A Look Back in History: Payday for the Men

It’s practically inconceivable now, but apparently, back in the day, Spring Valley Water Company (SVWC) wasn’t always timely with its wage payouts.

Complaints had been issued to the State Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 1925, a letter from F.P. Muhlner, the SVWC Comptroller at the time, to G. A. Elliott, the Chief Engineer (General Manager) shows these complaints.

It may not have been as bad as it sounds. If one looked closely at the details, they will note that the Comptroller references a recent legal change regarding payroll disbursement. In December of 1924 the SVWC had become responsive to “semi-monthly payroll” requirements, presumably state-issued. (Interestingly, the pay dates are tied to specific days of the month rather than weekly cycles as is done today.) The letter to the Chief Engineer is dated mid-February 1925, so it may have been that the delays were due to a slow process change rather than something more sinister.

1925 Letter from Spring Valley Water Company Comptroller to Chief Engineer.

Regardless, the Chief Engineer duly relays the Comptroller’s message (and letter) along to the Peninsula Superintendent of the day, Mr. W.B. Lawrence, Esquire. Mr. Elliot has responded expediently by relaying his instructions to Lawrence on the same day as receipt of his own guidelines from the Comptroller. When rummaging through a lot of the related correspondence from that era, a lot of same-day or next day interactions took place.

An interesting sidebar — why did it take two days for the Comptrollers letter, initiated in San Francisco, to make its way onto the Chief Engineer’s desk? One can only wonder.

Spring Valley Water Company Letterhead with Sunol Water Temple Logo.