National Geographic : 1923 Jan
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE to 2,000 hours of free labor in three years. As a result, thousands of women and children are working continually in sev eral settlements on the outskirts of Vienna, earning their future homes. They make bricks, dig foundations, sift sand, and mix mortar. On Saturday and Sunday the men arrive and work from dawn till dark. The first settlement was founded by war invalids, on the imperial hunting grounds near Schonbrunn Palace, and is named "The City of Peace." The park walls were pulled down for material with which to build the first houses. The bricks, each stamped with the double eagle of the Hapsburgs, will now help to shelter the human wrecks that fought in vain to preserve the great empire. These invalids and their families are excavating rock, rooting out stumps by hand, and building a church and school house wherein to center their community life. Soon two thousand homes will stand where royalty once maintained its cele brated shooting-box. While these settlements have adjusted the difficulties of a few thousand families, the city's most important problem has been left unsolved. The half million perishing members of the middle class, who have made Vienna famous for her tmiversity, clinics, music, and art, have gone to the wall in coping with the cost of living, whose curve for 1922 looks like one of Austria's mountains. Being a capital, Vienna enrolls in its middle class persons of highly diverse oc cupations. It embraces field marshals, lawyers, doctors, university professors, admirals, civil servants, artists, scientists, clerks, teachers, officials, and many others whose source of income is a fixed salary, rents, or a pension. MIDDLE CLASS LIVES ON COMMUNITY KITCHENS While the wages of skilled labor have almost kept pace with the depreciation of the crown, the incomes of the middle class have dwindled away to almost nothing. The rent law holds their old homes for them, and there they hide away from the sight of the city, creeping forth once a day to be fed in the community kitchens. They have long since pawned their trin- kets and sold their furniture, linen, books, and clothing to second-hand dealers. The arrival of a baby among them is con sidered a catastrophe. A holiday, a new dress, a theater ticket are not to be thought of any more. GINGERBREAD HORSE SELLS FOR MORE CROWNS THAN REAL TEAM BEFORE WAR Every week new price lists are made up in the food shops and often posted in the windows, where they are studied by little knots of housewives with shopping-bags on their arms. One morning recently the writer saw a middle-aged woman in tears before the price list. She had just the sum needed to buy a loaf of bread at yesterday's price. She said she was an officer's widow, who before the war had received a pension of 80 crowns ($16) a month. Now she has 1oo,ooo crowns from the government, which at the present rating is about $1.25 a month. Her necessities are bread, which is 2,133 times as expensive as formerly, and coal, which has risen from eight heller a kilo to 900 crowns. Meat is out of the question, having gone up 5,000 times. Neither can she afford sugar. A gingerbread horse coated with frosting costs 15,000 crowns-five times the sum her brother paid before the war for a team of real horses. Her in come buys, therefore, just 15 loaves of bread a month. One meal a day in the community kitchens is keeping her alive. The noonday meal, which the Austrians in cooperation with the American Relief Association gave daily to the middle class, was until recently an established part of Vienna's civic life. About four cents was charged for service, and those unable to pay this were given free tickets. School children were fed for a few cents a week and given medical attention. The Health Department's report states that 90 per cent of the children under twelve years have symptoms of rickets from undernourishment, and that 50 per cent of those between twelve and six have tubercular infections. Having nearly perished, the child life of the city was salvaged by American relief organiza tions, which established hospitals, dispen saries, and health centers, while feeding and clothing thousands of adults.