Nonfiction > Jacob A. Riis > The Battle with the Slum > Page 419
Jacob A. Riis (1849–1914).  The Battle with the Slum.  1902.

Page 419
drunken husbands, the killing of a policeman in the street, and the torture of an aged woman by her rascal son, who “used to be a good boy till he took to liquor, when he became a perfect devil.” In that rôle he finally beat her to death for giving shelter to some evicted fellow-tenants who else would have had to sleep in the street. Nice friendly turn, wasn’t it?
  And yet there was something to be said for the saloon keeper. He gave the man the refuge from his tenement which he needed. I say needed, purposely. There has been a good deal of talk in our day about the saloon as a social necessity. About all there is to that is that the saloon is there, and the necessity too. Man is a social animal, whether he lives in a tenement or in a palace. But the palace has resources; the tenement has not. It is a good place to get away from at all times. The saloon is cheery and bright, and never far away. The man craving human companionship finds it there. He finds, too, in the saloon keeper one who understands his wants much better than the reformer who talks civil service in the meetings. “Civil service” to him and his kind means yet a contrivance for keeping them out of a job. The saloon keeper knows the boss, if he is not himself the boss or his lieutenant, and can steer him to the man who will spend all day at the City Hall, if need be, to get a



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