The Recession of 1958. Okay, it was fifty years ago. Hardly anyone remembers it - I don't remember it all that well because I was only 7 at the time. But I do know it caused my family to pick up stakes in Detroit and move to the balmier climes of Southern California, where opportunity was rumored to be falling from trees like navel oranges.
A lot of parallels have been drawn between the 1958 economic downturn and the one we're sweating out now. It was sharp, fast and scary - much like the one now. It came at a time when all indicators pointed to the economy being sound. Well . . . .maybe not the same. The big difference between the Recession of 1958 and one now is the world in which it took place. In 1958 there was no such thing as corporate mergers, leveraged buyouts, predator lending - credit cards only existed in the realm of The Diners Club. Our entire financial system was different - there were also a lot less people on the planet.
I do remember that it was possible to reinvent yourself and start a new life, as my father and millions of other blue collar workers had done. Trading in the auto industry for the new frontiers of aerospace and 78 degree days in January was a no-brainer.
The interesting parallel is how, even in 1958 the Auto industry was blamed for a lot of our economic ills. How a group of high school kids could grill an economic pundit from the Eisenhower Administration, wondering why Detroit couldn't make something America wanted is interesting from todays perspective. Even kids knew there was something wrong at the time.
Here is an extended excerpt from a radio program called "Youth Wants To Know" - a sort of Meet The Press where High School kids were calling the shots. The kids ask tough questions and the guest, Gabriel Hauge dodges and skirts pretty well. Makes for a refreshing break from the softball games we get on Sundays these days.
"Doctor Hauge, do you think that President Eisenhower was referring to Detroit cars when he recently said the products which consumers don't want were being jammed down their throats?"