Paper or Shoes

In the town where I was raised there were two main industries, paper and shoes.  In most families one or both parents worked in either the paper mills or the shoe factories.  Kids grew up and often followed in their parents footsteps; paper or shoes.

Our family was a shoe family.  My father was an engineer for Bass shoe, founded by George Bass in 1876.  He started out on the factory floor and worked his way up. His job was to analyze the labor required to make a shoe, and then determine how much, per piece, a worker should be paid for their particular contribution. This kind of work was called “piece work”, and allowed better, more experienced workers to earn more because they had harder jobs and/or were more productive. It was a non-unionized system that paid workers according to their productivity and skill.

Bass Shoe was sold to Chesebrough-Ponds in 1978.  They were famous for Vaseline, Ponds Cold Creams and other beauty products.  Why they wanted a shoe factory I couldn’t say, but things continued to roll along fairly smoothly.  In 1981, President Reagan lifted the quotas on imported shoes and cheaper shoes from overseas became available.  American shoe companies, in order to compete, began moving their production overseas.  The companies that maintained factories in the US cut jobs and payroll.  My father lost his job in 1987 after Philips-Van Heusen purchased the company and again slashed jobs and payroll.  Bass closed their last Maine factory in 1998, letting go of its final 350 workers.  Over the course of 18 years, about 1,200 people employed by this one company lost their jobs. You can still buy Bass shoes, but they are not made in the US.

The paper mills have fared better but there have been union strikes, cuts and closings.  In short, my old hometown is not the insulated community it used to be.  We are not special.  The same thing has happened all across the country.

I bring these things up because it is a big shopping weekend and today is Shop Local Saturday. While it might not be practical to purchase only American-made products, it is possible to shop locally for one day and benefit your local community. Go on.  Get out there. Buy something already.

Chicken out

  9 comments for “Paper or Shoes

  1. November 30, 2013 at 2:08 pm

    Shopping also falls within the realm of the law of relativity.
    Somebody should have analized the imact of importing from China and other sources of cheap goods, but they yielded to profits of merchants which as a result dismantled our industry and our quality.
    We made the tiger richer and fatter; if you read the news you will notice it threatens us.
    It does make sense to give our support to U.S. produced goods.


  2. November 30, 2013 at 2:20 pm

    Im with you all the way on this. I'm supporting our small, local shops for my Christmas shopping over the Walmarts and Costco's.


  3. November 30, 2013 at 6:24 pm

    This is definitely an issue in Canada as well, and I'm planning to do the same as Shelly.

    Notice I said “planning to”. No shopping done here yet. Tomorrow is Dec 1. Eeeeeek!


  4. November 30, 2013 at 7:59 pm

    Amen, Carlos!


  5. November 30, 2013 at 8:01 pm

    Hi Shelly, I'm a big Amazon shopper, I have to admit. Shopping is not my favorite thing so I use the internet. I have been out to the local places, though, to pick up quite a few things and will round out the rest of what I need locally.


  6. November 30, 2013 at 8:02 pm

    Hi Jenny-I'm trying to get ahead of schedule this year but I'm usually a week or so out kind of shopper.


  7. November 30, 2013 at 8:48 pm

    I do not have to go too far. We have a small Pizza shop at a walking distance that opened last year.
    Happy Thanksgiving.


  8. November 30, 2013 at 9:12 pm

    A fine way to illustrate the importance of buying locally… something I usually try to do, though my locale is Canada and much of the non-local stores are American-based.


  9. December 11, 2013 at 8:24 pm

    I find it sad that the manufacturing that made our country great is little by little disappearing. My dad worked in a plant that was a “paper” related industry. They made boxes. He was a punch press operator that was paid on a piece work scale as well. The factory shut down years ago.

    I, too do most of my shopping on Amazon and feel bad that I don't do a better job shopping locally. BUT I really hate to shop…really, really hate it.


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