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Thread: Rust Belt Boy: Stories of an American Childhood by Paul Hertneky

  1. #21
    Senior Member catherine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Williamsmith View Post
    I feel I've made a feeble attempt at reviewing a book who's purpose was probably half reminiscence and half enshrinement. It is not about politics, economics or for that matter even solutions. It is a salute to immigrants, hard work, salt of the earth, self reliance, the passing of an era and renewal or adaptation by sons and daughters of real people with a patina of rust worn like a diamond ring on a wrinkled bent finger.

    There is promise for those who remained, for those with either the foresight to stay or perhaps the timidity to leave. For those who have left and come back to visit, those that remain are heroes. They are the heartbeat, while faint, that keeps hope alive despite outside attempts to meddle in a system several hundred years in the making. From the settling of the Western Frontier, the Indian Wars and Mad Anthony Wayne, the first successful Communist group of Harmonists called Old Economy, a Revolution, A Civil Fracture, and the Age of Industry. It all happened here. From George Washington to George Bush......an ebb and flo of a community that has taken it all in stride.

    I am proud to have been closely associated with such a place. No amount of technology, globalism or whatever ism you chose to assign its downfall to, can take one ounce from purity and simplicity of these people. They are here despite politics. And they will be here when the next incarnation of "Plowboy" poles its way up the Ohio River. They do not put any hope in the most recent elected official but they never dare to hope. They have always chosen to build a bridge to the future.
    Great tribute, Williamsmith. I can muster up a bit of nostalgia myself, remembering my next-door best friends's father supporting the family nicely delivering Drake's Cakes. My other best friend's dad was a carpenter who supported 9 kids. Every time another kid came along, he simply divided a bedroom. Then another kid would come and he'd put in a bunk bed. Those rooms were as neat as a pin, even though they were no bigger than a prison cell, furnished like an army barrack. I adored that family, and admired them profusely.

    You could fit 3 of our little cookie-cutter Cape Cods into one of today's McMansions, but they were homey, and usually populated 24/7 by our moms.

    Of course, when my DH gets all nostalgic, I remind him that both his mother and mine got sideswiped by life when they lost their husbands and financial support, but that was one flaw in the system that has worked itself out.

    Who knows what the future will bring for people with grit, tradesman's skills rather than intellectual hubris, a strong work ethic and devotion to their families. You can't go home again, as they say.
    "Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it--every, every minute?" Emily Webb, Our Town
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  2. #22
    Senior Member bae's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LDAHL View Post
    It would be interesting to see a large scale-experiment with a significant, formal donee class. How do you cope with the people incapable of coping simply because they have a reliable income? What kind of status systems will evolve? Will politics become a simple bidding process? Will the nastiest jobs become the highest-paying?
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cura_Annonae

  3. #23
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    Rome was ultimately unable to maintain the dole to the capite censi. Can we build an economy so productive that that we can provide bread and circuses to a large, economically redundant segment of the population while still maintaining the needed motivation for others to work, invest and innovate?

  4. #24
    Senior Member Rogar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Williamsmith View Post
    I feel I've made a feeble attempt at reviewing a book who's purpose was probably half reminiscence and half enshrinement. It is not about politics.....

    I am proud to have been closely associated with such a place. No amount of technology, globalism or whatever ism you chose to assign its downfall to, can take one ounce from purity and simplicity of these people. They are here despite politics. And they will be here when the next incarnation of "Plowboy" poles its way up the Ohio River. They do not put any hope in the most recent elected official but they never dare to hope. They have always chosen to build a bridge to the future.
    More than a feeble attempt to me. It brought back some of my own memories. I was thinking today about the traditional dishes the eastern Europeans and Italians brought to our steel mill town. Sausage and cold cuts of all sorts potica and other breads and pastries and tomato sauces. They were a hard working bunch proud of their jobs. It was also my privileged to work with hard rock miners in the 70's. They considered themselves a step above coal miners, but I get the mentality. The little mountain town pretty much closed down during one of the metals crashes and is now a tourist destination. Some moved up to the Dakotas to mine. The miners that stayed became t-shop shirt and restaurant operators. I guess that would be the service industry. They were among the finer humans I've known. During the summer there would be a mining competition with old fashioned hand drilling and mucking. They were very proud of their skills and good at what they did.

    Hard to talk about the rust belt without politics coming up.

  5. #25
    Senior Member jp1's Avatar
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    It's interesting to me the rootedness that some people feel for a particular place. In this case the rust belt. My family history has none of that. Perhaps we were just early globalists. My maternal ancestors left Germany in the 1850s due to strife there hoping for a better life in Russia. In the 1880s they had to leave Russia because things were even worse there. They settled in NW Kansas, taking advantage of the homestead land available. My grandparents, though, moved yet again 20some years later because there was no land available for them to raise a family. They settled 100 miles south, which a hundred years ago may as well been 1,000 miles away. Of my mom's generation 7 out of 8 kids left to make their fortunes elsewhere. Western Kansas during the dust bowl was no place to make one's fortune so her generation scattered all over the western half of the country most after having gotten educations at KSU, which their parents were able to provide thanks to frugal living and a bit of luck.

    My father's side wasn't much different. My grandfather was orphaned at a young age and shuffled among relatives who reluctantly cared for him. At 11 or 12 years old he was tired of this and set out on his own, quitting school and finding a job to support himself. Eventually, despite the depression, he landed a good job at a foundary and was able to support his wife in the state tuberculosis hospital, 3 kids, and his wife's elderly parents, one of whom had been paralyzed by polio. Since he had made it completely on his own he had no interest in telling his kids how to live their lives. So they scattered to 3 different states, got educations and all did well for themselves.

    Consequently, when my sister and I were reaching adulthood neither of our parents had any sort of expectation that we should stay local. Their only recommendations, which they had made since we were wee young kids, was that we prioritize education. One of my dad's favorite sayings was 'sweat sells for about $2 a bucket. You can make a lot more money with your brain.' Denver is a lovely city but it never even occurred to me that I should stay there. I sought out, and got, a scholarship to an expensive university 2000 miles away because it sounded like an exciting place to go to school. It was, and I've never looked back. I don't feel any more ties to Denver than any other place I've lived since. When it comes time to retire SO and I will surely leave San Francisco, where we have spent the past 8 years. We like it well enough and have made some great friends but the cost of living is not conducive to a retired lifestyle. We're cool with that. There are lots of nice places and people in every corner of the world.

  6. #26
    Senior Member Williamsmith's Avatar
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    I hadn't intended to expand any further than to recommend the book but please bare with me.

    Growing up in an immigrant community, my friends were Italian, Hungarian, Poles, Slovak, Czech, Croats, Serbs.......we were all mill "hunkies". The word "hunkie" was a slur against our old country roots and our lack of refinement in the Language and customs but we adopted it as a friendly descriptor of a group with common backgrounds and proud heritage.

    In the mill, the mostly German and "refined" families were supervisors and foremen. The ownership preferred them over the ignorant immigrant worker. African Americans were assigned the nastiest of the jobs, like a coal sorter or in the hottest places. Back in the old country cultural diversity was a given but here immigrants separated themselves in groups by the region they were from. They had their own churches. It was segregated by choice.

    This separation was used against us by the mill. The foremen and management were also elected into the community political hierarchy. In exchange for favors, leaders in the mill arranged and organized workers to vote for certain people. In this way, there was only one way to achieve social mobility or economic improvement. That was by scratching the other guys back. Call it bribery, or insider trading.......it all was explained to me often by my mother who said, "Its not what you know, it's who you know."

    Certainly the labor movement eventually had something to say about this but it took a very long time for them to break through the cronyism. Of the many jobs I worked, I suspect more than a few were acquired by my "connections" and had nothing to do with my work ethic or suitability for the job over others. This is how things "worked". To suggest otherwise was utter folly.

    Of course, when I and my friends went to the colleges to be "educated" when the mills were replaced by county jails and municipal waste transfer stations.......we were taught about cultural diversity, equal opportunity, fairness in the workplace......blah, blah, blah. None of it was recognizable in our paradigm.

    And so we became, postmen....police officers.....insurance agents.....teachers......small business owners.....engineers......drug addicts.....alcoholics.......welfare recipients.....major league baseball managers.....but still sons and daughters of "Mill Hunkies.

    We know how things get done. We know how to get our piece of the pie. When Donald Trump came along, we recognized a system where we could advance again. We have been living it ever since we got off the boat.

    *Credit Paul Hertneky for his insight. Much of what was just related is formulated briefly in his book. Along with the descriptions of life in the Catholic school and pierogi day-------my mouth is watering. It has sparked my recollections of my youth and young adult life which are now even more precious to me.


  7. #27
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    Trump is not going to try and help the working person.

  8. #28
    Senior Member Williamsmith's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Teacher Terry View Post
    Trump is not going to try and help the working person.
    Of course not, Terry, neither did Obama or Bush or name a President.

    It is the worker who helps the working person. Simple people need only simple things. A freezer full of venison burgers, a locally brewed beer, a payday with a constant figure no matter how small and a Friday night watching high school football.

    I think 1968 cured most of trusting government for anything. It is getting uncomfortable again, isn't it.

  9. #29
    Senior Member Rogar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Teacher Terry View Post
    Trump is not going to try and help the working person.
    I'm not so sure I would agree. Since he can say one thing one day and reverse course the next it's hard to tell what he will try to do. I don't think he can bring back all the coal mines and steel mills or factory jobs. If he imposes certain tariffs, cuts regulations on environmental concerns, and reduces taxes on business, the economy is likely to grow initially before inflation and interest rates to stifle the economy. Job opportunities might be created in oil and gas production and certain manufacturing jobs. If he deports illegals, the construction jobs in housing, roofing or cement work types might open up. I think he really believes this might work. And of course the upper crust will benefit the most. There just won't be enough blue collar jobs created to replace those that have been lost.

    So I think he might try. Along with repeal of Obamacare it is his benchmark for success (or failure). I just don't think it will work. There are certain types of jobs that are gone forever just like the occupation of farmer is greatly diminished. The country or the workers need to retool to modern reality.

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