Recently I saw a cartoon that mentioned “pie in the sky.” I’ve heard the expression before. I decided this would be my first blog entry in something new—a once in a while series of memories connected to history. Um, that sounds weird, doesn’t it? Maybe I’ll just start with an illustration and continue from there. Okay?
Now for the memory of “pie in the sky.” Actually, it’s my father’s memory, one he shared with me when we were organizing his story of working for college money.
In 1923, when he was nineteen and living in Washington state, my dad got a job in Alaska. They sent him by boat, but not by first class. He and several other men had bunks in the hold, along with five cows. One of the other men they called Baldy since he was partially bald, and the oldest of the group—maybe twenty-nine or thirty. Another one they called Shorty.
Shorty was being sent to Alaska to spread the word about the Industrial Workers of the World. He gave quite a talk on Communism, which was new to my dad.
When Shorty got through, Baldy had his say, which was, “Hooray for free speech. I believe in the IWW, free speech, and overhead sewer systems.”
Shorty’s response was to sing the following song.
A long-haired preacher comes out every night.
And he tells us what is wrong and what is right.
He tells us when we’re flush, give our money to the Lord.
And he tells us when we’re on the bum.
Work and pray, live on hay.
You’ll get pie in the sky when you die.
My dad had the impression that was an Industrial Workers of the World song, but Wikipedia has a bit different story. Possibly the IWW appropriated the last two lines of the original song. But “pie in the sky” meant the same thing it does today.
Another thing that spurred this blog is my dad’s book, his memory and my decision to start posting my memories. The book we put together is A Knucklehead in 1920/s Alaska, now available as a paperback and as an e‑book for all e‑book readers here.
Do you have a memory about “pie in the sky” to share?