As I Remember It

I was a 6th grader at Claxton School in Asheville when my daddy took me to the shoe store to buy my winter shoes. Most of us young boys went barefoot in the summer. When we came out of the shoe store my daddy recognized a man walking down the street past the shoe store. Daddy said: “There goes a Republican son.” I watched him until he was out of sight. It was the first Republican I had ever seen.

It was in 1895 that George Vanderbilt put Asheville on the map when he built what is still the largest private residence in America. We went there several times on Claxton School tours. I thought it was really something special to see a swimming pool and a real bowling alley in the basement of a house. Bathrooms did not have sinks. There were servants to draw water for baths and pamper Vanderbilt’s guest in every imaginable way.

In those days, people who had money had lots of it. Those who didn’t were poor. And, there were an awful lot of poor people. There was not a thriving middle class as we know it today.

If it were possible for us to take a trip back to “the good old days” of say 100 years ago, most of us would come away horrified. For example if a working man died without life insurance, his wife might have to put her children in an orphanage if she had no family to fall back on. Even with family, the death of a parent was the cause of many a child leaving school to go to work. Children were not protected by child labor laws. If a child was injured on the job, his employer was under no obligation to take care of him. But, he could definitely be fired because he could no longer work.

Back home there was no welfare or social services for mom to fall back on. There was no Head Start for the younger children while she worked. There were no school lunch programs. If your parents did not have food to send along, you didn’t eat. If you were lucky enough to finish high school, college was a dream often reserved for the well to do.

As you became older, life became more difficult. There was no Social Security Plan and no Medicare. Companies were not expected to provide pension plans. This kind of thing was not the problem then it would be now because people did not live as long. If you got to 60, you were lucky. My father died at 57. My mother died at 61.

If you got sick and needed to be in a hospital, you might just decide to stay at home and die. Hospitals were not the clean, well equipped places they are today. There was no such thing as unemployment benefits and you could be fired for no reason.

If any of this is starting to ring a bell in your mind. Good for you! You have been slowly introduced to the Republican Plan for rejuvenating the economy; it comes down to a reversal of just about all of the social legislation of the 20th century.

Tax cuts would be paid by cutting or eliminating most of the programs mentioned here – the programs that gave America a flourishing middle class for almost a century. The wealthy would go back to the luxuries afforded by the Vanderbilt’s, Carnegies, Romney’s and others. And, then there would be the rest of us. This is what Romney wants. Do we want him?

Image Credit: Both photos are presumed in the public domain because of their age. The photo of the little girl was taken by Lewis Hine and the little girl's name was Addie Card - this photo was featured on a US stamp commemorating the passage of the first child labor laws.
Dave Cooley

Dave Cooley

Dave Cooley made a career of Journalism and Chamber of Commerce management. He served chambers in Greer, SC, Hendersonville, NC, Greenville, SC, Spartanburg, SC, Jacksonville, FL, Memphis, TN, Dallas, TX and as head of his professional society in Washington, DC. Cooley retired to Hendersonville, NC (his hometown) at the end of 1995. Since retirement, he worked in several foreign countries, teaching chamber and association executives the “American way of volunteer organization management.” and performed accreditation overviews for the U.S. Chamber. Dave and brother Art started a business that published FIFTY YEARS WITH THE VAGABONDS, a history of the Vagabond Players of Flat Rock Playhouse fame and a coffee-table book for the Hendersonville Country Club. FORTUNE MAGAZINE featured Cooley in its 1998 retirement special report saying, “His paycheck is his pep pill!” and showing him holding a goat at Carl Sandburg's home. The cut line read: “No old goat, he, Dave Cooley retired to North Carolina where he started four new careers.”