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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

FAMILIES, AUTO INDUSTRY, UNIONS AND WHAT'S NEXT?


HISTORIC DESOTO HOOD ORNAMENT

Between Mount Vernon, Kentucky and Berea, Kentucky is a small used car lot that sells both semi-old and historic cars. I'm not a car buff but I am attached to old cars in another way. Like so many people that were raised in and around the Great Lakes states in the twentieth century -- we as families have a cultural relationship with the auto industry. Starting with the Ford factories in Detroit to the spread of plants to surrounding states, our fathers, mothers, grandmothers, grandfathers, uncles, and aunts plus our siblings were touched by this industry. You might say it is in our bones. We have stories to tell that can't be found in history books. 

The auto industry was huge by the end of twentieth century and had changed considerably from its first half. A secondary industry of sorts had grown as a result and it was one that was worker driven -- that industry was the unions. Unions have both a good name or not-so-good depending on which side of the worker's rights you stand on. But for all the farm boys, Africans Americans, immigrants, and others during the twentieth century,  it meant, finally, that they could make a comfortable lifestyle for themselves and their families.

My Irish grandfather worked for Henry Ford in the beginning of the century -- he was fresh off the farm located in what Michiganders call the thumb area. He had four brothers that all signed on -- copies of their Ford employment applications lay in my old trunk. My father followed in my grandfather's footsteps and worked 36 years for General Motors. Although he was not union his salary was compensatory with union demands. Both my grandfather and father retired from these giant industries. 

Now we are in the twenty-first century and things have started to go awry. Autos are over-populating the earth, guzzling oil, and filling up our landfills. The days of one car families has disappeared along with the mindset left over from the depression days of limited household spending. A dilemma of huge proportions. 

The next few decades will tell us if our thoughts of "living comfortably" are  now being overdone. Will we benefit from the lifestyle we live today? Lots to think about.

HISTORIC DESOTA POLICE CAR GRILL



27 comments:

  1. And then there's that price, written on the windshielf in the upper righthand corner...does that spell inflation?

    $17,500.00 makes me wish I still had my folks' hot yellow Plymouth!

    Sparkling photos!

    Elora

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  2. I grew up in Toledo -- just south of you! Our city was dependent on the auto industry, too as was the city where I live now as steel was the major industry. The unions have been killed. Steel is dead as is the auto industry and our country is hurting.

    That said, my Great Uncle Doyle had a DeSoto and it was really luxurious compared to our Plymouth sedan,

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  3. Hello Barbara:
    Lots to think about indeed and no easy solutions we fear. In Britain, especially in the Midlands, there are many parallels with your account of the car industry in the USA. An industry which had for decades provided good employment opportunities for whole families was wiped out virtually overnight.

    We do wonder if the current global crisis will have the effect of people reappraising their needs and how they live. It is surely true that we cannot continue to ignore the warning signs for too much longer.

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  4. Cars Yuck. To me they are only good for driving somewhere, and I don't even like to drive anymore. We read Henry Ford's biography for a classs on the history of Corporations last year. Excellent read. He did try to help his workers it seems. The first to offer a $five dollar day.

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  5. Very thoughtful post, Barbara. I enjoyed learning about your family, too.

    You might enjoy Louise's post, over at Wildlife, Wildflowers and a Window.

    http://livingretiredinwesternnewyorkstate.blogspot.com/2011/07/government-of-people-by-people-for.html

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  6. Wonderful old cars! There's a real tie between Detroit and the NC mountains too. Many men left the farm and went to Detroit to find work. Lots of families here still have kin in Detroit.

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  7. My grandmother worked in a General Motors factory for 36 years also the way I remember it. She said the only time she ever enjoyed working there was during the war she worked outside on aircraft. She spent most of her years inside stamping out emblems. Raised on a farm she new how to work. She made a lot of extra money through the suggestion program they offered. The plant is gone now and bulldozed down. Her daughter and one grandson also worked at the plant before it closed. Thanks for triggering these memories.

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  8. Think we've lost touch with the important things.

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  9. Thanks for sharing those days. Sadly, they are gone. I think we may find there are many things we can do without in the coming years.

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  10. Elora -- 17,5000 does seem a bit high but I don't know old car prices. A hot yellow Plymouth eh. Did your family only have one car like most of the families did in my middle class neighborhood? Public transportation was the mode for my-stay-at-home mother. thanks for the comment -- barbara

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  11. Kay -- I do remember Desotos being very fine looking. The Desoto on my post is built like a heavy-duty truck. Yes, union activity is no longer the power player in dealing with the corporate power -- unions made it possible to have a decent wage.

    Toledo has suffered exceedingly from the decline of the auro industry. Steel, mostly made in China now, is like pot metal -- it breaks easy under stress.

    Thanks for the comments -- barbara

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  12. Jane and Lance -- Your comments are appreciated. I was unaware that your country had an auto industry similar to ours -- unfortunate that they have suffered the same fate. I need to become more global in my awareness.

    Be hopeful that the global crisis will open the eyes of the world to the peril we face. Like you say -- we can't avoid the warnings too much longer. -- barbara

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  13. Dianne -- Henry Ford was not a perfect man. He was at one time considered a neo-Nazi. I don't know if the book you read discusses this. My grandfather actually worked with him and got fired. He then went to the new Lincoln auto plant and worked the rest of his working years there. He used to tell us that Mr. Ford was a rascal in the not so good sense. Thanks for the comments -- barbara

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  14. Vicki -- yes, definite ties. I have met many folks here in KY that worked in the northern auto plants and then retired back to live here in their home state. Thanks for mentioning that NC farmers were also part of the migration north to work in the auto plants. -- barbara

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  15. Grampy -- So your grandmother was a "Rosy the Riveter" -- an honorable profession during the war years. Amazing how they have bulldozed auto plants. So many folks cut loose from their jobs -- where do we go from here?

    Your family's culture is surely connected to the auto industry as so many family's are.

    thanks -- barbara

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  16. Carole -- Agree -- we are losing our foothold -- thanks -- barbara

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  17. Linda -- a complex situation that will hopefully be sorted out without fears running amuck. Thanks barbara

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  18. Barbara...try,try again!

    A thoughtful post, and I enjoyed your family history too.

    You might enjoy this post by Louise over at Wildlife, Wildflowers and a Window:

    http://livingretiredinwesternnewyorkstate.blogspot.com/2011/07/government-of-people-by-people-for.html

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  19. It is a lot to think about. I loved the photographs.

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  20. I agree with Carol Anne's comment....we have lost touch with the important things.

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  21. I live in the land of the Kodak camera, and the progression of events has been somewhat similar. When I was growing up, everyone either worked for Kodak, or knew someone who did. Now, the company is a shadow of itself, and film is a thing of the past.

    We've lost our focus, I think. We need to get back to the important things, home, family, friends. I hope we do. There is too much good about this country to let it sink into secondratedness (ok, I made that word up). I just hope that we wake up in time and realize that.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog and starting to follow it. I see that Sheri sent you. She's good folks.

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  22. Sheri -- Thanks for trying again. I found Wildlife, Wildflowers and a Window very interesting. Her acknowledgement of a serious issue in this country is one that many folks are willing to say enough is enough.
    Thanks -- barbara

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  23. NCmountainwoman == I visited the site of the blogger, Louise. She has a few things to say about this issue -- search under this blog name, Wildlife, Wildflowers and a Window, to read the words of its author Louise. Then check out the facebook site she suggests if you are up for more info. Thanks for stopping by -- barbara

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  24. Farmchick -- we have lost and are still losing. Somehow this dilemma needs to change. Thanks -- barbara

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  25. Louise, first of all, my comments I select to put in this section are not all showing up. Started yesterday and I thought it was my fault. Today I was extremely careful and one of the comments you sent did not show up in this section -- although it shows published on my dashboard. Hmmm. Anyway I have a few notes from the one that was not published.

    I will mention your words here: "to pay attention to what is going on in Washington," wake up and care again," "they better be careful or there will be nothing to win." I thought they represented a good overview of what you said in this first comment.

    Your second comment came through nicely as you will notice above.Let me note some of your words that I seem to be hearing from other
    commenters -- "we need to get back to the important things; home, family and friends,and "we've lost our focus. All of the comments you made are so very important. Your suggestion to search for Enough is Enough on facebook is a good one. Thanks so much -- barbara

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  26. Tess -- quality cars were made back then! -- barbara

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