Monday, April 4, 2011

Some Things Never Change

Homestead Works Mill Gate, 1983. Photo by Trilby Busch

As a native of the steel town of Homestead, Pennsylvania, I've witnessed the decline and fall of the American steel industry.  I remember the smoky town of the '40s, '50s, and '60s, US Steel's flagship mill belching toxic fumes and raining grit onto its inhabitants. I remember my mother's family store, Katilius Furniture, and their customers, honest, hardworking millworkers and their families.
Franklin Elementary School, Munhall. Sixth grade class. 1955

Today, that huge three-mile long riverfront site is inhabited by a gigantic shopping mall, featuring national and international corporate stores and restaurants. Gone are Katilius Furniture, Levine's Hardware, the H&H Restaurant, and just about every other small, locally owned business (with the notable exception of Mantsch's Blue Bonnet Bakery). Many of the younger folk who work in the stores at the Waterfront have no idea that an enormous, sprawling mill once stood there, turning out beams, girders, slabs, and other finished steel products.

I became obsessed with the '92 Strike through my father's stories of his grandfather's death--and father's rise to become boss of the mill Machine Shop. In 1999, the year after my father's death, I began this fictional recreation of Homestead in 1892.  For many hours of many days I "lived" in Homestead Past, using my memory of the town and mill during my childhood to reproduce the town my Grandfather Busch knew.

Coincidentally, the week after I declared a polished draft of the book finished, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and his Tea Party cohorts began their work of dismantling collective bargaining rights for state workers.  Soon after, Tea Partiers in Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania (groan), and other states followed suit.

Some things never change.  Corporate greed always finds a way to reach into the pockets of the middle-class, be they white- or blue-collar workers. Sometimes it's done by wiring systems (like banking) to funnel profits their way; other times (as in Wisconsin) they buy elections to wire the legal and political systems.

Either way, the result is the same:  They win, we lose.

1 comment:

  1. Sent this link via a friend of mine who is one of yours. Am really interested in your book, Trilby.