March 23, 2012

"It pays to be polite" or "a fool and his money..."

Soapy Smith prominently named
Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park, Seattle
(photo from The Q Family)

It pays to be polite, or, "a fool and his money are soon parted," which all depends on which shoes you are wearing when the story is told. During the Klondike gold rush more than a few of the newly rich, gold laden stampeders landed in Seattle, Washington on their way home. For many this was the first time they had stepped foot outside of the gold fields for over a year. On their way into the Klondike no one paid any attention to them, but now that they were rich it seemed the whole town was down at the dock just to see them. Sudden fame and riches does strange things to people and Seattle became the epicenter of these rich "strangers." There are numerous stories of stampeders throwing gold nuggets and money out hotel windows to the masses below. Following is a great contemporary example posted on a forum by Kenny Vail.    

It Pays To Be Polite.

Jimmy Brennan, 11 years old, and son of Police Officer Brennan, of Seattle, was standing on Yester Way, when a stranger came along. He looked like a man who had just returned from a logging camp.

“Boys,” he said, “where’s the Butler Hotel?”

”I’ll tell you for a quarter,” said one of Jimmy’s companions.

“Say, I’ll do it for five cents,” remarked a third.

“Mister,” said Jimmy, “I’ll point out the Butler to you for nothing.”

“You’re my man,” said the rough-looking stranger, and the two went down Yester Way together, while Jimmy’s companions stayed behind to call him a chump. Jimmy led the stranger to the Butler.

“Come in here,” said the man, and he led the boy into a clothing store. “Give this boy the best suit of clothes in the house,” said the stranger. Jimmy simply opened his mouth. Soon he had on a fine suit.

“Now give him an overcoat,” said the stranger, and Jimmy’s eyes tried to pop out of their sockets. The clerk adorned Jimmy with an overcoat.

“Now a hat,” said the stranger. Jimmy wanted to cry. He thought it was Christmas time, and that he was by the side of a grate fire, reading Anderson’s fairy tales.

Soon he was arrayed in new hat, new suit, new overcoat. The stranger paid for all. Jimmy started out of the store. He was so bewildered that if several goblins had put in their appearance he would have joined them in their fairy-land festivities.

“Just a minute,” said the stranger. Jimmy waited. If the stranger had said: “Go roll in the dust of the street,” Jimmy would have done it.

The stranger went down in his pockets and closed his dealings with Jimmy by giving him a five dollar gold piece and a gold nugget worth about five dollars.

Then Jimmy thanked the stranger and went off to tell his companions about the man whom he showed the Hotel Butler “for nothing.”

The stranger was a Klondiker, supposed to be Patrick Galvin, who returned from Rosalie, with a fortune estimated at about $20,000. It pays to be polite. If you don’t think so, ask Jimmy Brennan.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, May 30, 1898


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