Since the early settlement of Bienville parish, lumber and sawmills were cornerstone industries. Lumber provided by the rich forests fueled the physical and economic needs of the parish and surrounding areas. Around the early 20th century, timber and lumberyards were often small settlements of their own. The remote location and long hours made it difficult to get the necessities in life like groceries and even currency. As such, companies would issue their own tokens which could be used to purchase goods on site at the` company owned commissary. The practice was popular in many instances during the time, but most prevalent in lumber and mining camps. These bits of coin went by many names, like.. due bills, scrips, checks, or flickers. In Louisiana, we called them bronzenes, doo-ga-loos, and cherry balls. I have no idea why, but we Louisianians are a creative folk. I like to say doo-ga-loo so I’m going to use that.
Initially, this benefited both parties as it meant the company did not have to keep as much cash on hand and the worker would have easy access to goods. However, in some instances, the practice was abused and companies might pay all wages in doo-ga-loos. The doo-ga-loos would only be redeemable at the company store which often had higher priced goods than in town. There was even the practice of letting workers borrow against future wages in exchange for some doo-ga-loos. These type practices prevented workers from being able to save or generate any sort of real wealth from their labor. Swing in the gas station and see how much gas you can get for pocket of Chuck E. Cheese tokens. I mean doo-ga-loos. Fortunately, the practice was banned under the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act.
The hardships created by the practice was the topic of the popular song Sixteen Tons. My favorite rendition is by Tennessee Ernie Ford.
Below is an actual token (doo-ga-loo) used by the Waldron Lumber Company near Gibsland circa 1920. The surrounding area supported many such lumber mills. It’s good for “5 in merchandise”.
Special thanks to William Choate for sharing this piece from his personal collection and for the information!
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