On July 1, 1922 after two years of continual salary cuts and layoffs the Lehigh Valley Railroad workers went on strike. The strike lasted 15 months some thought it would last a few weeks or at the most two months. Strike breakers were brought in. An October 14, 1922 article reprinted in the Sayre Historical Society Quarterly stated the following: “Lehigh makes preparations to care for strike breakers during cold weather period. Elaborate plans are being made to house and feed the men inside the Lehigh enclosure. It has been reported that meals are now being served to about 900 strike breakers, most of the dining and sleeping cars have been removed and the cooking outfits moved into permanent quarters. The sections used for dining rooms have been partitioned off and the bunk rooms arranged so that they can be warmed during the cold weather. Another large bunk house is planned in the shops yards to accommodate 500 more persons. A few of the replacements have moved into Lehigh homes on North Elmer Avenue, formerly occupied by workers now on strike. Privileges such as free meals and seeping facilities may be withdrawn soon with the workers forced to pay for such accommodations as they would outside”.
Rumors started to surface regarding the health and wellbeing of those residing at the shops and the following resulted from those rumors.
Dr. Charles A. Haines, examining physician for the Lehigh, who was shop physician for the company since the shop strike started, issued a statement on October 23, 1922 regarding sanitary conditions that prevailed at the shops at Sayre. According to Dr. Haines everything there was alright. The following is an article I found in a scrapbook from an unknown source.
Dr. Haines said, “Rumors have it that smallpox, typhoid fever and other contagious diseases are prevalent in the shops.”
“There has been but one case of Typhoid fever in the shops and that was a case where the patient had the disease when he arrived from his home in Providence, Rhode Island. Every man is examined by me before he is accepted and must pass and be found o.k. in every respect.
“Please tell me what is the use of all the abominable propaganda? I have been in the Sayre shops looking after all persons who are here, as to their physical and health conditions. I am glad to say to the people of Sayre that there is not a better place where better sanitary and hygienic conditions prevail. I invite the physicians of Sayre, Athens or Waverly to come to the Sayre shops and let them express their opinions as to the prevailing conditions as they exist.
“The Lehigh Valley Railroad spares no expense in keeping everything in accordance with the health department laws of Pennsylvania. We have in one room seven hundred beds and every man who comes into the shop is assigned to a clean bed, pillows and blankets. When a man leaves his bed, the clothes and blankets are at once put in the laundry and given a heat subjection and then put through a washing with an antiseptic solution and are freed from all germs.
“The floors of the dormitories are all cleaned twice daily, and a strong disinfecting solution is applied. The sleeping cars have been eliminated and the men are now in new and comfortable quarters, new beds and new bedding.
“The new dining hall has a new range installed where cooking is done for 1000 people. The food is served from the range and it is all steaming when it is served. The dining service is equal to any hotel. The dishes are all white and cups and saucers are the same as used in almost all families. Rogers knives, forks and spoons, coffee is served from a large nickeled percolator. The food purchased is all the very best (hind quarters), fresh bread every two days. All food is kept in a refrigerator car. Breakfast consists of ham, eggs, cereals and fruit and potatoes.
“Dinner, roast meat, either beef or pork, corn, peas and mashed potatoes, pie and cake. Sundays chicken and all the usual things that go to make a Sunday dinner complete. The food is all prepared under the highest approved sanitary conditions. Men who are connected with the dining service are examined every week by the physician. If anything is found out of the ordinary the party is at once discharged from the service.
“At present, there is not a sick man in the shop. Every man who enters the employ of the Lehigh Valley Railroad is given an examination as to his physical condition, which is compulsory.”
On October 2, 1923 the Lehigh workers voted to terminate the strike and by October 11 Lehigh summoned the men to return to work.
Henry Farley is a founding member and a current board member of the Sayre Historical Society. He is also president of the Bradford County Historical Society.