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This Week in People’s History, Oct. 24–30

Minimum wage mandated (in 1938), City water comes to Boston (1848), Anyone know Choctaw? (1918), London says, Victory to the N.L.F! (1968), Good-bye to Penn Station (1963), Europe says No to nukes (1983), Mars attacks (1938)

Image of a rally calling for an increased minimum wage

A New Deal Success, Sort Of
October 24, 1938 (85 years ago).
The Fair Labor Standards Act goes into effect in the U.S., mandating a 25-cent per hour minimum wage (equivalent to $5.46 today), a 40-hour week with time-and-a-half pay for overtime, and banning most child labor. It creates the first nationwide minimum wage and the first national regulation of child labor. There's a lot that's not to like about the FSLA, such as its failure to cover domestic workers and its poor coverage for agricultural workers. Nevertheless, it's worth remembering that in 1937, minimum wage laws and child labor laws were up to each of the 48 states, and most states had none.…

City Water Comes to Boston
October 25, 1848 (175 years ago).
Some 300,000 people gather on Boston Common to celebrate the completion of the city's first municipal water system, which brings fresh water 15 miles by aqueduct from Lake Cochituate in Natick. One of the things they are celebrating is the fact they have a publicly financed, publicly-owned system despite efforts of existing private water companies to prevent the city from building a city-owned operation. Boston is the third major U.S. metropolis to build a municipal water-supply system, after Philadelphia in 1815 and New York City in 1842…

I Hear You Talkin' But I Don't Understand What You're Sayin'
October 26, 1918 (105 years ago).
When the Choctaw Telephone Squad is first tested under fire in northern France during the closing weeks of World War 1, it passes with flying colors. The squad, a small group of U.S. soldiers who are all members of the Choctaw nation, use the Choctaw language to transmit military information. Their work is needed because the military's communication networks are easily monitored by the enemy. The German's total unfamiliarity with Choctaw makes it impossible for them to "decode" the intercepted messages.

London Says, Victory to the N.L.F!
October 27, 1968 (55 years ago).
Central London traffic is partially paralyzed by what is said to be the largest-ever anti-U.S. demonstration in British history. More than 60,000 people manifest their opposition to the brutality of the U.S. War Against Vietnam by parading through the city's center, along the Victoria Embankment and Fleet Street, through Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square to a massive rally in Hyde Park. Among a wide variety of signs they carry are those reading "Defeat U.S. Imperialism," and "Victory to the N.L.F." (Yours truly was part of the crowd on a day he will never forget.)…

Architectural Vandalism at its Worst
October 28, 1963 (60 years ago).
Ignoring years of peaceful protests, the Pennsylvania Railroad begins the demolition of Pennsylvania Station in Manhattan. The spectacular and ornate building, which was designed by McKim, Mead, and White, occupies 8 acres on the south side of West 34th Street.  The premeditated act of architectural vandalism inspired the passage of the first enforceable landmarks law in the U.S., which went into  effect in April 1965.…

Nuke Weapons Spark Massive Protests
October 29, 1983 (40 years ago).
Massive opposition to the forthcoming U.S. deployment of nuclear-armed cruise missiles in Europe reaches a crescendo when an estimated 550,000 peaceful protesters (or nearly five percent of Netherlands' population) gather in the Hague's Zuiderpark to demand cancellation of the Pentagon's plan.  On the same day, 200,000  demonstrators make the same demand in Denmark.  During the previous week, hundreds of thousands of protesters turned out in West Germany, Britain, Stockholm, Brussels, Paris and Rome. The Dutch crowd is particularly agitated by the U.S. invasion of Grenada, which occurred four days earlier. One of their banners reads ''Wanted: Alias the Bandit of Grenada'' under the image of Ronald Reagan. Another: ''Grenada Now. Woensdrecht Next.'' Woensdrecht, an air base in the southern Netherlands, was the planned base for 48 U.S. cruise missiles.…

Mars Launches Attack on Halloween. Fooled you!
October 30, 1938 (85 years ago).
CBS Radio broadcasts a live, hour-long teleplay based on the science-fiction novel War of the Worlds. The broadcast -- which sounds like a standard entertainment program that is repeatedly interrupted by what sound like news bulletins describing a Martian invasion -- convinces more than a few listeners that the news bulletins are real and panic ensues.  More than 2000 people telephoned New York's police headquarters to ask what to do. As the New York Times reports on page 1 the next day, "A wave of mass hysteria seized thousands of radio listeners throughout the nation . . . led thousands to believe that an interplanetary conflict had started with invading Martians spreading wide death and destruction in New Jersey and New York."…

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