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The Stag: 1938

The Stag: 1938

Omaha, Nebraska. November 1938. "Flophouse on lower Douglas Street." 35mm negative by John Vachon for the Resettlement Administration. View full size.


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There's a song

Two hours of pushin' broom
buys an eight-by-twelve four-bit room
I'm a man of means by no means
King of the road

(Roger Miller)

Sleeping in a cage

I while back, I talked to a guy who said he was semi-homeless in the late 50s in Minneapolis. He said they got cheap rooms for almost nothing. These rooms were cages in the old buildings near the bars. Just a place for those down on their luck to get some sleep.

He also said the a big cause of homelessness today is that the gov't outlawed these flophouses. Once that happened, you couldn't afford a place to stay.

Any inside shots?

After reading Orwell's "Down and Out in London and Paris," I'm fascinated by these marginal digs.

I had the same question, Anonymous Tipster. My guess is that the room is a cubicle with a bed, as opposed to a bunk in a big room. If so, that's a pretty good upgrade for a nickel!

Beds vs Rooms

I suspect that the 15 cent bed got you space in a dormitory room, 20 cents got you some form of private room. I was once in a disused flophouse "Hotel"- rooms barely big enough to contain a bed, many windowless.

"The Stag"

Just the name of the place is so inviting.


Are critters extra, or do they come with the upgrade?

A Room of One's Own

What the sign and the custom probably means is that for 20 cents you get a room with a bed, a sink if you're lucky, and an inside lock on the door. A 4-by-8-foot room, if that.

For 15 cents you get a bed in a common area. When you take your shoes off, if you do, you lift the head end of the bed and pin them underneath the bedposts. That way, unless you're a very sound sleeper, you still have a chance of having shoes in the morning.

Hitchhiking in the South in the late 1950s & early '60s I stayed at places like this. It was more like a dollar for a bed then.

Business plan

So I guess a room with a bed would be 35 cents? I bet they could do quite a business if they combined the two into a package.

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