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Paul V. Coates – Confidential File, April 20, 1960

April 20, 2010 |  1:51 pm

April 20, 1960, Mirror Cover

Census Takers' Woes Myriad in a Big Way

Paul Coates   Census takers take, among other things, oaths.

    Before beginning their tours of duty, they solemnly swear that they are not Communists, fascists, blabbermouths or mixed up in payola.  They also take a pledge that -- no matter how distasteful or misrepresented they find working conditions -- they won't unite against Uncle Sam and go on strike.
    This last little clause, I can tell you now, is going to save the Bureau of Census and the United States government from chaos unequalled in our 184-year history.
    Before the government began recruiting enumerators, it sent out advance propaganda agents to lull prospective applicants into thinking that they would earn approximately $12 a day, whether they were paid by the hour or were paid a bounty for the heads which they counted.
    Which was, even in these inflated times, a reasonable enough wage. 


April 20, 1960, Pitch Back
    But now, as the first paychecks are being received by enumerators, it's becoming apparent that the figure was devised for those who planned to conduct their tours of duty on roller skates.
     Calls from incensed lady census takers began trickling into my office last Monday.  Since, they've been increasing, in volume and in ire.
    Nearly all were from women who claimed that their earnings per eight-hour day averaged out to between $5 to $8, as compared to the $12 figure which the men in the red, white and blue suede shoes were bandying about.
    There were many other similarities in the stories of the callers.
    All, for example, had at least one house where they had to go back at least eight times.
    All reported that, inasmuch as they were working 12 and 14 hours a day, they had assumed that their earnings would amount to at least $15 a day.
image     And all confided to me, in dull horror, that they spent their wages on the basis of having earned $15 a day before they saw the size of their paychecks -- before they found out that they were victims of a bureaucratic sweatshop operation.
    The ladies have my sympathy but there's nothing I can do for them.  It's too late.  They signed a contract.
    Their problem now is a domestic one.
    They've got to break the news to their husbands that their brief fling at employment did nothing more than plunge their family deeper into debt.
    Domestic beefs aren't my line.  So, with sympathy, I refer all future calls to my coworker, Dear Abby.
    The National Better Business Bureau, ever vigilant in its role as protector of the unwary buyer, recently did some checking into state-level legislation on phony or "bait" advertising methods.
    Finding that three more states had passed such legislation in recent months, it addressed inquiries to them, asking for copies of their new laws pertaining to "bait" advertising and selling.
    Two responded with copies of their statutes right away.
    Then, finally, came the reply from the third state:
    "In your letter of February 25th you requested a copy of the statutes dealing with bait advertising and selling.
    "We do not have a statute in regards to advertising on bait, but under separate cover, I am sending you the game and fish laws and I refer you to page 19, Subdivision 27; page 27, Subdivision 15; and page 57, Subdivision 5, Paragraph 8; and page 60, Subdivision 17, Paragraph 1.
    "These are the statutes dealing with the possession, transportation and selling of minnows in the state.
    "I hope," the letter concluded, "this information will be helpful to you."