July 4, 1776, a Very Scary Day

Today is Independence Day in the United States. We declared that to be true for the first time on July 4, 1776. But it really was not true in fact back then, it was simply a piece of paper, read in Philadelphia, and then secreted away just as quickly for to hold such a document was a treasonable act under English law. In truth, we were in the midst of a civil war no different from our own internal civil war of 1861 to 1865.
To be a truly independent country we needed to be recognized as such by another sovereign nation. The Confederacy tried, and failed, to get England to recognized them. The leaders of the revolutionary war also failed initially to gain recognition. Our best hope was France who despised the English and with whom, through Benjamin Franklin, we had warm relations with their government. But the French were reticent to acknowledge our sovereign existence. The French feared that England would turn on them and they would be, yet again, at war, a war they simply could not afford.
The first country to recognize us was Holland in 1776 and then Morocco in 1777. As great a statesman as Franklin was, he simply was unable to get the French to do more than to supply us with some money and an invaluable man whom Gen. George Washington used to help lead he ragtag group of revolutionaries, Lafayette. Finally, John Adams join Franklin in Paris and on a trip to Versailles, seat of the government, the French were convinced that we would likely win the war. Then, finally, on February 8, 1778, the French signed an agreement of “Amity and Commerce.” This gave America a trading partner in Europe of great importance.
But back in 1776, on that day of July 4, thirteen copies of the Declaration of Independence, all signed, we sent to the capitols of each of the new states. But the danger in holding this document was great and each was secreted away for the remainder of hostilities.
We had been at war for over a year when the Declaration of Independence was signed and distributed but had a poll of the world’s leaders been taken at that date asking the chances of our succeeding, it is likely we would have garnered only a few favorable votes. The fact was, we were losing the war and no one knew how many Tories, those still loyal to the English crown, still existed. Boston and the state of Massachusetts are virtually eradicated all its Tories on March 17, 1776 when the loyalists were given safe passage out of Boston Harbor and up to Nova Scotia.
But at that same time, New Jersey had for its governor Benjamin Franklin’s son who had declared himself loyal to the crown. Throughout the other 12 colonies similar conditions existed and people were extremely caution in whom they trusted.
European Wars, and now this war, were always fought in the warmer months of the year. Troops retired to their various sides during the winter months as had Washington and his troops in 1777. But Washington was not a traditionalist and his mind was ruminating over the many loses he had suffered thus far at the hands to the British. The worst being his having to watch he troops slaughtered on one side of the Hudson River while he sat on the other.

Washington moved southward and encamped at Valley Forge. From the beginning Washington had pressed the Continental Congress for the necessary implements of war to fight and win, mostly unsuccessfully. In 1777, Frederic von Steuben, a Prussian Lieutenant General, joined Washington and immediately set about training Washington’s troops at Valley Forge.

That winter, on Christmas Day, while the Hessian troops feasted, Washington rallied his troops to attack Trenton and in doing so gained his first major win of the Revolution. From there they continue their march up the middle of New Jersey winning battle after battle. But von Steuben’s effect was immediately obvious. The attack was far from perfect but even so, American officers were able to lead their men and accomplish their mission. And for the first time, America turned from a defensive military posture to an offensive one, a posture they never relinquished until the British government finally acquiesced after the Battle of Yorktown in 1783.
That eight-year period, from 1775 to 1783, was never easy for American patriots. By declaring war on Britain, they have lost their most important trading partner and certain types of goods were always in short supply. Fear of retribution among the general populace soon subsided after the siege of Boston succeeded and the first of the British departed. But until the tide of the war turned, no one could feel both safe and a patriot. But Americans asserted their grit and determination to be respected as a sovereign nation and this required 13 colonies to become united which they did.


Get Former President Obama Back in Politics!

My suggestion that former President Barack Obama return to public life might sound a bit outlandish, but it is not without precedence. Our sixth President of the United States, John Quincy Adams, 1825-1829, served in what many historians describe as one of the worst presidencies ever. Adams, however, returned to the U.S. Congress from 1831 to 1848 which he served with distinction. His leading platform, the elimination of slavery. Not an easy time for abolitionist when the movement was not very popular.
Then former President William Howard Taft, 1909-1913, served as a justice of the U.S. Supreme Judicial Court from 1921 to 1930. The Republican Party of 1908 was disaffected with Theodore Roosevelt and his populist actions and turned to a reluctant Taft as its nominee. Although it is not documented anywhere, it is believed Taft was relieved when the Republican party split between him and Roosevelt in 1912 and Woodrow Wilson won the election. Although Taft served but nine years on the Supreme Court, he was elevated to the position of Chief Justice and died in office in 1930.
This brings us to Barack Obama. At 59 years of age, Obama is considerably younger than a large portion of the House and Senate. As shown by Elizabeth Dole when she moved to North Carolina to seek election there, Obama need only move to Virginia to find any number, most in fact, that are held by Republicans. Right now, he lives in Washington D.C. even though he claims his home state to be Illinois.
The point being, for 8 years, Barack Obama served the United States with distinction and honor. He was also as capable as any president this country has had in the past 50 years, maybe longer. His statesmanship as outstanding as his ability to understand complex problems.
I do not expect Mr. Obama to read this blog but I wish he did. I know for fact that there are millions upon millions of Americans who wish he were still serving. Maybe someone will pass this on. I can only hope so.

Bring Mental Illness Out of the Closet

What is mental illness? “Mental illnesses are health conditions involving changes in thinking, emotion or behavior (or a combination of these). Mental illnesses are associated with distress and/or problems functioning in social, work or family activities.” (https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/what-is-mental-illness) This definition is what the American Psychiatric Association declares.

But mental illness has yet to gain full acceptance among the general population and, of course, insurance companies. People fear going to see a psychiatrist, psychologist or social worker because to the stigma attached. That is the thinking, but it is incorrect, and I will speak on it a bit later.

I suffered from depression for most of my childhood and adult life. Several times I had to be hospitalized because of it. This, of course, allows me insight into the disease. I venture to say that every person on earth has at one time or another suffered from mental illness. Many have not recognized it as such because they fully recovered in reasonable time.

When the words “mental illness” are proffered, people tend to go to the extreme and think the suffering person likely is schizophrenic or psychotic. But in truth, most mental illnesses are a much more benign form. Chief among these is depression. I think everyone struggles with a bout of depression at some point in their life, sometimes caused by death of a parent or friend, extraordinary stress in the work environment, or financial problems. These sorts of depression can be easily dealt with by short term therapy. And many times, without the necessity of medication.
But when depression causes a person to stop doing normal things for a long term, months, it is likely that the person will need a heavy dose of psycho-therapy combined with medication. Such depressions present in women after birth, post-partum depression, after the death of a child, after rape, incest, attack on the person’s life and so forth. And as funny as it may sound to hear, these depressions are rather normal reactions to traumas. Be assured, the road to recovery from these situations varies but is quite frequently long-term.

Then there are two psychiatric illness which most of the public fails to recognize as such: alcoholism and drug addiction. These diseases, however, are the outward manifestation of more serious illnesses. People frequently use alcohol to get rid of the fear they have when entering either a very stressful situation or a social situation. Alcohol does the job, quite well too. And since it works, the person uses it more and more both for the original reasons and then for other reasons their mind says that alcohol would be useful. This is generally referred to as self-medication. The problem, of course, it that the individual is failing to deal with the root problem. And by not dealing with those problems they, like most other illnesses, only get worse and require more “medication.” The person finally gets to the point when he is using alcohol daily because it makes him feel good, until is doesn’t. The, “until is doesn’t” happens when the person gets fired from a job, loses a spouse, becomes overwhelmingly in debt, and many other situations. It is basically the same for the drug addict.

It is important to recognize that these are not bad people who need to get good but are sick people who need to get well. But where? A person is declared in need of a detox but when the advocate, usually the person’s physician, calls around looking for a bed is such a facility they find there are no beds to be had. There, of course, are the detoxes where a person has to pay but most people cannot afford the out of pocket expense.
Alcoholics and addicts need a minimum of 90 days in a detox, but most detoxes push these people out after two weeks. Some, state run facilities, allow for longer stays. At the heart of these problems is the insurance companies which refuse to pay for more than a 2 week stay. The likelihood of a person staying clean and sober after a two-week stay is near zero.

There is a common theme here. Every one of the various types of mental illnesses I have brought up, the person involved has a feeling of not being worthy, feeling useless, of having something deep within themselves which feels so horrible that they feel shameful and cannot find it within themselves to share their deep dark secrets. And in the end, it is one of these deep dark secrets, their demons, that turns the person either suicidal or alcohol and/or drug dependent.

The bottom line is that we are doing a horrible job in helping these people. We must remove the stigmatism attached to mental illness. We must get all insurance companies to treat mental illness the same way they would treat any other illness. We must insure that there are sufficient facilities to deal with those who sick and suffering.

Always Finding the Wrong Person? Here’s Why

I have a lot of friends who talk to me about their being unable to have a good relationship. Now, these people are all single but having a good relationship is for both single and marrieds of course. But to have that good relationship there are certain things which must be true first.

Everything which follows is dependent upon your ability to be completely honest with yourself first, and then with the other person. Without honest, a failed relationship is guaranteed. The first thing you need to do is to take stock of yourself. What is your self-image? How do you truly feel about yourself? Do you love yourself? Do you even like yourself? If you even feel a little bit of negativity about those first questions, then you should not even attempt to date.

One of the first things you need to come to terms with is the fact that you are not perfect. Every member, without exception, of the human race is flawed. The person in the successful relationship has either fixed those flaws or come to terms with them as simply being a part of you that you cannot easily fix, that is, if they are repairable. The worst thing you can do, absolutely, is to deny a flaw you know you have. It is also dishonest which breaks the first rule: total honesty is an absolute.

Another part of taking stoke of yourself is to admit to those things in your past which have been hurtful to others. But knowing those things is not enough. You have to take a step back and find that character flaw that caused you to do what you did. Then you must go about fixing that character flaw so that it does not repeat itself. Lots of people admit to character flaws but it is on a small subset of them who actually do something about it. But once you have successfully taken actions to either eliminate or reduce that character flaw, you must seek out the party you offended and make amends. That does not mean you simply apologize. You tell the person about the character flaw and that you have either fixed it or are working on it. Then you get to apologize.

We called such misdeeds “the wreckage of our past” and to be successful in the future we must clean away that wreckage. Ah, but then there is that person you wronged who you have entirely lost track of and have no way of contacting them. In this case, the simple act of repairing the character defect is all that is needed.

By this time, you have realized your imperfections and worked on them. But there is still a lot of work to do. People who have truly successful relationships have taken care of their physical, mental, and spiritual health.

The physical part is the easiest. You simply visit your primary care physician and attend to any physical problems that are brought up, weight, diet, medications, etc. By doing what I have suggested previously you are dealing with your mental problems. But here’s the thing, you must have a confidant who you trust implicitly and relate to that person all the things you are doing. This does not mean you need go to a therapist, but it does mean you are talking with someone who will give you well-reasoned, thoughtful advice. It also means that this person will tell you that you are falling short of your goal, who will have the courage to not only tell you that they do not think that you are being entirely truthful but will suggest how to be truthful. This person is also the person who is going to help you exorcise those demons inside you that you have been too scared or too embarrassed to relate to another person. When you courageously push through these things, good mental health is almost a guarantee.

Spiritual health is by far the most important and most difficult part of being an entirely healthy person to maintain. Spirituality does not have to be a part of religion and for my purposes here, it does not. Spirituality comes when you have successfully finished those things you I talked about before. It means that at the very least, during the worst of times, you will know absolutely that you are a good person, that you are doing your best, and that you are always seeking out the next right thing to do. How do you know the what is the next right thing to do? Sometimes it will be obvious but many other times it will not be apparent. At such times you try to think it through, seek out another person’s opinion, or, if it is something that requires immediate attention, then do what in your heart you think is that right thing. But if you find it was not the right thing, have faith that in trying something different a second or even a third time, is perfectly acceptable. The key here is allowing yourself the right to be wrong.

Once you have a good relationship with yourself then you are ready to make a foray into having a relationship with another person. That relation also starts with complete honest and progresses into the area where you feel like this person is your best friend. When attempting a relationship, always have a short list of things you consider deal breakers. For example, mine was that I would not date a smoker. Another might be that the person must the same religion or same politics ideals as you. If you do not do these things, your chances of a healthy loving relationship is nearly impossible.

There are people who look absolutely gorgeous or stunningly handsome on the outside but when you find out what’s on the inside, you see not just a horribly flawed person, but someone who is truly mentally and spiritually sick. Such people are always a bad choice.

You may say to me, “but I’m not beautiful or handsome.” What’s on the outside need count very little to not at all for the person you want to be with. This assumes that you are taking care of yourself, physically clean, well-dressed. Think of it this way, the most intelligent people in the world are highly sought after but all that intelligence is hidden from view. The beauty of the intelligence only shows itself when the person speaks on his specialty. This applies to you because whatever is going on in your insides comes out when you do some, say something, feel something.

The Earth’s Coming Death?

Since man first stood upright on this planet he has been a creature like none other. In his earliest days, he was a hunter-gatherer. That meant he used very rudimentary tools to kill animals and he harvested fruits, berries, roots, and other edible plants to stay alive. To be sure, for man’s first million years, his was a constant struggle just to stay alive.

But during this period he also started to move outward from East Africa where he first rose to prominence. He discovered that even though he was not match for many of the larger animals he co-existed with, he could use his brain to elude those animals should they decide they had a taste for human flesh.

But also during this period man discovered war. Man grew from family groups into small protective groups and then into small communities. These communities fought one another when food became scarce and possibly when one group felt another was impinging on their territory. This probably did not happen very much but we need only look at today’s society to discover man’s ancient proclivities.

And so it went until the 20th Century arrived. The 20th Century, and now the 21st Century, have burdened our planet early like never before. Even though the industrialization of the Earth started in the 19th Century, those toxic fumes emitted by mills were not so great that they posed an immediate threat to Earth’s biosphere.

The 20th Century, however, was one of great scientific and industrial invention. It has also been the period of the most rapid growth of Earth’s human population. Between these two things, planet Earth has been put at risk of dying, literally.

Industrialists, and those who support them, contend that what is happening to planet earth is little more than a natural progression. That the earth is warming is nothing new and those who complain about it are just alarmists. The contend that there is more than enough proof that the Earth has gone through similar events and survived. The question here is: Is their logic sound?

During the 1940s through and into the 1970, aerosol cans used a gas named florochlorohydrocarbons. This gas was used in items such as hair spray and other consumer items that needed a gas to propel their active ingredients. When it was discovered that the use of this gas compound was causing a big hole over the Earth’s poles where ozone had previously existed, the federal government stepped in and banned the use of those compounds. Most other countries on the earth did the same, following our lead. The result was the holes closed up and there was proof positive that man had caused an unnatural imbalance in the earth’s biosphere.

Plastic was first made in the 1920 but did not come into any sort of widespread use until the 1950s. As a child I remember our milk was delivered either in glass containers or paper containers that were lined with was. Neither of these containers posed any threat to our biosphere. Additionally, most other liquid items were delivered either in glass or metal containers. Again, no serious threat to the biosphere. But starting in the 1970s industrial economies dictated that the delivery of fluids in plastic containers was much more economical. Glass containers, such as the soft drink industry used, required that the bottles be returned, then cleaned for reuse. This process proved relatively expensive. Today, such a process is considered “green.”

Grocery stores changed over from the paper bag to the plastic bag. Plastic bags were less expensive and required smaller spaces for containment. But plastic bags, once recycling took hold, were not acceptable items for many communities recycling. The problem? They tended to get bound up in the gears of the machinery processing them with the other forms of plastic and therefor became prohibited items.

Curiously, one of the nation’s larger food market chains which uses only paper bags and promotes its reusable repurposed plastic bags has no system to capture used plastic bags. To be fair, the reusable plastic bags that I am referring to, feel like fabric to the touch and last a long time making the need to use a food stores plastic bags unnecessary. This is an industry at least attempting to take positive measures in the responsible use of plastics.

To further illustrate the threat these plastic containers pose to the planet, there is an island of plastic sitting in the middle of the oceans larger than 3 countries. More, who has not been to a beach where plastic bottles and bags could be found along the beach front?

The other great threat to our biosphere is atmospheric pollution, green house gases. Most prominent, but not alone, are carbon monoxide (CO) and carbon dioxide (CO2). I put the chemical formula for these compounds to show how closely related they are. Carbon monoxide is unstable and will capture an oxygen molecule quickly thereby robbing our atmosphere of its precious oxygen content and leaving behind carbon dioxide, the compound which most seriously impacts the green house warming our planet is presently experiencing. Green house gases trap sunlight in the earth’s atmosphere, sunlight that would otherwise be reflected back out into space.

One method scientists use for tracking the effect of our planet’s warming is the regression of glaciers. In the 1930, many was the author who wrote about the snows of Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa. They were legendary but they no longer exist because of global warming. Of particular interest to them has been the glacier which covers most of Greenland. This glacier has always melted during the summer months but the rate of melting has increased over the past decades. Also, where small puddles of water that existed atop this glacier during the summer months, they have been replaced by large lakes, further proof of the extent of global warming.

One of the side effects of global warming, and probably the most deadly to the continued existence of the human race, is that deserts are becoming larger and small tracts of arid land are fast converting into deserts due to the lack of rainfall. The reason for the lack of rainfall is how air circulates around our planet. The rainy seasons that sub-Saharan residents used to rely upon have all but disappeared. The Sahara desert in turn moves southward pushing out the people who used to populate this land. Many other parts of our planet are experience elongated droughts. Such droughts have never been recorded in these areas for as long as man has inhabited them.

A case in point is California. California had traditionally relied upon the snows of the Sierra Mountains to provide them with needed water. But for years on end the snows came in such reduced amounts that the reservoirs they typically filled fell far short of the water necessary. Certain of these reservoirs dried up completely. The city of Los Angeles was in crisis. The drought ended just in time to avert the crisis at hand. But it is only a question time, and not an if, when the next elongated drought strikes the southwestern United States and it lasts far longer than the available water can support.

California is one of the chief vegetable and other food producing areas of the United States. A plant killing drought will be disastrous for both the people of the United States and its economy. That a single state can be the root of a catastrophe illustrates how dependent we are on any one region being economically healthy.

The bottom line is: the Earth is reliant up a series of interrelated eco-systems, each reliant upon the other. When any one of these systems changes, even slightly, the effect of that change is felt in all the rest of the systems. The question is how much is each system affected? That we can quantify the rise in the temperature of sea water to be several degrees is hugely significant. Were it just a tenth or two, there would be no reason for concern. But that is simply not what is happening. The larger question at hand here is: how much more will the temperature of the oceans rise? The is extremely important because the ocean’s temperature directly affects weather patterns. In the Atlantic ocean we have seen a marked increase in both the number and the intensity of hurricanes. In other parts of the earth the change in weather patterns have caused stronger winter storms, greater flooding, hotter summers and even colder winters.

That the United States has withdrawn from the Paris Climate Accords is a travesty. It says that the United States cares more about corporate profits than the continued life of our planet. The United States, which for over 100 years, has lead the world in most areas, has abdicated its leadership responsibility. This is a debt which must be paid whether the United State’s present political leadership acknowledges or not. The debt grows daily and will be paid by our children, our grandchildren, and our great grandchildren.

Our World in 50 Years

There are three generations whose ability to impact positive change in the United States has either gone to zero or is on that track. I’m a baby boomer, born in 1949, which means the majority of my generation is either retired of contemplating it. The generation ahead of us has, for the most part, embraced their retirement and only gives thought about our country during national elections. Then there is the generation right behind me. Their age range is about 30 to 55. The youngest end still has a chance to make strong positive changes while the older end, if they are not actively engage in public policy, are not likely to join in.

The future of our country lies in the hand of those who are now in high school and country. We need them to be as well-educated and actively involved in government as possible. History teaches us that a large portion of discoveries, inventions, and activism happens to this age group as soon as they finish their education. But my generation, and those generations around mine, are leaving a legacy which is in desperate need of a large influx of new ideas. The ideas of those presently in power are simply not working to a large degree.

What will our work look like 50 years from now? First of all, recent history has shown our planets oceans have risen enough that ocean-front cities are experiencing flooding at ever increasing levels. My own city, Boston, Massachusetts, has just this last winter seen flooding of city streets with water from the ocean that has entirely overwhelmed the ability of the city’s storm drains to remove these waters. That the level of our oceans in continuing to rise in indisputable. What will our children have to do?

First of all, they are going to need to occupy and become a majority of every country’s leadership and embrace the fact of global warming an man’s contribution to it. Their’s will be the challenge to improve and expand upon renewable energy sources which do not contribute to global warming: wind farms, solar panels, geo-thermal, and water both from the planets rivers but also from the ocean, a well-know but entirely undeveloped source of energy.

efully, the internal combustion engine will be mostly, if not entirely, obsolete worldwide. It will have been supplanted by electric automobile. But to do that effectively three things have to happen: first, batteries capable of operating automobiles at highway speeds must be good for 450 miles. At present 200-250 it about the best. Secondly, the price of these automobiles must be brought into line with what the average consumer can afford. With an average price tag of around $40,000 at the low end, such cars are simply out of the range of the average consumer. But with such cars available, cities, towns, and villages are going to have to accommodate charging stations in their public parking lots, at a reasonable fee of course. And lastly, as the price of oil rises at first, such demand should fall with the advent of the wide-spread electric automobile. This in turn should mean lower diesel fuel prices which will keep our trucking and railroad industries viable. But even their, the Hybrid diesel engine must come into wide use and still have the ability to haul heavy loads.

I believe that in 50 years the most notable global crises will be a food shortage. But at the root of this will be two things: expanding deserts and extreme water shortages worldwide, even in the United States. One solute to the water problem is the desalinization process of turning ocean water into fresh water. Right now such costs are prohibitive but that does not mean with our young people and their new idea, the cost of such a process cannot be reduced to where the economics of desalinated ocean allows the flow of huge quantities of water to feed the world’s farmland. Man can develop friendly ecosystems but he has to be willing to pay for the initial costs. My generation is not so inclined but hopefully the next two generations will see this differently.
These three things, energy, food and water, are guaranteed to be at the root of future wars if we do not start acting in a positive manner now and in the immediate future.

If you happen to read this and are between the ages of 15 and 30, I do not envy the challenge ahead of you but I believe that when you see the enormity of our failures you will take on the challenge and succeed like we never have.

An Education Second to None

My birth family what is referred to as land poor. We had a big house surrounded by a number of acres of both open fields and wooded areas. My family ancestry shows we were the second family to settle Andover, Massachusetts, which today is call North Andover after an 1855 split. For the most part we were farmers, sometimes minutemen, then factory owner and by the 20th century men who commuted to Boston to work.


My mother and father met by an arrangement between friends and it was probably love at first sight for both of them. Unfortunately, I never asked that question, but I know my mother adored my father and my father deeply loved her. I thought I had the most perfect parents any kid could want. It never occurred to me that relative to everyone else who lived in our neighborhood, we were quite poor. Each of my parents worked hard and my sister, brother and I were well taken care of. That gave us the illusion that all was well. And in general, it was, but I now know that my parents struggled mightily to keep things together.
I found out when I asked my parents for my first bicycle that the ability to afford things was rather restrictive. The bike they found cost $10, a large sum in the later 1950s. It was well-used, but I managed to get many many miles out of it before it literally fell apart.
I believe I was about six years old when a neighbor kid asked me if I wanted to make 25 cents shoveling snow. Now in those days, in my mind, 25 cents translated into 5 candy bars. My parents could not afford to give any of us an allowance, so I was introduced to getting what I wanted via work. Much of this early work was what I was already doing around my house, taking out the trash, shoveling snow, mowing the lawn, and raking leaves. In those days we could burn a pile of leaves alongside the road. In the country-side one of the harbingers of fall was the smell of burning leaves in the air. It was everywhere and something I miss.
The lady for whom I shoveled snow I offered my services of mowing her lawn which she accepted along with taking care of her flowers. My business spread to other people in the neighborhood and I always had money in my pocket at lease briefly. My weakness for chocolate what as great then as it is now and I saw no reason to resist. But I bought other things with my money, a wallet, a pair of boots, a speedometer for my bike and other things.
When I turned 12 I was old enough to work a paper route for the Lawrence Eagle Tribune. My first route was rather lengthy, but I learned a lot. When it came time, each Thursday, to collect from each person the tidy sum of 42 cents for a week’s worth of newspapers. They were 7 cent a day, six days a week. The blue-collar and middle-class people would always give me 50 cents, an 8-cent tip, which I always appreciated. But the wealthy people always waited for their change with the exception of one man, Sam Rockwell, who was a wealthy Boston banker and as kind a person a you could know.
At age 14 and 15 I work on a vegetable farm about a mile from my house. For my 8 hours labor in the hot fields, I received the tidy sum of 3 dollars a day or 15 dollars a week that first summer. The next summer I got a raise to 5 dollars a day. Farms were then, and I expect now, exempt from paying minimum wage which at the time was $1.25 an hour. The farm was run by two Italian brothers and the fields were always filled with their parents and grandparents. I know at least one woman was in her 80s, and because she was widowed, she dressed completely in black every day regardless of how hot it got, and you never heard a single complaint. There were a number of these older women who were dressed in black. It was very hard labor, very demanding, and I got another lesson in work that I feel proud about.
When I turned 16 I knew I could find a job that paid better than the farm. As good fortune had it, there was a man who lived a very short distance from my house. This man I knew owned a mill in Lawrence. I had no idea what was made in the mill, but I went to his house and rang his bell. He answered the door and I introduced myself and told him what I was looking for. A 16-year-old does not recognize when he is properly impressing someone with his industry. Mr. Segal did not even give it a moment’s thought. He simply told me to show up at the mill office and there would be a job waiting for me. I had no idea that this job, though it lacked excitement, would give me a life lesson that I carry in my heart to this day. Mr. Segal’s mill was named Service Heel Company. His factor produced women’s shoe heels which when finished were shipped off to another company, actually several of them, who would use the heels we made to finish their shoes.
The mill was what used to be referred to as a sweat shop. That simply meant, people worked in a place that was hot and un-airconditioned in the summer and cold and poorly heated in the winter. The mill building itself, originally the George Kunhardt Mill, was built around 1890 and was part of the giant woolen industry in Lawrence. I would like to say that the people who I worked with ran the entire spectrum of a community but in truth it had one small sliver. Most of the people employed their had an 8th grade education, if that, and had worked the same job, in exactly the same location for 30 years or more. I know that for fact because I asked that question of several people there.
The thing with these people, almost without exception, is they were what was called “the salt of the earth.” If you worked there you were one of them and no one person was any better than another person.
I was a “floor boy” which meant I dragged boxes of unfinished heels to various stations where work was done on them. It being a union shop, I could work there for only 90 days without joining the union which was more than enough for me because it was only a summer job. Also, I was getting my $1.25 hourly wage which grossed me $50 a week, the most money I had ever earn. Those were the days that you had a time card which you had to punch in and out as you went. If you were one minute late you were docked 5 minutes of pay. That happened to me but a single time but that was enough for me to appreciate the idea of being somewhere on time.
The floor supervisor was a big man named Tony who had now problem rolling out his prejudices. Probably during my first week he took me to the rear of the shop and point out the window to the mill next to us. He said, “that’s where the spics work” and told me I had better not associate with them. In the early 1960s Lawrence already had a sizeable Puerto Rican community which some people like Tony could not tolerate for reason that make no sense. Ironically, I found none of that with the people who worked the stations in the shop. They were kind and very helpful. I got absolutely no training upon my arrival there and of course was quite lost with how to find what was needs and how to tell where I should be taking these boxes. It was the people who needed the boxes who train me of where to find things and how to get them to where they needed to be. They also made me aware that occasionally time sensitive heels would come through and I needed to be on the look out for them and drag the as soon as I saw them to the proper station. By the way, I actually had a metal rod with a hook on the end to drag these boxes around.
One of the stations was in a second building separated by a hallway and a large steel door. This was the paint shop where certain heels were spray painted. OSHA did not exist at that time and the man who worked the shop, alone, only had a face mask to protect him from the paint fumes. He did not have the oxygen mask that would be used today. I don’t know what, if anything, ever happened to him but considering the noxious fumes he inhaled, it is difficult to believe he was not damaged in some manner. But such were the mills back then.
I really do not remember the names of the people who worked there, some were but a few years older than me and others were easily old enough to be my grandparents. But to a person they were not but kind and considerate of me. I never heard them complain about anything. There was a level of respect between employees that was exemplary. I learned the life lesson of not judging people by their station in life. Rather look at the character of the person and you will know who you are dealing with. These people were of the best character.
The next summer I got a job at Raytheon Company in Shawsheen, MA, a part of Andover MA. I believe my basic title was clerk. I worked on the 9th floor of a 10-story building where there built radar systems to the US Army. I did not have a security clearance which occasionally got in the way of my job. The floor I worked on was concerned with completed radar components being properly finished and tested. It was the quality assurance section.
The job site, as opposed to the previous one, did employ a large spectrum of people. But there was something amiss with this group. There was lots of prejudice and angst between the various groups. People who worked in the metal shops and fabrication shops were looked down upon by those in the engineering department of which I was a part. Worse, this shop was also a union shop which had recently gone on strike. A number of men crossed the lines and of course became “scabs.” I had the bad manners to sit down and each lunch with one of the scabs and was told if I did that again I would be treated as he was, poorly. I hated that because I have never thought ostracizing anyone served any useful purpose.
I encounter one other type of prejudice quite unexpectedly. There was a young lady who I worked with, we both worked out of the same office but had different jobs but were otherwise equals. I found I that I was making 5-cents more than she because of my gender. I knew even than that that was wrong. I remember thinking that she had told me things about herself the left me believing that if anyone should be make more money it was her. It had to do with her background, but I do not remember exactly what.
I was glad to leave that job at the end of the summer. They offered me a full-time position with the added incentive of paying for my college education which I was starting that September. I turned down their offer, it was not a place I wanted to work.
And so there you have the first 18 years of my life and the informal, though extremely useful, education I received along the way. If you consider that I started work at the age of 6, I worked continuously for 52 years before I retired. I learned new things each of those 52 years but the best education I received were those years for age 6 to 18. They served me well and I am grateful for every person along the way who took a moment to show me something that was useful. God bless them all.