In a comment under our most recent United Auto Workers post, Taurus GT500 posted the below. I thought it worthy of lifting into pride of place in our blog roll.
“Bob Cratchit asked us to drop you a line. We’re the Ghosts of Main Streets Past, Present, and Future.
You know us by our nickname. We’re the (former) steel towns of the Mon River – the Steel Valley. You know, Steelers, Steel City. Get it? That’s us.
We’ve been where you’re going. …But, it wasn’t always like this.
Once, we made rails that connected shining sea to shining sea; girders that put the sky in skyscraper; and when Henry and those Dodge boys and that Durant fellow put America on wheels, where you think all that steel came from?
You and Rosie the Riveter was the Arsenal of Democracy. Maybe with better PR we’d a been the Blast Furnace of Freedom.
Our furnaces’d light the sky for miles. Endless parades of coal barges. And freight train whistles at all hours. Man, like the song said, we were something to see.
But that was then …and this is now.
The Golden Triangle’s just a couple of miles and a lifetime away. It’s vibrant. Alive. Museums, universities. It rocks. And on Sundays, whoa boy, the Stillers are lighten’ it up just like the old days. …Bradshaw looking deep…he’s got Swann … oops sorry, got carried away for a moment.
Our Main Streets ain’t too golden. The wind’s howling off the river. Sky’s leaden. The sullen is literal in January …figurative in July. Yep, been kinda rough here for couple years …um, a couple decades actually. These hillsides used to teem with fellas working the mills. They were good boys too. Not booksmart, but hard working salt-of-the-earth types.
But I tell you, get them in a group – a mob actually – and they’d get all filled up with crazy ideas. Couldn’t talk no sense to them to save your life. The union told them what they wanted to hear.
Work less – make more! Heck, who don’t want to hear that. Sign me up for that deal.
After a while they figured you had a union card, you was exempt from the laws of supply and demand. Except that ain’t how real life works. Crazy nonsense but they believed it – just like your UAW boys today.
The 80’s came and it’s been rough ever since. It’s a long story and real complicated but I’m telling you it wasn’t all their fault. Those suits made enough dumb decisions for a couple lifetimes. But, truth be told – and I still can’t say this too loud ‘round here – when it all blew up, well …we sure did our part to help.
It was like they took a blood oath …gonna fight to the last man standing. …like the Alamo. Once the dust settled it was like the Alamo too. No mills left standing.
And us Main Streets? Oh, it’s not so bad. Look …see them blast furnaces.
Where? …just empty fields? Yeah Now! …Gotta close your eyes and imagine!
And over here on Main Street, only a couple empty storefronts …OK …most of them. But we got some real fine businesses left. A couple check cashing stores. Three liquor stores, some bars. The police substation does a brisk business too.
What? What happened to the mill workers? Oh, it all worked out OK …sorta.
They all got jobs. In the 80’s a couple (dozen) mills closed but man, you gotta realize, Walmarts and 7-Elevens popped up everywhere. Talk about transferable skill-sets, you got 25 years of nightshifts you’re set. You got no idea the $10 jobs ‘round here till you start looking.
Yeah, it’s really not that bad, we just need a fresh coat of paint is all. …and a couple new mills couldn’t hurt either.
Well, this is what you got to look forward to. Some of them old mill hunks, the years took the edge off and they got some perspective now. Still not booksmart but they could talk some sense to your UAW hotheads.
They’d tell your fellas they didn’t know how good it was till it all went away. And, if they knew then what they know now, well, they’d a swallowed their pride real hard. Taken the pay cuts. Ripped up those stupid work rules. They knew all along it don’t take four to do the job of one…even named it, called it featherbedding.
And they’d say, “Yins don’t get it. Of course a man don’t want to take a pay cut. Tramples your dignity.
But… making $35 at a plant that’s still open has a whole lot more dignity ‘n “making” $70 at a plant that’s been bulldozed to rubble.”
But some lessons you just gotta learn the hard way.
Hey if you got any extra paint laying around, we could sure use it.”