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    Let's not fool ourselves about 'walkability'

    Walkable neighborhoods take more than density and sidewalks. You have to create conditions where small stores can survive.
    Walkable streets mean viable shops

    Walkable streets mean viable shops City of Seattle

    You can’t go far these days without hearing the word “walkability.” If you ask the person who used the term what it means they often look a bit puzzled as though you were some kind of dunce, because of course we all think we know what it means. The term walkability is a word image, but that image isn’t exactly the same for everyone.

    In Seattle if you sit in a Starbucks, say on Queen Anne, with your mate on Saturday afternoon you might be between 20 and 50 with a good job, live in a condo or an old, remodeled single family home, and you got to this location on foot. In fact you live in this neighborhood because you consider it walkable. Your walk is partly exercise, partly to visit a local establishment, and to meet friends or socialize en route. You’re much less likely to be there because it’s something you have to do. It’s a lifestyle choice.

    Were you to be in an undeveloped nation with scattered villages, however, walkability takes on a different meaning. There you walk because you must. The farther back in history you go, the more you find walking wasn’t a recreation; it was survival. But here in Seattle in 2009 walking has very different meanings based on where you live and your economic status. The affluent walk for pleasure or recreation or physical conditioning, but the less affluent walk because they must.

    One thing, for sure, is that city planners and elected officials all seem to use the word “walkability” often, and are intent on making laws, writing regulations, and funding programs to create walkability even if they can’t pinpoint exactly what it means. It’s not a plan so much as it’s a buzzword.

    Urban planners, often in a theoretical world by themselves, say they are attempting to create a more functional city. They talk about walkability associated with transportation planning while others point to creating sustainable high-density neighborhoods. Unfortunately, as much as urban planners and lawmakers bandy about the term, it still has meanings that change depending on who you ask, where you ask, and how affluent is the person you ask.

    My Crosscut colleague Knute Berger, when speaking about his new book Pugetopolis, tells of growing up in a Seattle neighborhood that had lots of stores where people walked to satisfy daily needs: the hardware store, the butcher shop, the dime store, the grocery. The store owners knew their customers, the parents, and their kids. It was local and a bit like an extended family. Sure there were cars, buses, bikes, and streetcars going and they were all used, but people walked because it was a convenient and free way to tend to daily needs. It was a model that evolved over time, and it worked because it was economically viable and there was something you needed at the other end of the trip.

    But then the effects of “progress” descended on neighborhoods. Mom N’ Pop groceries were forced out by chain grocery stores like Safeway and Albertsons. Our loyalty to the local grocer who knew our kids by name faded as we flocked to the lower prices and greater variety of foods. We did the same thing with with hardware stores, drugstores, and neighborhood clothing stores or appliance stores. Home Depots and Fred Meyers and Walmarts and Costcos snatched the rest of the business from neighborhoods.

    In this new economic model you can buy car accessories, groceries, new socks, baby diapers, and a new television in the same store. Somewhere in this evolution, which took an amazingly short period of time, the Mall or shopping center was created.

    The Mall was created to be like the small town in America’s heartland, a place where you would arrive by horse and buggy and have all the goods you needed in a small walkable space. The modern version of the artificial small town, “the Mall” worked because it brought larger numbers of customers to stores with competitive prices, large selections of goods, and safe, clean surroundings. Progressive Seattleites hate to admit it, but Malls are walkable!

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    Posted Fri, Jul 3, 8:04 a.m. Inappropriate

    Yes, malls are walkable. The difference is that you can't walk to the malls from home. You still need transportation, whether bus or car.

    The neighborhood Mr. Berger describes could be my old neighborhood. I grew up on E. 90th Street just off Roosevelt Way, which we usually just called "Tenth". Within a block and a half walk was a drugstore, a dime store, a shoe repair (great smelling place!), a furniture store, a tavern, the doctor's office, a little grocery store, a barber shop, a gas station, and a Safeway.

    And all the neighbors knew each other. Some were friends and some not, but we still knew the names of everyone who lived around us.

    Many families didn't have cars, and it was a big event when someone got a new car.

    I moved back to the city from the eastside six months ago. Now I can walk to stores and restaurants and even to work. I drive about a hundred miles a month if that much. But I still have my car. I haven't found the "courage" quite yet to get rid of it.

    Posted Fri, Jul 3, 8:49 a.m. Inappropriate

    Ballard--poor Ballard--is an example of growth run amok. Not only do all the condos have empty, never-filled retail, but local stores, card shop, Olsens, camera shop, and now Epilogue books closed or soon-to-be closed. What good are sidewalks if there are few places to visit?



    Posted Fri, Jul 3, 9:07 a.m. Inappropriate

    You cite two places with sidewalks in your urban example. The other Seattle that was annexed in the early 1950's did not get the promised sidewalks found in Greenwood and Freemont. Zoning in and out the types of businesses to show walability failure is amusing.
    Watching my neighbor drive his wheelchair down the middle of the road to the Albertsons just tells me that no matter what city planners spend my tax money on, including 23 foot wide sidewalk on Bell St, the choice to walk or not outside of the pre-1950's Seattle is very limited.

    The 3 block long sidewalk that runs in front of my house does not actually go anywhere, and was a housing development prop. The city claims an easement on all of these properties, but no responsibility.
    I would just assume give the rights to the sidewalk-less land back to the home owners, and that walkability buzzword would stop being such an insult.

    Mr Baker

    Posted Fri, Jul 3, 9:47 a.m. Inappropriate

    Yes, one can walk now. In fact, it would seem a precondition to the conception of a walkable community--particularly, if one desires a community that reflects the character and quality of it inhabitants, and the well-being of landscape. Central-planning by bureaucrats and politicians who don't actually live within the community is certain not to serve the interests of the community, but of the central planners. How many planners commute daily to and from the burbs? How many of presumed leaders exist within a socioeconomic bubble while merely residing in the community they claim to represent?

    Posted Fri, Jul 3, 12:19 p.m. Inappropriate

    Yes, malls are walkable. The difference is that you can't walk to the malls from home

    Sure you can. Bellevue's Crossroads neighborhood, where I grew up, is eminently walkable, bikeable, and well-served by transit. Before suburbanites became pathologically paranoid (no, there aren't pedophiles or terrorists around every corner... really), kids walked or rode their bicycles to Crossroads Mall all the time.

    Crossroads has become what it was without all the "planning" that is surely turning Ballard and Fremont into ghettos of the wealthy now, and the poor eventually, just like inner-ring commuter suburbs in Europe.

    Besides, Crossroads is in—EWWWWW!—Bellevue...


    Posted Fri, Jul 3, 2:30 p.m. Inappropriate

    I just walked to Northgate Mall after walking to Albertsons on 130th and 99.

    But, I am not what the city planned for.

    I think there is some value in challenging users of the walkability word to define it, rather than throwing off the bright white light of the buzzword and benefitting from the multitudes to break its meaning through individual political prism to extract the color of meaning the are predisposed to find.

    Don't be a . . . Prism-er.

    Mr Baker

    Posted Fri, Jul 3, 4:12 p.m. Inappropriate

    On Wednesday mayoral candidate Elizabeth Campbell announced that as Mayor she would establish a departmental level Office of Neighborhood Business, along with funding for loans and grants for neighborhood businesses, and a neighborhood business retention and enhancement program. According to the news release:

    Mayoral candidate Elizabeth Campbell who has owned and operated her own small businesses for over 25 years, and is a well-known advocate for neighborhood issues, understands that small businesses in Seattle are confronting not just the pressure from the economic downturn, but are increasingly being subjected to City of Seattle policies, development, regulation, disruption to their local street/parking facilities, and even being wholesale displaced by such things as Sound Transit’s MLK Light Rail line; what’s a business to do then, or more importantly what should a City do? Elizabeth Campbell has the answer and the solutions. In her words,

    In other parts of the country, cities such as Portland, Austin, Tampa, and the like are making the effort to retain their local businesses that are the economic foundation of their cities and towns They recognize that locally owned and operated merchants have greater impacts on local economies, and therefore it is important to the viability and economic foundations of the city to ensure that their small businesses remain robust, and that it is important to create an environment that also encourages other small businesses to be established. As mayor I will establish similar policies to help small businesses, including:

    • Establish within the Department of Neighborhoods an Office of Neighborhood Business (ONB), solely dedicated to providing assistance and funding for small businesses.

    • Direct the administrator of the ONB to establish a business retention and enhancement program (BRE), that will have the following goals: the goals of the business retention program shall be to:

    • Improve the image and visibility of small businesses located in the neighborhood business districts of Seattle;

    • Stimulate private retail investment within the neighborhood business districts through property improvement, business development, retention and expansion.

    • Improve the quantity and quality of goods and services available within the neighborhood business districts;

    • Create and retain jobs.

    • Establish a Neighborhood Business Match Fund program patterned after the Seattle’s Neighborhood Match Fund Grant program;

    • Establish a Business Retention and Enhancement Loan program under which the City may provide loans to small businesses within a neighborhood business district in an amount not to exceed $20,000. Loan proceeds could be used for storefront improvements, tenant improvements, and business equipment.

    • Preferences for loans would be given to:
    • Existing businesses within the neighborhood business district (NBD) that are required to relocate due to development, but remain within the NBD;
    • Locally-Owned Businesses
    • Minority-Owned Businesses
    • Women-Owned Businesses


    Posted Fri, Jul 3, 10:38 p.m. Inappropriate

    The planning profession came into being to administrate "zoning," although it is not that clear which was the chicken and which the egg. At any rate, those of us who grew up in Seattle in the 40s and 50s experienced life before either one had much of a impact on our lives. When an earthquake demolished the neighborhood grade school, no problem, the family walked in all directions to temporary quarters, even kindergardeners walking by themselves a mile and a half twice a day. The car, if there was one, went off to work with Dad. The kids and Mom walked everywhere, only occasionally, when the budget allowed, taking the bus to places too far to walk, the like "to town." A family vacation meant a Sunday drive to a city park or to visit relatives cross town.

    By 1957, Seattle planners had enough authority to rationalize the automobile to perfection--they strip zoned arterials after convincing us us how modern and efficient it all would be.

    In hindsight, they tell us, we had it all wrong, sorry, this time we have it all right. With "history" stinking like last week's fish and "modern" off on another toot, these two sentences on the front page of today's Investor's Business Daily caught my eye as a wonderful way to phrase the dilemma:

    "Bureaucrats miss the human element in all of this stuff. Mediocre people can take any kind of management system and turn it into something not very good" (reporter quoting: Greg Scandlen, Consumers for Health Care Choices).

    Regulations that assume all people, designers and places will be above average have always created messes. Nature aims regulation at the mediocre and accommodates the exceptional. Whenever we do the same we do well. Recovering from a sorry mess begins with independent thinkers and a lot of dialogue, so thank you Kent, thank you Crosscut.


    Posted Sat, Jul 4, 6:36 a.m. Inappropriate

    I know Kent is talking about walkability and not safety but sometimes sidewalks are simply about the latter. I live in north Seattle (perhaps not far from Mr. Baker). The city has failed to put in the promised sidewalks along Aurora and other arterials (like 145th) that simply allow people to walk without getting run over. In most of these residential areas, sidewalks do not preclude walking although there are many parents who are reluctant to allow their children to walk to school without them. There is lots of walking in my sidewalk-less neighborhood. However, no one walks along Aurora where there are no sidewalks unless they are trying to make their way to a bus stop or plying their trade. Sidewalks may not be sufficient to produce walkability in a business area but they are a necessary condition -- and they are the logical stating point.


    Posted Sat, Jul 4, 9:29 a.m. Inappropriate

    I am absolutely against the core proposals in this article.

    First off, I am *for* walkability, and I served twice as chair of the Seattle Pedestrian Advisory Board. Second, I am *for* neighborhood retail, and the more local the better. I reward small businesses that meet my needs.

    The problem here is that Kent (as a mouthpiece for likes-to-post-about-herself-in-the-third-person Elizabeth Campbell?) is proposing to give "neighborhood businesses" a separate channel which trumps all others! How does that solve anything? Are we in kindergarten still, where the answer is to steal the toys from the other kids when you don't like the way they're playing?

    Perhaps you're not reading carefully, people! This article is not about walkability! Rather, it posits that planning professionals are callous to the needs of "neighborhood businesses," and unable to understand the needs of this special group of people.

    I put "neighborhood businesses" in quotes because this isn't the 1950s anymore. On the whole, we have independent businesses where the owners live in some other neighborhood and so do their employees. The prime "inexpensive parking" which Kent dreams of is taken first by these out-of-town shopkeepers. That means that the neighborhood needs to be walkable so that customers can get there from their cars around the block!

    I would love to see statistics about the average distance for owners, employees, and customers of "neighborhood businesses," however you choose to define it. How many feuds have you seen in Seattle where businesses and residents were at each others' throats with incompatible visions of how to plan for the future? That’s part of what Kent is trying to solve here, by giving the neighborhood business owners a trump-card. Shop owners want their existing business model expanded; residents want livability. What we're running out of is "24-hour resident/workers." People who know the neighborhood from multiple angles and have to trade-off amongst priorities within their own head.

    I lived for a year in Tokyo in an amazing place where the shopkeepers lived in condos and apartments above their stores, walked their kids to school where they served on the PTA, signed up for the volunteer fire department, ran the neighborhood watch and business association and community festivals, sat in each others' bars and restaurants and barber shops and homes, played sports together, etc, etc.

    It was a massive contrast to the neighborhood I left in Seattle, the International District, where social service groups, various ethnic groups, business owners and residents are locked in an overlapping tug-of-war. And the neighborhood I returned to, South Lake Union, has a huge swap at around 8am each morning where the residents leave en masse, and customers, business owners, and office workers replace them. Astoundingly, most food establishments close too early for me to eat dinner! So last week I packed up my things and migrated to a new community.

    I've probably stumbled into extreme cases, but I think these patterns are reflected in all of our neighborhoods.

    Enough rambling, here's what I propose. First off, small businesses deserve a seat at the table - if that's not happening, we need to fix it. (They do not get their own table, though.) Second, we all love the memory of the shopkeeper as a member of the community - so let's make it a planning ideal to encourage local (walkable or bikable) ownership and employment. And let's find ways to alter policies and expenditures to get us closer to that ideal.

    Rob K

    Posted Sat, Jul 4, 10:49 a.m. Inappropriate

    Rob K. has a point, this debate is about communities that have sidewalks and shop spaces to walk to, what a problem to have.

    I have neither. So, I will offer the third argument here, I am without the thing to walk on (promised 50 years ago when annexed), or the public parking (that the city zones), or the shop spaces (since locals can walkwithout getting run over). The annexed are not likely to take either of your sides, good luck getting the right person to pander to you.

    So, the Seattle with the sidewalks, parking, shop spaces, debating your points, are complaining about zoning and and where OUR taxes are spent.

    I am getting the density built near me, but not much else.

    I still think everything from 130th and north should "move" to the City of Shoreline.

    Mr Baker

    Posted Sat, Jul 4, 12:18 p.m. Inappropriate

    Mr. Kammerer, it seems like what you are railing against isn't walkable neighborhoods but the business model which many neighborhood "downtowns" have incorporated, which is the mall model. That is, businesses are supported by lots of people from out of the neighborhood who drive in, use free parking, and wander around a small business corridor where they buy lots of things and then go to their homes far away.

    I think its specifically this model, developed in the '50's and developed all the way into the 90's, which the urban village model is trying to change. Epilogue Books is an interesting story because while it seems like your classic neighborhood store, it probably ran off the drive in/drive out model of years past. As it gets more difficult to do this in Ballard these drivers are going elsewhere (northgate, u-village) and so in a recession Epilogue fails. I still think Ballard and the rest of Seattle's neighbohoods will continue to get more local and smaller, as a strong walkable community develops around them but its not going to be painless.

    You suggest that in poor nations everyone walks out of necessity but I would say in the Puget Sound it is the exact opposite. People who can afford living in Greenwood or Columbia City or Capitol Hill have the advantage of being able to satisfy many of their needs without a car. But talk about the Highlands in Renton, Federal Way, SeaTac, etc and people NEED a car to accomplish anything, which is a financial burden. Making sure walkability is equitable is perhaps the biggest challenge we face in the future.


    Posted Sat, Jul 4, 12:27 p.m. Inappropriate

    Btw, the SDOT advisory Board meets on 7/8/2009 (if this is current), two weeks before is heads to council.


    The priority map places higher value on "Vibrancy".
    If you think walkability is a bullshitbuzzword, try Vibrancy.


    So, if you have infrastructure then you will get more (and end up here fighting about what you already have and do not have), if you have less (no sidewal, line painted streets, stop signs, covered ditches) then you are tax cows to be milked. That's how it looks to this citizen.

    Let them eat traffic circles.


    Mr Baker

    Posted Sat, Jul 4, 9:33 p.m. Inappropriate

    @Mr_Baker: Blame the automobile! Before cars, sidewalks were a luxury. That's why property owners would do Local Improvement Districts to put them in and raise property values. Suddenly it was like having a linear park! After cars, the roads that everyone had been walking and playing on were usurped. But now it's crazy expensive to put sidewalks in retroactively with all of the drainage requirements to keep streets passable by cars.

    Unless we change our values as a society, the best you can hope for is sidewalks at new construction and near bus stops and schools. We need the rest of the money to fill potholes and repave thoroughfares. (Some might argue that the rest of the city already paid for their own sidewalks, why should they now pay for yours? The reality is that we've paid for all kinds of car infrastructure, but don't seem to care enough about people when they walk.)

    Rob K

    Posted Sun, Jul 5, 9:06 a.m. Inappropriate

    The rest of the city promised sidewalks as part of the annex. So, I blame the city for not holding up their end of the bargain. I pay City of Seattle tax rates, Rob.
    There is, has been, an easement on ALL of the property around here. Front yards end and then there is this strange grass/gravel area area in front of many homes where people park as if there were curbs and sidewalk, that the city has rights to, but never will act on.
    Either build the "walkability" sidewalks or give those people back thier land. Stop taxing us as if we have proper roads, spray tar and gravel?

    Walkabilty is not as much a buzzword as it is a lie, and politicos might want to know that on the odd chance they wander away from the urban Seattle.

    Some people that live where promised sidewalks never reach, or streetcars, etc, see the city reach into the general fund (my money too) to pay for all kinds of crazy things.

    Mr Baker

    Posted Sun, Jul 5, 9:06 a.m. Inappropriate

    The rest of the city promised sidewalks as part of the annex. So, I blame the city for not holding up their end of the bargain. I pay City of Seattle tax rates, Rob.
    There is, has been, an easement on ALL of the property around here. Front yards end and then there is this strange grass/gravel area area in front of many homes where people park as if there were curbs and sidewalk, that the city has rights to, but never will act on.
    Either build the "walkability" sidewalks or give those people back thier land. Stop taxing us as if we have proper roads, spray tar and gravel?

    Walkabilty is not as much a buzzword as it is a lie, and politicos might want to know that on the odd chance they wander away from the urban Seattle.

    Some people that live where promised sidewalks never reach, or streetcars, etc, see the city reach into the general fund (my money too) to pay for all kinds of crazy things.

    Mr Baker

    Posted Sun, Jul 5, 6:32 p.m. Inappropriate

    Mr. Baker's suggestion that 130th north should be annexed by Shoreline is not so farfetched. Mayor Nickels has changed the language of city government to reflect a consumer approach to taxpayers. Well, consumers, by definition have choices.. Shoreline has managed to put sidewalks along Aurora. The city, although paying lip service to walkability, has not fulfilled the one precondition for walking, a safe place to do it, separated from cars moving 45 miles an hour.


    Posted Wed, Jul 8, 1:34 p.m. Inappropriate

    From what I hear, Seattle's effort to build sidewalks on Aurora is being held up by business owners along the corridor affraid of the construction impacts.

    Posted Thu, Jul 9, 12:56 p.m. Inappropriate

    @Sensible_Olga: Thank you, that's exactly my point! Maybe not every business owner feels that way in every neighborhood, but I certainly don't want anti-walkable-community folks to have a planning trump card.

    A few notes on the content of the article.

    I could be totally misunderstanding @Kent. But it sounds like he's saying that our neighborhood business districts need to be accessible by transit and to be walkable, but they need to also (primarily?) provide automobile facilities which make them competitive with malls. The proposal is that a government-appointed board of independent business owners get together and approve or deny any planning policy. The article suggests that we're fooling ourselves about the importance of walkability (and transit) and we instead need to focus on automobile access and cheap parking -- that's what the business board will make sure happens.

    This reminds me of Seattle's 1956 urban plan (the first written with cars in mind), but expanded from downtown to every neighborhood. In 1956, downtown retail was suffering and it was believed that if you can't beat 'em, join 'em -- they wanted to incorporate all of the free parking, covered walkways, a ring road around the shopping district, etc, that had become the template for malls that were supposedly sucking away customers. (They didn't consider the cheap housing, and the establishment of new travel patterns as causes.)

    And a couple notes on the structure

    I think this article itself has an odd flow. For example, Greenwood is brought up as an example of a neighborhood changing to complement the regional malls. What I can't figure out is when exactly Greenwood underwent this change. Did it change in the 50s? More recently? It survived in the auto era, but what is happening now that it's an urban village? Did that have any impact on Greenwood yet? Are the auto-oriented antique stores suffering because of some sort of parking or zoning change, and are there any new businesses replacing them? I can't figure it out.

    What I really want from this article is a snapshot of different eras of neighborhood business, and then for some sort of case to be made about how current planning ideals or methodologies are antiquated or pie-in-the-sky (since that is the belief of the writer). I'd love suggestions for new business models, or how the city can facilitate businesses and customers as we transition away from autos, or even just creative ideas to keep autos a viable alternative. What I get is a mash of cause and effect that makes it seem like Costco destroyed the American city immediately after World War Two.

    Putting in a few curb bulbs won't make every business in the neighborhood more successful. But I can't figure out what the money would be better spent on. Help me out! What recent policy decision should have gone a different way? Are you talking about MLK and Aurora specifically, or is this a systemic problem affecting every road in the city? Give me something concrete so I can figure out if maybe I agree with you after all.

    Rob K

    Posted Wed, Dec 30, 9:22 p.m. Inappropriate

    What is missing are the cross town small buses that ran all day long, back and forth, or around in a basic square/circle pattern.

    In the 1960's most mothers didn't work, nor did they have cars. If they lived in the City, they easily got around to Ballard or the U District, or even to Northgate for food, dentist or whatever. Today, we drive because there is no cross town bus that runs all day long.


    Posted Mon, Jul 18, 1:08 a.m. Inappropriate

    Hello folks,

    A couple of decades ago I organized a citizen's campaign to get something better than the Pie in the sky mud walkway around Haller Lake, which turned out to be a lot easier than I anticipated. All I had to do was draw up a simple petition to the City and take it door-to-door to the residents of the ring-road, and get these signed petitions them back to SDOT (Seattle Department of Transportation). Before long a funky tiny crew arrived and began to lay our present walkwa around the
    lakes' perimeter. sure it's lumpy-bumpy asphalt, but it sure beats mud and mud puddles. Now it's walkable, and a great asset to those wanting to walk the dog, the kid, or just themselves. But it doesn't go anywhere excerpt a circle. The three grocery store, one even with a full service meat market, had already died a slow and painful death at the hands of Northgate shopping center. The only replacement for these neighborhood-friendly amenities is an inconspicuous haircut salon. There is no place at all in Haller Lake, which owes it's exclusive Single Family zoning to King County, from which it was wrested in the mid-fifties, and is now completely built out with single family homes, which prevents any more retail to be sited without spot rezones to bulldoze some present residents out of their homes, ala Palestine and other occupied territories.
    I gave yet to be convinced that this is a desirable or even feasible outcome.
    Haller Lake, a 501(c)4 Washington State Neighborhood since 1922, is currently embroiled in a contentious update of it's City-approved Neighborhood Plan, and under tremendous pressure from Mayor Mcginn to even further densify, even though it's already at 400 to 500 percent of it's GMA (Growth Management Act) target.
    What's a body to do in these circumstances. Simple answer: why just move to the country, as did many of us to arrive here in the fifties.

    Pie in the sky


    A promise of heaven, while continuing to suffer in this life.


    This is an American phrase and was coined by Joe Hill in 1911. Hill was a Swedish-born itinerant labourer who migrated to the USA in 1902. He was a leading light of the radical labour organisation The Industrial Workers of the World - known as the Wobblies, writing many radical songs for them. The phrase appeared first in Hill's The Preacher and the Slave, which parodied the Salvation Army hymn In the Sweet Bye and Bye. The song, which criticized the Army's theology and philosophy, specifically their concentration on the salvation of souls rather than the feeding of the hungry, was popular when first recorded and remained so for some years.

    Long-haired preachers come out every night,
    Try to tell you what's wrong and what's right;
    But when asked how 'bout something to eat
    They will answer with voices so sweet:

    You will eat, bye and bye,
    In that glorious land above the sky;
    Work and pray, live on hay,
    You'll get pie in the sky when you die.

    The starvation army they play,
    They sing and they clap and they pray
    'Till they get all your coin on the drum
    Then they'll tell you when you're on the bum:

    Holy Rollers and jumpers come out,
    They holler, they jump and they shout.
    Give your money to Jesus they say,
    He will cure all diseases today.
    If you fight hard for children and wife
    Try to get something good in this life
    You're a sinner and bad man, they tell,
    When you die you will sure go to hell.

    Workingmen of all countries, unite,
    Side by side we for freedom will fight;
    When the world and its wealth we have gained
    To the grafters we'll sing this refrain:

    You will eat, bye and bye,
    When you've learned how to cook and to fry.
    Chop some wood, 'twill do you good,
    And you'll eat in the sweet bye and bye.

    The phrase wasn't taken up until the Second World War, when it began to be used figuratively to refer to any prospect of future happiness which was unlikely ever to be realized. For example, this report from the California newspaper The Fresno Bee, November 1939:

    "The business world is fearful that Roosevelt's obsession with war problems will mean a continued neglect of questions which still restrict trade and profits. They are highly skeptical of Washington's promise that they will 'eat pie in the sky' solely from war orders, which they decry publicly.

    See also: jam tomorrow.

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