Houses, factories, railroads, the local utility Public Service GAS & Electric, (accent on the gas part, a by- product of coal burning), before the Big Inch pipeline connected the northeast to the Texas natural gas fields and took the business away, they all burned coal. Some hard coal, some soft coal but lots and lots of it.
Now, it's true that on certain days in the winter, when conditions were just right, a stinky pall settled over the area. Like the smog in L. A., perhaps. What didn't add to the mix was any great amount of auto exhaust. No cars to speak of then. Depression on, remember? And later, wartime restrictions on passenger cars.
In my working class street, all of the men were employed at blue collar or white collar jobs. All, with the exception of my family and one or two others, did so without cars. People; women, kids and working men, walked, or rode the bus! Every day, for every purpose.
TRENTON MAKES, THE WORLD TAKES; reads the sign on the bridge over the Delaware river, leading to neighboring Pennsylvania. The sign is still there they tell me, but the world no longer takes since Trenton no longer makes. The jobs have vanished. Nada, all gone. EXCEPT, government jobs. State capital, remember?
All the decent paying work in factories, foundries, needle trades, or the railroad no longer exist. You work for the government, go on the dole, or eke out a two job existence.. Not much else remains that would support a family of working class people.
How did this terrible thing happen, we all ask?
At the end of WW ll, Washington was in a panic. The boys were coming home. What'll we do with them? There's no work except war work, and the girls, and the others are doing that. Oh my! Depression again. Can't have that.
Got it. Send the boys to school, anyway the ones who can read and write and... get the gals back in the kitchen. But how? They've all gotten so...independent these days. Put them in brand new houses at next to nothing down. Even less for vets. But where? Suburbs of course, nothing out there but corn fields. Get them to leave the city and drive back and forth to work and then, of course! ...sell them new cars! Eureka! But people love the city, grew up there, friends and families are there, how will we do that? They don't want to leave.
No problem. Scare 'em out! Tell them during the war while you were away fighting for the country, they moved in and took all the jobs and you know what that means.
Okay, I'm ready to go. But how do I get back to my job in the city? The roads out there are all tiny country lanes and are jammed up all the time.
No problem! Since the commies are going to bomb us any day now we have planned smooth and wide super roads all over the place to move our strictly defensive guided missile launchers from place to place quickly. You can use these great new highways, free!.
Best of all, your new house on its own private grass patch will be state of the builders' art. Latest in all the new kitchen appliances and best, best of all, your furnace will run on natural gas or will burn oil. No more shoveling that messy coal and putting the ashes out on the curb. Welcome to the bold new world of Levittown! And in no time we'll move your job into another corn field so you won't have to go to the city at all.
And it worked. For awhile. While we, the USA, still had all the money and made and sold all our good stuff to the rest of the world. If you weren't able to buy our stuff and you were among the losers of WW II, well we'll give you the money to rebuild, then you could buy all our stuff. However, if you were our friend during the war but you were godless and didn't play our game, well, tough, nothing for you.
And it worked. For awhile. But then our new friends learned how we made our stuff and they made it cheaper, and often better. Well, that won't do. Too many cheap towels and sweaters on the market from our old enemies, oops new friends, okay close up the knitting mills in the old industrial North and ship the work down to the New South. Cheaper land, big tax dodges, lower wages. Great, that's done.
And it worked. For awhile. But soon the folks in Dixie wanted more. Fuggettaboutit! Lots of peons looking for jobs. Let's move further south.
And it worked. For awhile. They, those ingrates, wanted more. Let's move West, really far west. The good commies are really our friends now and they work for rice and noodles. Let's go West to the Far East!
And it worked. For awhile. Now, bigger ingrates, and they want it all! Instead of doing what we do and buying everything in sight, they save their money! Isn't that cheating?
In the beginning everything was peachy. They made stuff and made it cheaply and pretty good, too. The ships sped across the seas on tons of really cheap oil, and all was well. But things started to change a bit. Running all those big ships made sense when fuel was a giveaway but it got more expensive. Much more.
And people at home were going in hock to pay for all the new stuff because they hadn't saved enough to pay for it.
No problem! In the new world they won't need money. That's old style. All they need is lots of cheap credit and a computer to shop in the virtual world we have created for them. But ...that will require plenty of smart people who work cheap to take orders for the stuff, and we don't have enough. No problem. People in India speak English, sort of, work for a pittance so they get the job. And diction lessons as well.
And it worked. For awhile. In no time all, this coming and going became just going. A one way street of money...ours. So what! Our credit is AAA, well...AA anyway. What's the big fuss? We're good customers. So charge it! I'll have another hamburger and I will pay you Tuesday! Oops that's not right. That's what Wimpy said in the comic strip. Not what our Masters of the Universe would ever say. But maybe that's how it sounded to those too-clever-by-far commies, 'er, our good trading partners. Just because they saved their money, (the chumps), they are beginning to make noises saying we are not paying them enough interest on the money they lend us to buy all their stuff because our wonderful, spotless currency has gotten a tad faded. Hey, it was our money to begin with. And so what? More hamburgers please, I will pay you Tuesday...maybe.
Now, talk about gall, they say they will give us more money but in exchange they want our holy institutions, the very icons that separate us from the rest of the worlds' unwashed, our glorious cathedrals of commerce and culture, our banks. What insolence! What's with those people?
Okay spoil-sports, you can have the banks. They're empty. Ha Ha!
Now with the oil looking to become more expensive than say...water, everybody's getting worried. What to do? Can't burn coal. Too messy. Ah, we'll build more nukes! What... don't you remember Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, all that waste we can't take care of, half-lives out to forever?
Not to worry. Mankind is very clever and somebody will think of something. When the first nuclear plant was going up in India, they didn't even have a crane to hoist the containment vessel up into place. Well, they built a great big bamboo scaffolding and a bunch of guys with ropes dragged it up. See!
Somebody always thinks of something.
Remember, we don't need no stinking coal to boil our water when we got ...nucular!