph Collection (Library of Congress), LC-USF33- 002089-M2

Lyrics:

In these hard times, that we might see justice
A little girl kneels by her bed to pray:
“We’re grateful Lord for how you love us—
But daddy didn’t find any work today
So as you’re looking down from up above us
Maybe there’s a bit of luck
That you can send his way
Maybe there’s a little luck
That you can send his way”

In these hard times, that we might see justice
A man holds a sign on a Bowery Street:
Can you spare a dime, for an idled worker?
So I can pay the mortgage
And my kids can eat
So I can pay the mortgage
And my kids can eat

In these hard times, does this look like justice?
A mother gives her hungry child a goodnight kiss
She sits along in the dark holding
A foreclosure notice
Wondering how did honest people
Ever come to this?
How is it honest people
Could ever come to this?

In these hard times, that we might see justice
For families struggling to get by each day
For the fat cats and bosses, lining their own pockets
And all the politicians in the bankers’ pay
In these hard times, that we might see justice
I’ll raise my voice in one more song–
In these hard times, that we might see justice
What you can’t set right you can at least call wrong
What you can’ set right sir, you can at least call wrong

Copyright 2013 by Bryan Kirschner

A Little Love, A Little Mercy

Image  Works Progress Administration located at feri.org

Lyrics

A little love, a little mercy
Would go far when times are tough
When we’ve lost hope for what we had once—
And we’re just praying for just enough:
Enough to do right by the children
And dress then warm against the chill
While they stare up at the lights on
In those big warm mansions on the hill

Enough to put a floor beneath us
And stop us sliding further down
Enough to put a roof above us
And stop this wandering town to town
Enough to set a simple table
And serve a humble evening meal
Name a fair day’s wage for a hard day’s work sir—
Just say the word, and I’ll take that deal

‘Cause a little love, a little mercy
Seem awful scarce in this hard land
I’ve seen a hundred stone cold shoulders
For each friendly helping hand

Big signs that say “Keep walking strangers—
We can’t care for those we call our own”
Betray a poverty of spirit
As deep as that of flesh and bone

See we had a home,  I had a job sir
Till trouble blew ‘em all away
I never dreamed we’d live in danger
Of empty bellies, no place to stay
So you might find some love and mercy
For us folks struggling to get by
In these hard times if  you remember
“There but for the grace of God go I”

Copyright 2013 by Bryan Kirschner

What’s a Man to Do?

Image  Farm Debt Adjustment Committee meeting with farmer who has appealed for assistance. He has been threatened with foreclosure and loss of farm. Ozark Mountain town of Harrison, Arkansas, Farm Security Administration – Office of War Information, U.S. Library of Congress LC-USF34- 015814-D

Lyrics

When the rain won’t fall what’s a man to do?
When the rain won’t fall sir what’s a man to do?
See I prayed to to the lord but I got no answer
When the rain won’t fall what’s a man to do?

When the banker comes knocking what’s a man to do?
When the banker comes knocking, sir what’s a man to do?
See I wrote me the President but he sent no help
When the banker’s knocking what’s a man to do?

When the boss ain’t hiring what’s a man to do?
When the boss ain’t hiring sir what’s a man to do?
See I turned to the whiskey but the shame still burned
When the boss ain’t hiring what’s a man to do?

When your child is hungry what’s a man to do?
When your child is hungry sir what’s a man to do?
See I marched downtown but they put me in the jail
When your child is hungry what’s a man to do?

See when there ain’t no work sir how’s a man to live
When there ain’t no work how’s a man to live?
When I wake up in the morning I feel I’ll surely die
When there ain’t no work sir how’s a man to live?

Nothing Good’s Been Done

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Image   Parade of unemployed, George Grantham Bain Collection, U.S. Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-22193

Lyrics

As the famer lifts his eyes to god
With a handful of sun-bleached dried out sod
Tweedle Dee and Dum are taking turns
As Congress fiddles while the Heartland burns
As hopes dry up in the July sun
Ain’t it strange nothing good’s been done?

While the poor must fight on alone
Against the skimmers and the grifters come to take his home
And a mother’s losing sleep over mouths to feed
‘Cause the factory’s cutting workers they say they don’t need
Five years since this hard time’s begun
Ain’t it strange nothing good’s been done?

When desperate people march downtown
There are clubs and guns to beat ‘em down
But when the rich man steals to get what he’s got
There ain’t no lawman doing squat
When the banks are robbing everyone
Ain’t it time something good gets done?
It’s time now something good got done

It’s time now something good got done

Merry Christmas to All (and No More Idled Hands)

Image Unemployed workers in front of a shack with Christmas tree, East 12th Street, New York City,Farm Security Administration – Office of War Information Photograph Collection, U.S.Library of Congress

Lyrics:

It’s a hell of a thing coming up on Christmas
To look at the factory dusted with snow
The path to the gates untouched by footprints—
‘Cause the line’s sitting idle second year in a row
The line’s sitting idle, second year in a row

Now the Macy’s downtown needed a Santa
Leaving 99 fellas cold on that hiring line
My holiday greeting’s the same the last year:
“Merry Christmas my brother, can you spare a dime”
“Merry Christmas my brother, can you spare a dime”

And boys without gloves are fogging the window
Staring at toys their mommas can’t buy
While their daddies kill time out down the corner—
Hands in their pockets, shame in their eyes
Hands in their pockets and shame in their eyes

Now each home with stockings hung with care from the shelf
Where it’s a foreclosing banker, not some jolly old elf
Who’ll come calling this Christmas, and finding them there
Like a leech or a locust would strip the hearth bare
Where bankers and bosses, or some great corporate chief
Doomed another poor family to scrape by on relief—
And where each vision of sugarplums that dance in the head
Is there ‘cause a child’s gone hungry to bed
Are why to pray for a sleigh that could fly through the snow–
With a big bag of justice for the people below
And to take the occasion of this Silent Night
To call out what’s wrong, and then set it right—
If we want peace earth and goodwill among men
We’d see to it no child goes hungry again
And make not Christmas Wishes, but Christmas demands:
“Merry Christmas to all, and no more idled hands”
“Merry Christmas to all, and no more idled hands”