Wednesday, February 3, 2010

3 February 1956 “Company Towns”

Though this very popular song by Ford was in fact a very real story seen in the 20’s and 30’s of poor workers struggling and trading at the ‘company store’, the young teens in 56 really had no idea what this sort of life meant, to them the world was lovely and growing lovelier for them.

I was amazed by this article in Time Magazine from 1956 (this is actually an April issue, so I shouldn’t be seeing it yet, but wanted to share). It is entitled “Company Towns”. It is amazing how, at this point, the growing company was an actual person who cared about a community as well as his growing business. Today, the top corporations are held by corporations. You do not see the names of actual people behind it, but rather names like Citicorp, Vanguard etc. This anonymity of the corporation getting to have itself be considered a ‘person’ makes it easier to be cruel and heartless. A building or a Stock symbol doesn’t care when a town literally closes down because all of its work is sent overseas to India or China. Once, however, it seems their was a face behind a corporation and it wanted not only profit for himself but a better life and happier worker.

Here is an excerpt:

To the jukebox generation the words were all but meaningless. Yet, as late as the 1920s, the ballad's bitter plaint was a real-life refrain to millions of U.S. workers from Georgia's green-roofed cotton villages to Oregon's bleak lumber settlements. Those workers had lived, like Composer Merle Travis' coalminer father, in company towns—drab, depressed communities where the worker traded at a company store,* rented a company house, was watched by company cops. Today company towns are still flourishing in the U.S. But the towns, and the tune, have changed.

Could it be there was a time when the corporation cared about its workers to this level?

Typical of today's company towns is New Cuyama, a California community that sprang up from the sagebrush after Richfield Oil Corp. made the state's biggest petroleum strike of the decade in a barren desert valley southwest of Bakersfield eight years ago. Determined to create a community that would match its underground wealth, Richfield sold 201 model homes at cost to employees, put up a handsome shopping center and leased it to independent merchants. The company also provided a $75,000 community hall, a $250,000 motel-restaurant, a $20,000 playground, plus land for two new churches and a $1,500,000 high school. Says a Richfield executive: "Most of these families never owned a home before. Now they are settling down to grow with the valley."

Treat People Like People.

This was really an amazing article and deserves a full read, so if you are so inclined go HERE.

So, really at this stage the Corporation almost becomes a ruling class where you must rely on the ‘goodness’ of who is in power. They build the town and decide the level of comfort of its people and workers. In a true Dictatorship or the Kingdoms of old, If one king is kind then he will care for and make good the world for his subjects, but if his son is self involved and cares less, than there goes the world of his subjects. In many ways, modern U.S.A. has become such a place. The corporation of today is not the corp. of 1956, when there was a face and a man who could want and give to his employees because he cared. Today it is overseas conglomerates and even the Government, for all intents and purposes, is part of the corporation.

That is why I think it silly, all this Republican and Democrat business. One side may say they want big government the other side big business but they are both right as the government and big business are almost not a separate entity. It is as long as they can keep us, the actual people of the country, separated by silly differences that they can continue to control and grow. We should not stand on different sides of a fence and toss mud at one another while the Corporation and the Gov pretend to be separate and smile down on our silliness as they grow richer without any care of it’s subjects.

We need to look around us and realize our community our individual help must come from one another. When we vote it should be for what is good for all of us and besides politics, just working together to help restore our towns and communities and for goodness sake, throw the stone at Goliath. If you don’t shop at Wal-Mart and Target and Old Navy and Starbucks, then joe’s  and ma and pa’s and sally’s store down the street can grow and another store can be made. We must realize WE are the people. We mustn't let talking pieces such as news papers and news channels drive a wedge between us. Gone are the old corporate heads making lovely towns for its workers, but if we start new and grow and support our own small businesses  then when and if any of us ever got to the corporate level, we COULD think with our hearts AND heads. Again, a quiet revolution of rational, calm realistic living and spending. Nothing would be easier than we merely living to be a better person and that means thinking of others first. So, what if it costs more to buy veg and meat from the local guy, get out the old 40’s cookbooks when we HAD to economize and start doing it, because this war is also worth fighting .The war to get the US back into our hands, WE THE PEOPLE, not Fox News, or CNN or Wal-Mart or any other corporate owned and run business without a human face or heart.

Here is more from that same 56 article:

The big change in company towns stems from the social and economic maturity of U.S. industry. Community and employee relations are as important a factor in modern management as raw materials, markets and transportation. Most companies today bend over backward to be good neighbors in their communities.

There once was that time when the company and the community were a team. Now, there are ghost towns where once was production and all of that was left in the lurch.

This is just another case where I feel we were at the crux of making the Modern world a fine place where there was money to be made, but we could also be human beings who cared for one another. If this practice had continued, such things as environmental concerns, unfair labor treatment, overseas production might never have happened. IF those in charge had lead with their heart and head and not through a faceless stock symbol, we might be in a very different place today. And yet, we too are too blame, for business succeeds by our dollars and laws passed by our hands. We have allowed ourselves to be swayed when we, the people, should have paid better attention.

Paying attention and be aware of our politics and corporations/business  isn't’ easy and really that might be where our 50’s forefathers went wrong. They wanted to make it perfect and easy for their children. To come out of the war and make a new beautiful world for them free of the troubles of worry. But we must HAVE worry in that we must be aware and weary while not being frightened and suspicious. Even today such tools of fear, as ‘terrorist threats’ are used, I believe, to keep us in fear and to want to hoard and buy. We must be aware but not afraid, we must act with our heads but think with our hearts sometimes.

We must not let ourselves lose sight of “struggle and work”. It mustn't be something to rise above but to embrace and realize it will be very the thing that will not lead to complacency. The type of complacency that has lead to our living in a world where we are satiated sheep, watching our tv, and computers, buying up our cheap goods in heaps to make our lives seem to have meaning and purpose and to have the tv tell us which side we are one and whom to hate.

If we could do the 1950’s over again, we should and would teach the children to work harder and to work for one another to hold those around them accountable, even the businesses they shop at. If they to big for their breeches and DON’T care for people, then they will die by our not supporting them. It isn’t easy, but a life worth living shouldn’t only be easy. Even if you are fabulously wealthy, without a purpose and a struggle to achieve and overcome, you will feel pointless and become complacent. And COMPLACENCY is the surest way to forget HUMANITY. Only when we see and realize we are ALL in this together we all MUST work hard and sometimes we may not like the hard work but it is for the good of all of us. No big Government nor Big business, but towns and communities of and for the people run and cared for by its inhabitants.

What is oddly true and strangely real, is thae song, 16 TONS,  is rather fitting today:

 What do you get? another day older and deeper in Debt…I owe my soul to the company store.

In this case we own our souls to the corporation. It isn’t the free business and enterprise of the old U.S.A. We can have that back, but it’s easier to just go to BJ’s and Wal-Mart and save some pennies as we watch our country slide deeper into the oligarchy of Government/Corporate tyranny. Why worry of future generations, our grandchildren's future, I WANT TO PLAY WII AND SAVE MONEY AT OLD NAVY! and besides, my SHOWS are on. And I can’t work with THOSE people, I’m This and They are THAT.

It is silly, these sides, Republican and Democrat. We have Dick Cheney on one side on the Board of Halliburton while he sat in office making money off of the war. Putting money in HIS pocket without any moral fiber or concern for human life. Then we have the CLINTONS who sat on the Board of Wal-Mart and helped it to grow and it helped them to get into office. Hilary Clinton daring to say, “It takes a village” while she contributes to the very corporation that is destroying the villages and putting the small business out. There is no ‘right’ side only the ‘right way’ and that is to consider people first. We are people: our neighbors, our family, our future generations, we must come first. And that doesn’t mean a state controlled by a government nor does it mean a world where everything is privatized,including the military, because then we return to feudal warring states of the middle ages. Even I don’t want to live ‘My Year 1300’.

We must  not think “I am a Republican therefore I like this and I am a Democrat therefore I think that”. This is the very divide that can exist to keep us from really making a change. The only means to get business back in the hands of the middle class is to support that very class by our spending and by voting, when we can, for measures that support that despite what ‘side’ that vote may land.We have more power in the dollar we spend then the vote we cast now. For we spend daily and vote sparingly.

So, if you have read this far you are probably wondering, “what does this have to do with sewing dresses, making schedules, canning your own food, manners, hankies etc” Well, honestly, I believe in order for us to bring back the good ole’ days and to truly live a Vintage lifestyle, we MUST realize what it was to live then and what things went into making it a place we ‘yearn for’. To truly live it now, just a petticoat, some vintage kitchen canisters and some canned food in the pantry is not enough. If we don’t want to just live in a sort of ‘theatre production of a life’ but to have a true honest to goodness return to the old ways, we MUST be aware of all facets of our life. These things affect our community, our pay, our very way of thinking and acting towards one another. I don’t see learning to sew a darling vintage style dress and shopping locally not corporately, or voting for what is for the good of all as separate things. They are ALL puzzle pieces of a great jigsaw of yesteryear that we want to rebuild. We can do it. I know we can.

So, whether you get upset with what I have said, or think, “Here she goes again,” I really am just passionate about it because I know we can, we homemakers, use or skills and talents to build a new world outward. WE can make a wonderful home with hard work and expect it of our families and then out to our communities and outwards on. I am not Liberal nor Right wing, I am a person, a homemaker and a lady. And I think we should use our brains, know how, and skill to make our own lives and world structured and make choices for the good and it shall spill out. A ‘trickle upward’ if you will.

So, if you have made it this far, thanks for listening to my rant. I promise next post will have recipes, and household tips. But, sometimes a gal, when she gets out the soapbox to do the laundry, feels the need to get on it and Rant! Thank you for listening, if you have.

Here is how it once was:

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