Archived Story

Recession lessons

Published 4:37pm Thursday, November 10, 2011

Reading all of the newspaper accounts and listening to the news about all of the companies that are closing their doors and the number of people without jobs reminds me of the times during the past 50 years when we lived through the same trying times. This is a personal story of my family.
In 1958 a recession hit the United States. It was called a “sharp worldwide economic downturn.” Unemployment rose but there was little or no decline in personal income. Auto sales dropped 31 percent.
Unemployment in Detroit was 20 percent and it was in the middle of the rust belt.  Normally prices fall during recessions but at that time they went up, as did inflation.
My husband was working at a factory in Elkhart that manufactured windows for cars and trucks. After serving in Korea it was the job he came back to.
We had just moved into a new house that we had built with the help of our parents. We had a 1-year-old child, a new baby and a new mortgage. My husband was laid off from his job for six months. We lived on unemployment and relied on help from our parents.
Harry S. Truman said, “It’s a recession when your neighbor loses his job; it’s a depression when you lose yours.”
In the 1980s another recession forced many people out of work. The unemployment rate reached 16.31 percent, housing sales fell, interest rates and inflation skyrocketed and oil prices jumped.
Edwardsburg closed school buildings; Chicago Road and the portables were gone. Enrollment dropped as people moved away.
After working for more than 20 years at the same company, my husband found himself without a job. His company closed and he was without work, but this time he was a little older. Finally, when his unemployment was about to end, he found another job, but that company also closed six months later.
We still had a mortgage and now four children. Once again he went seeking and finally found a job locally where he was able to work until his retirement. A job with no retirement benefits.
Luckily I had a job that got us through, but it took us a long time to get caught up. Recovery does not come quick.
With all of the events of the past I would think that America would have learned from experience. Don’t they say, “Experience is the best teacher?” Obviously not in this case.
My husband and I don’t have to worry about jobs this time but we are concerned for our children and grandchildren who are just entering the job market.
Let us hope that someone has a solution and it comes quickly.
Next week we will take a look at what other events happened in Edwardsburg 50 years ago.

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