Plate 58
(This plate is still under construction.)


Gold Fever

Top: McDonnell's Hollywood Drive-In, California, 1936. Donald and Howard washed dishes there for six months.

Bottom: Gold panning and "prospecting" with Goodyear Pitts and "Alfred."

Excerpt from Donald B. Johnson manuscript:

"We [went to] an employment office up in Hollywood [that] had just gotten a call for an experienced dishwasher from MacDonnell's New Drive-In at Sunset and LaBrea Avenues.... They took my $4 fee and said I should go...and tell them I was experienced, because there was nothing to running a dishwasher anyway." [34.200-4]

"When I came to work I found out why they preferred experience. It wasn't skill they meant; it was whether you had action and speed enough to keep up during rush hours." [34.201-1]

"We got $2 for 10 hours work, six days a week. The Social Security act went into effect while we were there, on January 1, and afterwards we had to take deductions for that, too." [34.201-2]

"I went to work from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. and Howard worked 11 p.m. to 9 a.m. I worked five nights and one day a week and never changed shifts. The manager said he appreciated having us on nights when he wasn't there because he could depend on us and it was easier to cope with irresponsible help in the daytime." [34.201-3]

"One day a cloudburst took out a dam up in San Franciskito Canyon. A guy named Goodyear Pitts was sharpening the drive-in's knives and told Howard he used to prospect for gold up there." [34.201-4]

"Mr. Pitts said if he could get some young, strong help like us, he knew of a place in northern California that was almost a sure thing where he would take us to prospect for gold. He said there was coarse gold up there and he knew a fellow who owned a claim and was trying to get someone to work it on shares." [36.211-2]

"Mr. Pitts had a Spanish-Indian friend, Alfred, who was an ex-gold miner, too. He said they would both go with us if we wanted to go up in the San Franciskito Canyon someday, and they would show us how gold panning worked." [36.212-1]

"The next week...I picked up Howard and Mr. Pitts and Alfred and we drove up into the canyon. We did some panning to see how it worked, but we didn't get any 'colors' in our pan. Mr. Pitts kept saying, 'Wait until we get up north.' We had come to California to seek our fortunes, or for adventure, and we had found it. We started telling everyone our plans. I guess our enthusiasm reached its peak about then and pretty soon various things came up that made it start to recede a little. [36.212-3]

"Mr. Pitts was far above average in intelligence and education, but it started to look like he had some loose screws, though he had prestige. Alcohol had probably done him in in his younger days, though he didn't drink when we knew him, that we could tell....

"I guess the final straw was when [he] said, 'Eventually we will get a big Mack truck to haul out the ore, but we can use your car and trailer until we make enough to buy a truck.' And then he said the owner of the claim expected half of the take but we would be able to get around part of that. We began to wonder if he had figured out how to get around us, too. So our enthusiasm started to wane and our thoughts wandered to other things, like love. We told Mr. Pitts we had decided to go back to Minnesota in the spring." [36.213-1]