Raw footage for the award-winning series The 90's. "Hustlin' Scrap." Joe Cummings goes to a scrap metal yard to interview the men who roam Chicago's alleys collecting scraps to return for cash. After leaving the lot, Cummings drives around River North and Downtown and talks about life in Chicago.
00:00Copy video clip URL Static.
00:12Copy video clip URL Joe Cummings and a woman are driving through Chicago in mid-conversation. They are listening to classical music radio. They chit chat non-directionally but friendly.
01:22Copy video clip URL At a scrap yard, Cummings interviews several scrap metal collectors arriving with loads of scrap metal. The first interview has audio issues and the subject’s voice isn’t audible.
02:40Copy video clip URL Cummings interviews Ed Lee Jones. He says he’s been hustling scrap iron 4 or 5 years. The highest he’s been paid for a load is about $75. He collects from alleys and old buildings. He says he does it mostly to keep off of welfare. B-roll of his load of scrap metal. Jones says this load might get him $50.
05:14Copy video clip URL Interview with Pedro Rodriguez. He’s been doing this work for 5 years, and brings a load to this yard every day. He says he gets paid $50 for a load. He collects in alleys, in buildings. Cummings comments that he’s a hustler, he takes home $50, tax-free, no middle man. This is the ’90s. People are surviving in Chicago. You hustle.
07:06Copy video clip URL Cummings records a report about a guy who went to a mill and collected metal shavings. This is an $80 truck load. He goes to factories that are happy to get rid of this stuff. Junk to some, money to others.
08:20Copy video clip URL Cummings records another report in front of a pick up truck filled with metal oil barrels. These empty barrels bring in $30 a ton. Hustling, making a living. Are they cleaning up the environment? No, it’s putting food in your stomach that counts.
09:22Copy video clip URL Cummings talks with a scrapper. B-roll of one pick up truck giving another a jump.
09:59Copy video clip URL B-roll of the scrap yard and scrap yard activity: smoke stacks, trucks, cranes moving piles of scrap metal and debris. Various shots of bulldozers, conveyor belts, and scrappers coming and going, weighing their loads.
29:05Copy video clip URL Cummings interviews more scrap collectors. Robert says he’s been doing this kind of work for 11 months. He says the pay is low. He collects heavy metal from alleys and from different companies. Some weeks you make a little money, other weeks you make nothing. He estimates that he brings in 9,000 pounds of metal a week. Mondays are the best days. He says he collects 2,000, maybe 3,500 pounds those days. He says he is helping to clean up Chicago.
31:41Copy video clip URL Luis says he’s been doing this 3-years. He can bring in $100 a day. It’s different each day. On average it’s about 50-60 dollars. He is looking for a better job. He finds his metal scraps in different places around the city. He collects aluminum, metal. He says he’s not happy, just trying to make a living. He wants to work as a mechanic. Cummings notes that scrappers bring in all sorts of scraps from cans to iron beams.
34:36Copy video clip URL More b-roll of scrap yard activity.
34:55Copy video clip URL Interview with a man from Colombia, South America. He’s been scrapping for one year. He does this for money to send home to his family in Colombia. He says the money is good, though you never know how much you’ll make in one day.
37:41Copy video clip URL Interview with Otis who has been scrapping for over two years. He is trying to make money, not clean up the environment. He gets iron from 19th and Wabash, a building people are renovating.The load he has today might be 3,500 pounds. There’s a lot of competition. He sums up his job by saying he is a scrap dealer. Some people ask him to pay for removing scraps. He will if he thinks it’s worth it. There’s no short supply of help. He says some scrappers take covers off of man holes, but scrap yards won’t take them. It’s city property.
43:45Copy video clip URL B-roll of a sewer cover.
44:10Copy video clip URL Interview with Jesus who says he’s been doing this a couple of years. He gets scrap metal from alleys. He makes 20-40 dollars a day. He says he works by himself. It takes about 3 hours to collect a full load. He is doing this work for money, not for the environment.
46:50Copy video clip URL Interview with Ben Hickey who says he’s been bringing in scrap metal for three or four years. He doesn’t make a living from it. His loads make 15-20 dollars. He says this work is helping to clean up the city. The load he has now includes an air conditioner, railroad iron. He says he doesn’t bring in sewer tops, only what people throw out. Cummings notes: this work is money, food in his stomach, and it’s a job.
49:50Copy video clip URL Interview with Renaldo who has collected exhaust pipes and car mufflers. He says he collected it all from 4 or 5 places in the north side. He says he can make 40-50 dollars per load. His t-shirt reads: I’m not old, I’m a recycled teenager. Renaldo says he does his work to make money, not clean up the environment. He notes he has a wife and two boys.
52:49Copy video clip URL Change of location. Cummings drives through Cabrini-Green on the north side of Chicago. As he drives he speaks reflectively about the neighborhood and the city. “People in Cabrini-Green are like people in any other place. Most of these people go to work. The only reason I’d be here, in the 1960s and ’70s, was to cover news stories, shootings and such. I’d come here 2 or 3 times a night in the sixties.” Various b-roll of Cabrini-Green as they drive through the neighborhood. They pass a firehouse that now has bullet-proof glass. Cummings notes in the 1960s they didn’t think of having that. “These firefighters work hard!”
55:03Copy video clip URL They drive past a line of make shift street vendors. Cummings notes that everybody’s got a hustle. Cummings notes how Chicago has changed in the 30-years since he’s covered news stories. Every generation has their gangs. Police are always in front on project housing. It’s a crime to be poor. Who wants to live in public housing? He turns on Orleans Street and notes the Green Door Tavern movie producers like to use for its unique features. Commenting on the tavern’s preppy menu, Cummings says, “You can keep the blue cheese burger, give me a Chicago hot dog!” He says Chicago is called Second City because it’s built on top of the first one that was burned down in the 1870s. “We’re the Phoenix, we rose up from the ashes.” They continue onto LaSalle Street and head downtown inside the Loop. He raves about Mayor Richard J. Daley. They pass City Hall. Cummings notes when he stopped being a reporter he went to work for Mayor Jane Byrne at City Hall. “She offered me a job and I said, ‘Your honor, I didn’t even vote for you!'” “I was an administrative assistant,” he adds. “Then Harold Washington came in and I was gone.”
01:09:20Copy video clip URL Cummings turns down a street to show the videographer The Picasso sculpture. They cross a street fair on State Street. Cummings indicates it is the month of June. They turn onto Michigan Avenue and head to the Wrigley Building where The 90s offices are. As they cross over the Chicago River Cummings notes that the city can reverse the flow of the river. “I’ll bet they can’t do that in New York!” They pull up to the Wrigley Building.
01:15:32Copy video clip URL END