Making Something of Nothing

I began teaching in 1979.  And if memory serves, Paul Volker headed the battered Federal Reserve, and Carter was in the White House turning off lights.  The economy had slumped badly from a combination of Vietnam deficits and the oil embargo, compliments of OPEC.  That was the year I finished college and began teaching, taking a job where I could find one.  While urban school district’s were letting folks go, I was forced to beat the bushes for a rural position.

Eventually I found a district hiring.  The town was quite remote, housing more raccoons than people.  There I taught and coached every sport available.  I didn’t have a choice, the economy was that bad.

Then came 2008–we all remember that disastrous economic mess when the whole financial sector was heading off a cliff.  That was the same time I started to consider retirement, and the prospects were certainly dim.  Due to the dire conditions of the financial sector I decided to hang in a few more years until circumstances improved.  And they did.

Persevering through through hard times is something I understand.  None of us can pause our lives and wait for better days.

It was 1933 when Chum decided to part ways with the US Navy.  The back story to his decision is drawn out fully in my book, River of January.  The short answer is ambition.  Based in Panama, where poverty ran rampant, Chum was insulated from a similar economic disaster that had befallen America.  Arriving in Depression-era New York proved a sobering and challenging experience.  Honestly, the young man’s only assets were his driving ambition, and he could fly airplanes.  As I described in the book, the country was broke.

The same could be said for Miss Helen Thompson.  In a sense the girl was luckier than Chum, (they hadn’t crossed paths yet).  Show business was and is a tough career to scratch out, and very few are lucky enough to arrive.  So she defied the odds of employment every time she auditioned.  In her letters and papers Helen is quite conscious of money and spending.  There are numerous makeshift ledgers of her expenditures throughout her papers.  But it is notable that she never mentioned the general economic disaster.  Helen accepted the terms of her time and place, and soldiered on.  Clearly her assets were drive and talent, the income came along as she persevered.

Neither Chum nor Helen, (or any of us for that matter) have control over the years we breath air.  Tapping into their personal reservoir of  inner drive, the two of them cobbled together incredible lives.  He won an air race, and met famous people, while she danced across Europe and met famous people.  I bet that was fun.  Fun in the time of scarcity.

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