Those who had food to sell sought to take advantage of the necessities of the suffering by charging famine prices for their supplies, but the soldiers put a quick stop to this. When Thursday morning broke, lines of buyers formed before the stores whose supplies had not been commandeered. In one of these, the first man was charged 75 cents for a loaf of bread. The corporal in charge at that point brought his gun down with a slam.
“Bread is 10 cents a loaf in this shop,” he said.
It went. The soldier fixed the schedule of prices a little higher than in ordinary times, and to make up for that he forced the storekeeper to give free food to several hungry people in line who had no money to pay. In several other places the soldiers used the same brand of horse sense.
A man with a loaf of bread in his hand ran up to a policeman on Washington Street. “Here,” he said, “this man is trying to charge me a dollar for this loaf of bread. Is that fair?”
“Give it to me,” said the policeman. He broke off one end of it and stuck it in his mouth. “I am hungry myself,” he said when he had his mouth clear. “Take the rest of it. It’s appropriated.”
As an example of the prices charged for food and service by the unscrupulous, we may quote the experience of a Los Angeles millionaire named John Singleton, who had been staying a day or two at the Palace Hotel. On Wednesday he had to pay $25 for an express wagon to carry himself, his wife and her sister to the Casino, near Golden Gate Park, and on Thursday was charged a dollar apiece for eggs and a dollar for a loaf of bread. Others tell of having to pay $50 for a ride to the ferry.
One of the refugees on the shores of Lake Herced Thursday morning spied a flock of ducks and swans which the city maintained there for the decoration of the lake. He plunged into the lake, swam out to them and captured a fat drake. Other men and boys saw the point and followed. The municipal ducks were all cooking in five minutes.
The soldiers were prompt to take charge of the famine situation, acting on their own responsibility in clearing out the supplies of the little grocery stores left standing and distributing them among the people in need. The principal food of those who remained in the city was composed of canned goods and crackers. The refugees who succeeded in getting out of San Francisco were met as soon as they entered the neighboring towns by representatives of bakers who had made large supplies of bread, and who immediately dealt them out to the hungry people.