Monday, September 1, 2008

the ballad of joe hill

happy labor day!
last year I wrote a bit about the history and origin of the labor day holiday - in the spirit of recycling, if you are interested click here.

the photo at top is another gem from my treasure box of old family photos. unlike most of the photos in the box, this photo actually has information scrawled on the back about where the picture was taken. the photo is taken inside the station house for reading railroad in lofty, pennsylvania. unfortunately there's nothing written about who the two men are; it is possible that the man on the left is my grandfather as this is where grandpap worked- the man's face looks a bit like other photos of grandpap taken in his youth. among other duties, my grandpap served as a telegrapher with the railroad, in this photograph one can see the telegraph machines on a shelf behind the men.

The Ballad of "Joe Hill" comes from Kevin Maynor's 1998 album of songs associated with Paul Robeson. The subject of the mentioned song, Joe Hill, was a Swedish immigrant to the US at the turn of the 20th century. He was a songwriter, member of the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World), and labor activist, eventually ending up in Utah, where he was convicted of murder and executed in 1915. Some believed that Joe Hill had been framed, and he was memorialized in a poem by Alfred Hayes about a dozen years after his death. The text was then set to song by Earl Robinson in 1936 (description from youtube):

if you find yourself in the cleveland area today - don't forget, the peace show at the free stamp! be there or be square!!


R.L. Bourges said...

Hope you like this: Vive youtube!

Happy Labor Day!

tut-tut said...

Thanks for the information. Joan Baez sings a song in which she invokes Joe Hill, doesn't she?

K. said...

Re Joan Baez, she sings the same song. Robeson's version is gorgeous, as was just about everything else he sang.

lettuce said...

i can't cope with it being the end of summer either, kimy - and the weather is just foul here.

what a great photograph

Steve said...

What on earth are all those levers? Are they for switching tracks? Bet it was a job to haul on those!

mouse (aka kimy) said...

rlb - thank you so much for the link!! it is FANTASTIC!!!! right up the mouse's alley!

tut - as k commented it is the same song - the ballad of joe hill is mainstay of the activist oriented folk music -

let - hope your weather improves. hugs....

steve - you are so right they this is also the switching room!

Coffee Messiah said...

What a fascinating family history!

Too bad this day is not seen as it used to be! ; (