Issue #107 : Opposite Effects
I remember when my parents used to talk about the struggles of living during the Great Depression.
People out of work, hoping to find jobs where none were. When her coal-mining father died, my mother, Ann, had to travel to New York as a nanny to support herself because, for her mother and two sisters, in the midst of the Great Depression, there were no jobs to support the family.
Luckily my father’s family had a coal-mining business. My father, Andrew L. Andrews, was spared the most of it.
However, if you had a job in the Great Depression, “you were king,” Dad said.
This spring, the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic wiped out public-gathering Easter Mass. If I could travel back in time to a period where my parents were still alive, and tell them that in 2020, public-gathering Easter Mass was cancelled and the churches were closed, they would ask me: What happened? Was there a nuclear war?
I would have to explain the economy-destroying great coronavirus pandemic of 2020.
It feels as if the world slipped off the edge of the planet and fell into a hellhole.
I don’t think the times were as terrible in 1935 as they are in 2020. In 1935, restaurants and theaters were open. Businesses closed and opened. People hugged and shook hands. Families celebrated birthdays and holiday get-togethers.
I was thinking about the things Mom and Dad used to say about the Great Depression. But the more I think about it and remember how they used to talk about the Depression, I believe this pandemic and associated economic collapse is far, far worse.
Then I began to think how my life has been, very strangely, the exact opposite of my dad’s.
I mean 180-degree opposite.
In the years after the end of the Great Depression, Dad would travel home from Penn State as a student on the GI Bill, driving a brand-new car he bought, for cash. He would make easily $50 on a weekend in 1946, outside of college, in the mines. According to today’s inflation calculator, that would be making the equivalent of about $662 in buying power – on a WEEKEND.
I made about $35 a week in college in 1980. In 1946, that would be like going into the woods and picking a quart of huckleberries (easy to do in the Pennsylvania mountains) to sell them for an easy $1.90, a poor man’s wages, at best.
My dad had six children; I had one.
My dad purchased a car every two years, when you could do that, in the 1950s through the 1970s. I never purchased a new car.
My dad was a teacher who longed to be a sports newspaperman. I am a newspaperman who longed to be a teacher.
Does that mean everything will be opposite?
So I forecast the following, based on opposites:
Dad was retired for 27 years before he died, the same amount of time he worked as a teacher.
I have been a professional journalist for 38 years. I see no way I live for 38 years after I retire. With my luck, I will die as soon as I retire.
This COVID-19 pandemic disaster is opposite every recession, including the Great Recession of 2008-2009, because it is far, far, far worse.
This is hell and we are living in it.
What am I learning?
Like most, I am learning to take nothing for granted.
When the opposite comes, after this country recovers and digs out of this hellhole, we are never going to take going to a restaurant, watching a play, visiting a market and appreciating those we love and respect for granted, ever again.