News Columns & Blogs

Think about Depression, get happy

More depressing news on the homefront: Unemployment figures for June were released Friday, and Manatee County hit an astounding 11.8 percent, the highest on record.

Just when you thought you might be seeing glimmers of light on the horizon.

I’ve had a prediction since the summer of 2008, when the gloom of the recession was starting to be felt, that we would not pull out of this economic malaise until mid-2010.

Am I another Hank Fishkind or Paul Krugman? Nope, I have no figures to back up my belief, I’ll freely admit. It’s more of a feeling than anything else.

When the housing bubble began leaking air, the financial markets began their erratic downspin and layoffs became the word du jour, I started developing a bunker mentality.

How long would I have to hunker down to survive what felt to me, as a child of the ’60s, like the Great Depression?

I looked around me at the housing market, which our area — and the state as a whole — depends on mightily. With prices as high as they were, I knew it was going to be a long way to the bottom. I was one of those lucky people who bought at the height of the boom and have watched as the bubble deflated along with my home’s value.

We also depend a lot on visitors from the north, and our service industry, with its thousands of jobs, I knew was going to be hit hard if everyone else was developing the bunker mentality I had and staying home.

I was brought up by parents who grew up in the Depression. Leftovers were on our table every night because my mother never threw away anything. In fact, when she died she left behind her World War II ration coupon books for her six children to inherit.

She and my dad knew that you never knew what tomorrow would bring. So you tried to plan ahead, you did your best to save and preserve when you could, and you didn’t take anything for granted. Maybe their own type of bunker mentality.

These days I often think about them and others who had to deal with the shortages and uncertainty of those days. And then, strangely, I don’t feel so bad. That generation is a good one for us to emulate. Their deprivations resulted in strong characters, people who knew how to tough it out and survive, who knew about perseverance and saving.

They also valued what they had.

So when I think about all that, I don’t get too upset about the bad economic news we still continue to face. Things are getting better — our local housing market has half the inventory it did six months ago, and investors have come back.

The job market has yet to turn around, but we are hearing stories here and there about companies expanding and relocating to bigger facilities.

We still have a long way to go, I believe, before we get back on a prosperous course. Just my feelings again. If the rebound is well on its way before July 2010, you can tell me I’m all wet.

But while we are surviving the job losses, downturns and negative numbers, we should think about those who went before us and their ability to cope.

Maybe we’ll grow some better personality traits. That would be a good thing.