By the late 1950s America was in a recession the likes of which hadn't been seen in post-World War II society. Hard hit were the steelworkers and those associated with steel, automobiles, and oil. In one small southern town in particular, the local pipe shop and foundry, the largest single employer in the town, suffered from the recession forcing the men to find other incomes.
One man's father returned to life as a tenant farmer, renting the land that he plowed and planted before opening a gas station. The man's father-in-law had no farm to fall back on, the federal government having taken his family's land for an Army camp during World War II. The man? He supported his wife, his teenage daughter, and his father-in-law and lived in a house in the city miles away from his father's farm.
To solve the problem, the man found work where he could. At another foundry. In New Jersey. His wife and daughter moved to New Jersey while his father-in-law, in his late 50s, too old for a new hire, remained in their home in that small southern town.
But the man was a southerner and knew that he needed a better life for himself and his family. Moving back to that small southern town, he turned to teaching math and science at a primary school in the next county to the north. To supplement his income, he would moonlight at a foundry in the largest city in the state. Before the interstate system was completed between the small town and the big city.
Still he knew he needed to do more to support his family. He traded foundry work for more school work.
After teaching fourth and fifth graders, he would drive home, grab a quick supper, and sit in class at a small state university in the next county to the east. It took multiple years to complete. His degree in Business Administration came two years after the arrival of an unexpected and un-planned-for baby in the mid-60s.
Forays into real estate, insurance, and used cars never amounted to more than a side-line. What put food on the table was teaching. And even with the side-line, his wife often claimed at supper not to be hungry and wouldn't eat. Did the man see through her ruse as a way to spread the portions among all the mouths?
His desire for a stable and ample life led to summers away from teaching spent at one of the larger state universities clear on the other side of the state. He'd pack up his wife and young daughter and sublet an apartment while attaining his masters in education and working towards his Ph.D. in psychology. By this time, his father-in-law had died and his first daughter was living in another state.
Never satisfied with his one income and even with all those letters after his name, the man would drive a school bus before and after school. He always wanted more for his children than he had. But he also made it clear to his daughters that they had to work for what they had, never doling out cash for anything more than college-level expenses. His one extravagance was letting his younger daughter have the trade-in value when buying her first car. The car he let her use as a trade-in? A 1972 green AMC Gremlin.
What I wouldn't do for that Gremlin today!
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