So you think times are tough?

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 8, 2003

You’d need to have some gray hair to remember what it was like back in 1929. I was 5 years old and didn’t realize I had no toys. Well, there was the old apple tree, we could climb that, and one sissy in the neighborhood had a ball and glove, which he would take home if he couldn’t pitch. Shoes leaked, patches on pants weren’t noticed, coats were well worn, and you better not lose your mittens. We ate a lot of potatoes and anything else dad could grow and keep in a dark bin in the cellar under sawdust. Ice in the icebox was a positive sign, school was only a block away, and the store owners kindly kept running totals knowing things would eventually get better, or dad would find a temporary job.

At 14 I still had never owned a bicycle or skates; dad had an old car which mother wouldn’t drive because most mothers did not do things like that, or work outside the home. But then, in 1939 you hardly noticed horse buns on the street. Being raised in a depression was not bad because you knew no better. As long as your ribs didn’t stick out you were well fed. If your family had a radio that worked you were entertained. If you could read and write you were accepted in society, but few could count on a job. It took a world war to jump-start the economy. Now we are in one with the terrorists and picking another with Iraq while slowly climbing out of a recession. The difference is that in a depression nearly everyone is out of work and workers then had no health insurance, 401Ks or unemployment benefits. Employees today, by comparison, have it knocked, but scream much louder. Unemployment pay is so good many prefer it to a new job.

I feel fortunate for having lived through tough times. I can sit back now and listen to the whining and howling for more from the government. Millions have heard the song of the credit card vendors, and maxed them out buying things we could never have imagined in the ’30s. Thousands of articles and books written on the subject of thrift planning, pay as you go, how to conserve and do without have been totally ignored. Thousands are sitting in big fancy homes on tiny lots sans furniture, and sweating out the next mortgage payment. Heartless repossession of automobiles is big business. And at the same time, millions of dollars of household goods are being sold with nothing down, no interest or payments for a year. I wonder whose fault all of this is. The pain is even reaching down into local arts. Our museum coordinator foresees a bleak year in 2003 because of reduced funding and fast melting grants. Nancy Kinzinger said the arts are taking such a big hit. Sorry, Nancy, here’s another zinger for you, many citizens agree with your point that the arts is all about self-expression and would self express that they are not terribly concerned. Too many in town have far more serious worries.

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In January of every year the prognosticators get busy. All the projections for the city of Suffolk in 2003 are merely guesses, cost nothing, and require little effort to make. All can be summed up, as it was by Andy Damiani who said, &uot;That doesn’t make any of them a fact of Suffolk life.&uot; Rexford Cotton, Agriculture Extension agent, figures lack of peanut subsidy hurts and means more land devoted to other products including beef. Emperor Liverman, is concerned about dollar slashes and SAT scores. The Rev. Mark Croston expects more and more people to lean on the Lord during dire economic conditions because they have exhausted every other avenue of hope. I sum it up this way, &uot;If we humans are forced to get old and die, now is a damn good time to do it. Morals, greed and responsibility have slid far downhill and there is no bottom in sight.

Pick up a newspaper today and you will find much evidence that the Ten Commandments are no longer acceptable to millions and the Golden Rule is a joke. It has been changed to Get All You Can Get. The TV media and film industry grind out guns, gore, gin, and gambling as a lifestyle. We no longer pay attention to killings. Robberies are normal. Far too many are hooked on tobacco, drugs, gambling, and sexual deviation. I don’t look forward, I look backward – life for most was far more pleasant during the Depression.

Robert Pocklington is a resident of Suffolk and a regular columnist for the News-Herald.