My daddy worked at the Ford plant for some 25 years, starting a little after I was born. Went to high school, served in the Navy during World War II, got married, settled into a job, and raised a family. In this he was not at all unusual.
It seems incredible now, but throughout the 1950s and 60s, his Ford paycheck was the only source of money for a family of five. But that paycheck was enough to provide the five of us with a house in a quiet, pleasant neighborhood, a nice car every few years, good food on the table every day, a family vacation most years, nice clothes for children who kept growing out of them–in short, with everything we needed, and most of what we wanted. My mother only had to work occasionally, and never for long. Mostly she wisely managed the family’s money.
None of this was unusual. Our whole neighborhood was one-paycheck households, with everybody pretty much at the same middle-class standard of living. The father worked. The mother raised the kids and ran the house. We went to school, and to church, and played. The grownups got together for poker, or to watch TV, and sometimes had a pickup baseball game. Boy, I loved to watch my father hit!
It was all so ordinary, so sane. So wonderful. I’m sitting here writing about it and my eyes are starting to tear up. This was wealth that can’t be measured in money.
This was America.