It’s a Living: Paper Wagon

Part of the It's a Living series created by Videopolis based on Studs Terkel's book Working, which focuses on workers in Chicago. This tape unfolds practically in real-time in the bowels of the Chicago & Northwestern Railway Station. It features discussion and interaction with the workers on newspaper delivery trucks and railway workers wheeling wagons to commuter trains.

00:00Copy video clip URL Opening station identification.

00:24Copy video clip URL “I’m getting on TV. I don’t know for what, but I’m getting on TV.” Title: “It’s a Living: Paper Wagon.” Some truck workers crack jokes.

1:31Copy video clip URL One of them talks about unloading the trucks and what the day is like. A truck arrives, and the workers unload bundles of newspaper.

2:10Copy video clip URL “I drive the truck, I don’t load it… I’ve been in this business for 25 years and I’ve hated every day of it.” “There is no good job in the world. I don’t care what kind of job you got.” He does it to support his family. He has four kids.

3:40Copy video clip URL More footage of men unloading the truck. The truck driver talks about a British television show that followed him around for two hours, and then told him that he’d never get to see the show.

5:03Copy video clip URL They are going to get another load of newspapers soon. They just finished unloading the Daily News. The next truck will be the Sun-Times. The truck worker anticipates retiring to his two acres of farmland.

6:15Copy video clip URL The truck driver talks about hating his job. Some people come and go. He’s been delivering newspapers since he was fourteen. It’s the family business. “My father did it for 40 years and now I’m stuck.”

7:24Copy video clip URL The boss shows up. The truck driver continues: “I work eight hours a day. When I leave the truck, it’s their worry.” He used to own his own business, but he felt it was too many work-hours and he didn’t like not being able to leave his job behind.

9:13Copy video clip URL “My kids have made my life better. There’s no sacrifice involved.” The truck driver refuses to tell how much he makes, but he says he makes more than most college graduates. He is a college graduate himself.

11:53Copy video clip URL The truck driver talks about the difference between working for himself and working for a big employer. You have to worry about a lot more as a self-employed person. “I used to have ulcers. I don’t have them anymore.” But when you work for a big company, you have a lot of people that tell you what to do.

13:05Copy video clip URL The interviewer doesn’t dislike his job, but he thinks it’s because he doesn’t have to work 8 hours a day. The truck driver says, “When you gotta have so much a week, so much a month to pay the bills, that’ll change.”

14:25Copy video clip URL They talk about television. The truck driver doesn’t watch television. “There’s nothing television could give me for entertainment. I see it all here in one day.”

15:25Copy video clip URL They bring another truck driver over and ask him if he likes his job. He’s worked as a truck driver for forty years. He likes his job. He got his job during the Great Depression. “There was no jobs… I was a little kid just watching that stuff… College graduates were in the unemployment line. So I started making a dollar a week helping the guy in the truck. I was ten years old.”

17:26Copy video clip URL The second truck driver recalls his time in the Air Force. He was a truck driver in the squadron.

18:25Copy video clip URL They try to interview the boss, but he’s reluctant to talk. Another truck arrives and the workers unload bundles of newspaper from it.

21:15Copy video clip URL Footage of them taking a cart of newspapers in a cargo elevator up to the train platform. “This is a part of the railroad that very few people get to see.” The put the bundles of newspaper on the steps of a waiting commuter train.

23:56Copy video clip URL One of the workers has a hook to help him grab the newspaper bundles by the wires that bind the bundles without hurting his hand.

24:39Copy video clip URL A train arrives late, and one of the workers worries that they won’t have time to get all the newspapers on the train. The boss tells them not to load the bundles onto the train. He’s worried they won’t have time with all the passengers unloading and boarding.

26:00Copy video clip URL They talk to an officer who’s part of the Chicago & Northwestern Railway police. He takes the crew’s information and jokes that they’re under arrest. His name is O’Connor.

27:25Copy video clip URL Paper Wagon & It’s a Living credits.

28:35Copy video clip URL Ads for WTTW programming.

29:54Copy video clip URL End of tape.


1 Comment

  1. My father is Tony Alagna, who was featured in this film. He passed away a year ago. Is there any way we could purchase a copy of this film? Thank you so much.

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