What does the expression mean - "to reach the handle"

Often about a person who finds himself in a difficult life situation, or even completely sank to the bottom, they say "got to the handle." What is this pen, and how to get to it?

The most popular version is related to the production of bread. Our country has long been famous for its rolls, which were baked from premium flour and resembled a weight or a padlock in shape. Moreover, this was done for a reason. How to bring the roll home when there were no packaging bags so familiar to us? It's very simple - they took him by this very "handle". And the hands were not always perfectly clean, while our ancestors had an idea of ​​the basic rules of hygiene.

After the roll was brought home, the "pen" was broken off and thrown to the dogs or given to the beggars. Alas, they did not have much choice, they had to eat bread pens, which wealthier people did not use. Therefore, about a person who did not disdain such handouts, they disparagedly said: "got to the handle."

There is another version about the origin of this winged expression. It refers to the second half of the 19th century, when serfdom was abolished in Russia by the decree of Emperor Alexander II. Not all peasants were able to take advantage of the freedom provided. Many of them went bankrupt and were forced to leave for the cities in search of at least some kind of work.

And what awaited a beggar peasant who had no specialty in the city? The most primitive unskilled labor. For example, turn the drive handle of a primitive machine tool, because electricity at the end of the 19th century was very rare.

At the same time, the tramps were not even allowed into the territory of the factory, but simply led the pen out of the factory wall. And the unemployed crowded at the gates were offered to turn this knob for a small fee. Which they did all working day, replacing each other. That is, the expression "to reach the pen" meant: to take on hopelessness for any, even the most unskilled and low-paid job.

Nowadays, there is no longer a need to carry rolls in your hands, there are convenient plastic bags. And machine tools with a manual drive have long been museum pieces. But, the expression "to reach the pen" can often be heard now. It means the same thing as centuries ago - to sink so that there is nowhere to go, when you have to eat what you have to do and do any work so as not to die of hunger.