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Stricken City is No Place for Idle Curious and Shallow People
Who Make a Mockery of Misery Caused by Fire and Quake.

Under the above caption the Berkeley “Reporter” prints in a current issue a timely and pointed warning. “Organized Labor” heartily endorses the sentiments expressed by our contemporary and hopes that those for whom the advise is intended will take it to heart and profit by it. Following is the article from the Berkeley “Reporter”:
Here’s a suggestion for a sign that would look well on the seaward front of the shattered Ferry Building — painted in red letters ten feet long, and covering the whole front, so that he who runs may read. Also that he who reads may run:
“Do you come bearing gifts, and to relieve distress? Come in and WELCOME.

“Or do you come to see the signs, and to prowl among the ashes for plunder? Then STAY OUT! THIS MEANS YOU!

The trans-bay ferry boats are crowded and most of the passengers are those who go to gratify curiosity. Among them are those who go for the first time to look upon the desolation of their homes, and to search the ruins for whatever of value may be left, or perchance to look for some precious keepsake of those who lost their lives in the roaring hell of flame. And many of these find a crowd of ghouls pawing over the ashes, keeping what they find, and cackling with glee over possession of trinkets filched from the wreckage. While the stricken ones stand sadly by, dumb with sorrow, and dry-eyed because the spring of tears is spent, the empty hee-haw of vacant minds rings echoing among bare, ghostly walls, as the incongruities of chaos appeal to the small sense of humor possessed by rudimentary brains.

Then, beside the trinket seekers and the thoughtless sight-seers, there are scoundrels who carry away baskets full of plunder, much of it valuable. Twenty policemen at the ferry stopped more than a hundred of these looters on Sunday, and took away their plunder where it was clear that it did not belong to them. But in most cases there was no way to tell what claim the holder had; and if he said the stuff was his he was allowed to keep it. Sergeant Ross of Harbor Police said yesterday that he was sure that at least $100,000 of valuables were stolen from the ruins of the Oriental Art Stores in Chinatown alone. But all the ruins of the city are gleaned by the harpies. Hereafter stringent measures will again be applied to plunderers. They will be summarily dealt with as was done while the fire was raging.

The other form of evil needs repression, too — the presence of idle gazers, who obstruct the few narrow highways that have been cleaned out, and hinder the work of relief, and whose ill-timed and sorry levity blends ill with the sorrow of those bereaved and spoiled by the fire.

There is want in San Francisco — want and need. Daily there are babies born before their time, whose mothers have fled from the fire and whose pangs of parturition [labor pains] are intensified by their experiences of nerve racking terror. Many of these babies have to be wrapped in old towels, for there is a dearth of clothing. And many of them lack for food. The last weeks of terror that the mothers have endured are not conducive to the flow of milk, and many of the infants are put to breasts that are dry, when they make their first cry for sustenance.

There are many others beside the babies who need help. In the face of the great distress that is to be seen on every hand, the presence of the sight-seer and the idle gazer becomes and affront and an affront not to be tolerated.


It’s all right to go to San Francisco if you can do some good there. Take with you a bottle of milk that you know is pure and sweet and fresh, or a package of condensed milk, or a suit of little baby clothes, if you have one that the baby has outgrown, or if you can spare one that he has not outgrown. There is need for those things there. Your own good sense will tell you of many other things that can be used — that are sorely needed. Don’t go to stand and gaze. And above all, try to restrain your sense of humor. The things that are incongruous and perhaps ridiculous, to you, hold many heartbreaking stories in their history.

Organized Labor
Official Organ of the State and Local Building Trades Councils of California
San Francisco
April 21, 28, and May 5, 1906 [Combined edition].
Return to the 1906 Earthquake Exhibit.