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Authors: Studs Terkel

Tags: #Historical, #Non-Fiction, #Autobiography, #Memoir, #Biography, #Politics

Hard Times

BOOK: Hard Times
3.16Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
Table of Contents
American Dreams
Lost and Found
Division Street
Giants of Jazz
“The Good War”
An Oral History of World War II
Hope Dies Last
Keeping the Faith in Troubled Times
My American Century
How Blacks and Whites Think and Feel
About the American Obsession
The Spectator
Talk About Movies and Plays
with the People Who Make Them
Talking to Myself
A Memoir of My Times
Will the Circle Be Unbroken?
Reflections on Death, Rebirth, and Hunger for a Faith
People Talk About What They Do All Day and
How They Feel About What They Do
For my wife, my son, and my editor
FRIENDS, acquaintances and, in astonishing number, strangers were gracious in offering suggestions. Without their hunches and tips, this work may not have been possible. Among these casual scouts: Richard Lamparski, Robert Cromie, Herman Kogan, Mike Royko, Lew Frank, Jr., Lucy Fairbank, Robert Sherrill, Phyllis Jackson, James Patton, Clifford and Virginia Durr, John Dierkes, Lou Gilbert, Phil McMartin, Sanka Bristow, Harry Bouras, King Solomon, Brendan McMahon, Earl Doty, Lou Abraham, Elizabeth Cooper, Jesse Prosten and Leon Beverly.
As in a previous work,
Division Street: America
, it was Cathy Zmuda, who did more than transcribe the hundreds of thousands of spoken words onto pages. She offered gratuitous editorial comments and thus provided me with a perspective that might otherwise have been missing.
My colleagues at radio station WFMT, notably Norm Pellegrini, Ray Nordstrand and Lois Baum, were remarkably understanding and ingenious during my leaves of absence. My daily programs, re-broadcasts, had an air of contemporaneity, thanks to them. My gratitude, too, to Jim Unrath for beyond-the-call-of-duty chores as my companion and chauffeur, during a memorable trip through Arkansas.
Especially am I grateful to my editor, André Schiffrin, whose idea this was. His insistence and quiet encouragement are evident in all these pages. And to his perceptive associates, Verne Moberg and Linda Faulhaber, for their bright-eyed look at what was becoming burdensome matter—a salute.
January-February 1986
Hard times come again no more

As these words are being written, the Stephen Foster lyric rolls around in my head like a loose cannonball.
It is early in 1986, yet the Dirty Thirties come to mind. The bleak decade was so defined by a long-gone Congressman, whose remembrances you will find in these pages.
How come this foreboding reflection? The Six O’clock News and the financial sections of our most respected journals inform us, via Administration handouts, that things have seldom looked better. Even the phrase BOOM YEAR is occasionally headlined in a spirit of cheery prophecy.
True, there is the casual caveat, solemnly offered: something to do with “deficits.” But aside from the warnings of the usual Cassandras, it’s nothing to cause sleepless nights. It’s too arcane a word anyway, an accountant’s term. It’s nothing like “hunger” or “homeless.” These shadow words appear back in the feature pages, as “human interest” stories, adjacent to the gossip columns and theatrical news.
Up front are IMPORTANT developments. Look at the market. “Stocks jump another 12 … boosting the Dow-Jones industrial average to a record and proving that optimism over economic growth and corporate earnings remains high.”
Look at Dow-Jones. Look at the corporate ads, offered with an air of Responsibility. Look at the bright and morning faces of Business Administration School graduates, attaché cases responsibly in hand, as they commute to the bustling office and the even more bustling Floor.
Unavoidably, you look at the face of the farmer as he is caught by the TV camera. You know the one: the desperate Iowan, who killed his neighbor and
himself. I believe a minor bank official got it, too. It wasn’t his fault either. He was as distraught as the man who killed him. It was bigger than both of them.
Last month, in Union County, which has the richest land in South Dakota, a young Farmers Home Administration supervisor killed his wife, daughter, son and dog while they slept, then went down to his office and shot himself dead. He left a note: “The job has got pressure on my mind, pain on left side.” … Because he was an out-of-stater, the F.H.A. moved him about the state, apparently figuring he would be more willing to get tough with local farmers who were behind on their loan payments than would a native South Dakotan.
BOOK: Hard Times
3.16Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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