The Work Must Go On
By David B. Bucher
The clashing of hammers, the ring of true steel,
The railroad's going through and there's work here for all,
Despite rainy weather, despite how you feel
Bear down on that shovel, keep swinging that maul,
The Gods of High Finance demand grit and brawn,
So don't be a quitter. The work must go on.
"You're getting paid plenty," yes that's what they say,
It costs them twelve dollars to dig a can hole,
Yet they get ten times twelve, the men get poor pay
For work that's enough to destroy a man's soul,
These poor workers are clods, finer feelings have gone,
Yet the company must profit, the work must go on.
You can see courage here in the faces of men
Who must daily earn bread by the sweat of their brow,
Yet a much finer life is out of their ken
They must earn filthy lucre, and know one way how,
Theirs never to learn Shakespeare, Milton, or Donne,
What use are the poets? The work must go on.
It is not knowledge here that determines one's worth,
They say "How's your wind, son?" and then "Let's hear your heart."
You don't need much gray matter grubbing in earth,
If your muscles are sound, why then they'll let you start,
They need hundreds of holes, that's the goal to be won,
So don't waste time thinking, the work must go on.
You get fired if you loaf, so keep on throwing dirt,
Though the sweat comes in floods, and your breath is a sob,
It's your duty to Gold with all danger to flirt,
Never mind a cave in, it's all part of the job,
The curse of the foreman's the last word for some,
I'll be damned if I quit, the work must go on.
A NATIVE OF MARIETTA, PENNSYLVANIA, David B. Bucher, Sr. wrote this poem following his experience working on the Pennsy's electrification project in July 1937. Bucher, who died in 1981 after a successful career in insurance and banking, was a student at Franklin & Marshall College at the time he penned this missive. During World War II, Bucher worked for the Pennsy Passenger Services as a troop train escort and later worked in the railroad's Special Movements Bureau. He attributed a lifetime of back trouble to the month-long summer job laboring on the railroad.
Four of Bucher's family members also have railroad "ties." Father Wilson G. Bucher was a Pennsy telegrapher based in the Philadelphia area. Wife Margaret Bucher worked in the Pennsylvania Railroad's Ticket Redemption Office during World War II.
Son David B. Bucher, Jr., a marketing consultant in Lititz, PA, is a railroad history enthusiast and FRM member who shared this poem with the Friends. Daughter Karen Bucher, a clock maker in Brattleboro, Vermont, once served as a substitute AMTRAK station master there.
When David Bucher, Jr. assisted the Museum in the design of our logo, the tag line "Real History" may have reflected his father's poem and real experience. Indeed, history at the Museum is very real in a very human sense.
Under electric catenary erected in the late 1930s, a Pennsylvania Railroad freight train tows a merchandise freight between Philadelphia and Harrisburg.
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