The country lost 533,000 jobs in November -- not since December 1974 have so many jobs disappeared in a single month. 1974 was the year John graduated from high school and began a summer of furious work on his way to college. John has this essay.
I had a massive flashback last Friday. The Labor department announced the unemployment rate for November and in contained the statistic that last month the U.S. economy lost more jobs than at any time in 34 years... since 1974. As if I needed another reason to remember that dog of a year when I graduated from high school.
"It was a terrible time for someone just starting out. Job 1? A factory tool shop. I got my layoff notice about a month later."
?John Hockenberry on the memories of 1974
Even if the music hadn't been dreadful, 1974 was the worst year. There's kidnapped Patty Hearst giving revolutionaries a bad name, President Nixon resigned... Jerry Ford MY BORING CONGRESSMAN became president... a recession took hold and I had to get a job in Auto industry ground zero Michigan. It was a terrible time for someone just starting out. Job 1? a factory tool shop... I got my layoff notice about a month later.... job 2: driving a truck for a lumber yard until the yard just stopped its delivery service couldn't afford it... joblessness was breaking all records.
All right, Hank Aaron had a good year anyway breaking Babe Ruth's home run record... but as I tried to save money to put myself through college it became clear the recession was deepening... Job 3: welder.... until I fell asleep and got fired because Job 4: I was working nights as a dishwasher. Yeah 1974 was just awful... even the escapist entertainment sucked...
I was lucky with no family to support.... no bills other than college tuition to pay.... after the restaurant Job 5: car wash, Job 6: I worked at a nursing home. Job 7 playing guitar in a coffee house... Me and more than a half million other workers.. bouncing from job to job.
Free Bird was a decent 1974 song... but then much of the Leonard Skynard band died in a plane crash three years later...
And I always thought "When Will I See You Again" by The Three Degrees song was a total ripoff of Freebird. Basically though, when I graduated from high school I had all kinds of specific ideas about wanting to be a mathematician, or an actor, or even an anthropologist.... (go figure). By the end of the year of layoffs and doorslams I was ready to go live in the woods, I barely had the money to go to college and I had no idea what I wanted to do there.
1974 did come to an end... My last job that year was delivering newspapers, and in the end this recession induced uncertainty led me onto a path I never considered... Journalism.... Silver lining? I don't know... hey don't thank me for the recession. You can thank a recession for having to listen to me.