Recently, I received a copy of a 1957 magazine called "Science and Mechanics" When I was young, I used to marvel at not only the content, but the ads in these sorts of magazines as well. Offers for WWII surplus items, like motorcycles for $5, or Jeeps for $10 always got my attention. My dream life as an adult was to live in a "California Style" home, with a surplus P-38 Lightning fighter parked in the driveway! Back in the 1950's, everything seemed possible.
Thumbing through the magazine reinforced that idea. The prototype of a tape recorder that would capture images and sound was featured. "This could be a reality someday soon", the magazine claimed. "Write now for information on the King Midget, drive it for 75 cents a week!" Courses were offered for home-study classes in auto repair, air conditioning service, radio and TV repair, and of all things, meat cutting. There seemed to be no limit to the ways a person could make extra money from home. There were countless ads looking for inventors, and ads for patent attorneys, and inventions needed. America was full of ideas and promise back then!
On the back cover, was a full page ad for a new rubber stamp business that "Pays beginners up to $9.20 an hour" That was fabulous money back then, and all a person would have to do is invest in a machine, and read the "Warner Plan", and go on to success!
As a child, I wondered if anyone actually tried these things. I found out a bit later on in life. I got a job with the Post Office Department, in South Holland Illinois. It was a different world back then, where management and the employees used to work together towards a common goal, namely getting the mail delivered, and sent out by the end of the day. One day I was sent a couple of blocks away to pick up a couple of rubber stamps that the Postmaster had ordered made. The address was that of a home, where a man did, indeed, "Make rubber stamps in his spare time"! The Post Office was a prime customer for "Don's Rubber Stamps", as he called his business. He made nearly all the myriad of stamps we used back then. He had built up a pretty good clientele, just working from his home, in his spare time. He had become an integral part of the business community, simply because he had answered an ad on the back of a magazine!
Time passed, and so did Don. His wife tried to keep the business going, but the old clients were dying off, and the new ones sent away for their stamps. Local business had been deposed by the office store chains, mega-marts and the like.
Simple, friendly service was replaced by indifference and poor service.
Where has our America gone? There is no more clamor for inventions, there isn't much tinkering anymore, as there's just not any free time for most folks. There are still people who love to tinker, but the days of learning at home are fast disappearing.
It's sad, really. We were once a nation full of ideas, and a willingness to work hard and improve our lives. Our jobs gave us the opportunity not only to spend time with our families, but to learn new things, and possibly, launch new careers. We all had the chance for a better life back in the '50's.
It would be nice to revisit those days, and feel the awe when we see a new invention, a new idea, or a futuristic concept car. We were the most productive nation on Earth, the people everyone else envied! What happened? Was it that not enough people took the meat cutting class, or didn't learn to make rubber stamps at home? Or was it the ones that did, got greedy, and crushed the competition? Our corporations control everything, and have the money and power to buy (or ruin) anyone who stands in their way. Our former craftsmen sit in cubicles, toiling away at dreary tasks, face a long commute home, and scarcely have time for their family.
This sure isn't the future promised us back in 1957. But just in case things turn around and get better, I'm sending in for the Charles Atlas course on page 14. You never know when you'll have to kick some corporate ass!