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On July 1 1921 the African American staff of the Ritz Carlton Hotel prepare food in the kitchen. Travis Elkins is chopping vegetables. Purnsley, still bruised from his recent incarceration and sporting a new gold front tooth to replace the one he lost, is washing dishes. The Caucasian kitchen manager enters and warns Purnsley to be more careful with the plates. Purnsley clatters more china as he works and the manager reprimands him, calling him “boy”. Purnsley tells the manager that he has a name and the manager responds that he does not have to remember it. The senior cook, Otis, calls for lunch reminding the staff that they have just ten minutes. The workers line up next to Otis to receive their meal. The manager leaves them to eat and returns a few minutes later. Purnsley ignores a warning from one of the workers that their boss is coming and continues to complain about working conditions. Purnsley says that he was fed better food in prison and Elkins says that he believes Purnsley is being truthful. The manager asks if the staff have a problem, now referring to them all as “boys”. The head chef denies an issue and Purnsley says that they are discussing their poor quality meal. The manager checks Purnsley’s name and Purnsley confirms it, calling the manager chief. The manager sarcastically calls Purnsley a lord, looking around at the other workers and warns him that if he continues then he will be fired. The manager instructs them to finish their lunches and return to work. Purnsley keeps silent allowing sympathy to build amongst his colleagues. ("Battle of the Century")
The next day while the staff at the Ritz Carlton eat their lunch Purnsley again agitates about their poor conditions. The manager enters and claps, saying that the break is over. Purnsley sits down and the manager clicks his fingers and orders them back to work. No-one moves and Purnsley says that they have not had lunch yet. The manager asks what Purnsley has in his lap and Purnsley says that it looks like mule excrement. The manager observes that Purnsley is still complaining about the free food and Purnsley insists that they are not given food. The manager says that Purnsley can complain in his own time and fires him, shouting at him to get out. When Purnsley does not move the manager asks if he is deaf. Purnsley stands up causing the manager to step back in fear. He threatens to call the police if Purnsley does not get out. Purnsley asks for a raise and meals that the manager would eat himself. Travis stands up next to him. The manager instructs Otis to get back to work and Otis joins the defiant group. The manager says that Otis has orders to prepare and tells him to get on with it. Met with inaction he turns to Louis and tells him that he has a dozen crates of fish to scale. Louis stands up and folds his arms. The manager tells Franklin to get on with washing the dishes and he agrees to do so but is held back by Purnsley. The remaining workers stand up, surrounding the manager who shifts his feet nervously. The head chef slams his plate onto the floor at the manager’s feet as he tries a final warning. The other workers join in, throwing kitchenware down onto the floor. Purnsley throws his plate straight at the manager and he ducks out of the way and responds with racial abuse. The workers then direct their aim at the manager, throwing produce along with crockery. ("Battle of the Century")
The strike continues until July 23 1921. That morning The Food and Beverage Manager of the hotel sits alone in the darkened kitchen reading the newspaper and drinking coffee while strikers picket the hotel. Owen Sleater comes in and asks if he is the man to see. The manager sarcastically wonders if Sleater sees anyone else. Sleater takes off his cap and announces that he is there on behalf of Nucky Thompson. The manager folds his paper away and comments on the news of Nucky’s retirement. Sleater jokes that Nucky still has his hobbies. The manager looks at the crate and says that there is little demand for oats at present. Sleater pries the lid from the crate and shows the manager a bottle of whiskey. The manager asks if it is real and Sleater confirms that it is freshly imported from Ireland. The manager downs his coffee and holds out the cup for Sleater who pours in a slug of whiskey. Sleater announces that the price is $30 per case, adding that this is less than half of the going rate. The manager wonders who will serve the whiskey and Sleater assures him that his workers will be back. He counters by questioning Sleater’s expertise on labour relations and Sleater says that he is familiar with the feeling of an empty stomach. The manager takes a drink and Sleater says that the strike will end and the deal will too. Apparently satisfied with the taste the manager orders 400 cases. ("Georgia Peaches")
- Head Chef: Employee
- Travis Elkins: Employee
- Dunn Purnsley: Employee (deceased)
- Otis: Employee
- Louis: Employee
- Franklin: Employee
|Season two appearances|
|21||Ourselves Alone||A Dangerous Maid||What Does the Bee Do?|
|Gimcrack & Bunkum||The Age of Reason||Peg of Old||Two Boats and a Lifeguard|
|Battle of the Century||Georgia Peaches||Under God's Power She Flourishes||To the Lost|