July 1-7, 1919. „This summer will be the proletariat's!”

Torma Galina

In early July 1919 while the country's internal- and foreign policies were failing, Vörös Riport Film news started paying more attention to the working class' everydays and recreation.

Stick picking in Hűvösvölgy

A public announcement forbidding passengers to carry sticks on trams appeared in Népszava on June 7, 1919. Thanks to the Capital Forestry- and Agricultural Office, Budapest residents were allowed to gather sticks in the surrounding forests while the city was having a shortage on wood supplies. In the beginning, everything went fine, women were bringing home the stash in bundles and bags, but soon they started using the tram to travel back to the city, and stick-pickers stormed the Hűvösvölgy, Zugliget and other stops. They entered the already crowded cars with giant stacks and regularly broke the windows. Before they would have completely destroyed the trams and made traffic management impossible, the Budapest HQ of the Red Guard intervened and forbade people to travel with their loot, so people ended up transporting logs with wheelbarrows or just dragged them back to the city on foot.

Finally they found a solution which seemed to satisfy all parties. A cargo car was attached to every tram travelling to the city; cargo installation was supervised by the Red Guard, which we can see on the footage. The next problem came, when the sticks were gone and people started pruning, which gave way to a new way of usury. People were transporting thousands of trees from the woods with four- and two-wheel wagons and sold them at the market hall for  600-800 Krones. The Hűvösvölgy woods were vanishing rapidly with almost no trees left in Vadaskert, Fazekashegy and Hárshegy. To put an end to that, the Central Workers' and Soldiers' Council's chairmanship issued the following regulation in order to protect the capital's woods: „Entering the Budapest forests (which we mainly maintain for public health services) with lumbering or sawing equipment is strictly forbidden. Those who fail to keep the aforementioned rules will be brought to court.” At the same time, thanks to the Capital Forestry- and Agricultural Office, the Agricultural Commissariat's Forestry Department ordered the professional planting of forest trees in the Budapest woods.

Student jobs during the summer holiday - Picking peas on the racetrack

In early July the Public Education Commissariat ordered to provide summer jobs for young workers, as in high school students over 16 and unemployed apprentices. The commissariat particularly supported their involvement in agriculture and sent them to pick carrots and peas at countryside coops and the Budapest racetracks, which they plowed and converted into gardens in early April.

The first spinach harvest season was already over by then at the new 220 acre racetrack garden. The manager Ferenc Derrera supervised a large field in the US for 10 years, and designed the site based on his experiences, where he worked with 600 employees. Most of them were intellectuals and had completely different jobs in a previous system, such as lawyers, businessmen, office workers, widows to high-ranking officers, but mostly young girls and students were working together there with countryside farmers. However, the field was not only used for harvesting vegetables; by the end of June, they installed large hencoops in order to breed chicken with modern incubators. Prior horse-racing enthusiasts would have never recognized their favorite site, where racetracks became seed-plots and the magnificent brick stalls where once racehorses were kept turned into offices and workers' housing.

The proletarian grand main mission was to harvest all necessary food supplies locally, therefore planned to open large-scale gardens not only in the capital but around all major industrial towns. The proletarian leaders believed this would solve their food supply problems on the long run and provide productive jobs for those who recently became unemployed.

Proletarian holiday at the National Park

In 1907 next to the Zoo, on the other side of Hermina út a new entertainment quarter appeared, named American Park, which was based on Ős-Budavár, the popular site for millennial celebrations. Mostly showmen were entertaining the public, who could also enjoy the summer variety, cabaret, music pavilion, café and restaurant, but the establishment was struggling and in 1910 a new owner took over to install the park with games that were already popular in other countries.

He asked Budapest for permission to build a toboggan (Tobogán) and a Ferris wheel (Csodakerék). The first one was a vertical 8-shaped track with a train of 4-person cars - which later became the still-standing roller-coaster -, while the other one was a machine-driven wheel with seats, in which passengers could spin dizzy. The new park opened in spring 1911 as English Park. It was extremely popular from the beginning with more and more games available. Soon after opening, Enchanted Castle was built with a mirror hall and mirror labyrinth which became one of the most popular spectacles alongside the Ferris wheel and cave train. Two weeks after the beginning of World War I. English Park was renamed to National Park a military arena (for military shows) opened next to the Ferris wheel. This institution was also nationalized during the Soviet Republic. The Workers' Child-Friendly Association's main goal was to take care of proletarian children, organized readings and plays, built playgrounds and offered free meals to provide them a life they never experienced before. Children also had the opportunity to visit the park on certain days.

The park was reserved for them on the morning of Saturday, July 5 on proletarian day, and groups of children between 8 and 14 from every district and the outskirts were welcomed. Afternoon the VI. district Workers- and Soldiers Council's culture department organized a festival at the National Park, which attracted tens of thousands of proletarians. Shows began at 15:15, 18:00 and 20:30 at the military arena and 15:30 and 20:30 at theaters around the park with performances by the most famous artists of Budapest. There were also fireworks at 22:00. Symphonic- and marching bands played music for the masses from 15:00 until closing time, which Commander-in-Chief József Haubrich (who was also present) allowed them to push to midnight.

Proletarians' summer vacation

The Labor and Welfare Commissariat's order on accessing thermal baths and summer resorts appeared on June 15 in Belügyi Közlöny, where they listed all nationalized baths and resorts: Almádi, Alsóörs, Badacsony, Balatonaliga, Balatonberény, Balatonboglár, Balatonföldvár, Balatonfüred, Balatonkeresztúr, Balatonlelle, Balatonszárszó, Balatonszemes, Balatonvilágos, Csopak, Györök, Gyenesdiás, Fonyód, Bélatelep, Hévíz-Szentandrás, Kenese, Keszthely, Máriatelep, Balatonfenyves, Révfülöp, Siófok, Vashegy, Zamárdi, Gizellatelep, Nagymaros, Visegrád, Zebegény, Balf, Párád, Tarcsa, Savanyúkút and the children's sanatoriums in Balatonalmádi and Fokszabadi. Some of those were handed over to the National Children's Holiday Office to organize student holidays. The order stated that all other places shall be reserved for those with health issues, who had to ask for permission at the Commissariat's bath department. Requests had to include a medical certificate of the illness for which the child needed treatment, while anyone associated with red soldiers enjoyed priority in the application process without any certificate required.

Healthy proletarian families could also get in to the facilities if there were free rooms. A treatment program was limited to four weeks, and a bath trustee was supposed to assign the rooms and beds. As the country was suffering from linen-shortage, guests had to bring their own bed linens and towels. Meals were available for tickets issued by the bath trustee, but everyone was required to bring flour, sugar and fat. The following statement was also included in the order on nationalized baths: „As the Soviet Republic is focusing on housing unhealthy proletarians, all strangers (stranger to the area) staying at thermal baths and resorts shall leave the premises in 24 hours after this order is issued. (…) The local workers'- soldiers'- and farmers' councils shall make sure that departing guests are not taking any equipment, supplies and food with them, which belong to local and visiting proletarians.”

Proletarians were also welcomed in and around Budapest - on Svábhegy, Zugliget and Hűvösvölgy with 2000 vacant rooms at the nationalized summer houses, and those who stayed in the city could visit the lidos of Kristálytó and Római bath on hot summer days. In late May, the Labor and Welfare Commissariat was planning to offer summer vacations for 50.000 workers. They did not know yet that their proletarian summer was going to become much shorter then expected.