Dying Occupations

Any time there’s a downturn in the economy, people begin worrying about losing their jobs. But how often do people even give it a thought when times are good?

I was born at the tail end of World War II. The war took the lives of many American servicemen and women, but it also erased the last vestiges of the Great Depression. Thus, I was born into a fantastic upswing in our economy.

Soldiers and sailors were returning home and buying cars, homes, kitchen appliances, and many other consumer goods that had not existed prior to the war. And at the same time, their purchases were eliminating jobs.

For every refrigerator that replaced an ice box, the iceman lost a customer. For every gas furnace that replaced a coal furnace, the guy who made home deliveries of coal lost a customer. For every car or motorcycle sold, the taxi drivers and bus drivers lost a fare.

Surprisingly, the bus drivers and taxi drivers still exist, but one would be hard pressed to find an iceman or coal truck driver who makes home deliveries.

One would also be hard pressed to find a diaper service. Disposable diapers have all but eliminated the cloth variety. There might be laundries that would wash and fold them, but I’d guess the parents would need to take their diapers to the business rather than the other way around.

Years ago while I was working for a large and very successful corporation, I was in a department that did virtually nothing for almost a year. It seemed to me that the writing on the wall was saying, “We don’t need this group.”

I began looking for job openings in other departments. Within a short time, my departure was announced and I was back to doing meaningful work. Soon thereafter, my old department was disbanded and many of my former co-workers were desperately looking for other job opportunities.

If I were a betting man, I’d predict the eventual demise of all music stores and movie rental outlets… even the ones doing business via the postal service.

The technology is available and already being used to download music and movies on computers. If I can rent or buy music and movies from the comfort of my home and not be concerned with the mail box, why would I go to a store to make my purchases?

For the most part, I have no problem watching these dinosaurs become extinct. For every occupation that disappears, there are usually a number of new jobs to take their places. I’ve heard a number of experts state that the major problem with our school system – both public and private – is that we’re trying to train young men and women for jobs that do not exist today. Thus, we really don’t know what our young people will need to know.

To me, that is a clear signal to emphasize the basics of reading and arithmetic. With a strong foundation in those two areas, most of us can learn whatever it is we need to learn. WIthout those basics, things are much more difficult.

As for other dinosaurs departing the scene, the ones I hate to lose are the ‘mom and pop’ enterprises. The old supermarkets drove many corner grocery stores out of business. The modern supercenters are knocking out a lot of other privately owned stores.

Personally, I’ve always preferred the privately owned stores simply because they are personal. I could count on seeing the same faces behind the counter every time I stopped in. And those familiar faces recognized me.

With the new mega-markets, I sometimes see a familiar face or two, but for the most part, everything is very impersonal. And that, I’m afraid, will stay the same regardless of what our economy does.


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