Recession or depression: Anecdotal evidence

October 23, 2008

Schools and teachers in Dallas still scramble to deal with the layoff of just over a thousand, including several hundred teachers.  At our school, schedule changes will be effective Monday, we hope.  Hundreds of students will have new schedules; in one case, we’re abandoning one elective entirely.

Teachers, staff and administration are shaken at best, bitter in worse cases, struggling to catch up everywhere.

About a dozen other teachers now have dropped by my classroom, asking about comparisons to corporate layoffs, an area where I have more experience almost all on the survivor side.   If I had to typify their reactions, I’d say the corps of teachers in Dallas is just scared.

Other economic stories don’t help.  Supplemental retirement funds have been hammered by Wall Street’s woes.  I hear teachers saying they had hoped to retire in a year or two, but can’t now, especially with a child or grandchild in college and tuition costs rising.

Also, locally, Dallas is supposed to lose a score of Starbucks locations (600 across Texas).  The first to close was the closest to Molina High School, last spring.  Last night Starbucks shuttered the first location south of the Trinity River in Dallas, a partnership with Magic Johnson, on Camp Wisdom Road.  It’s about four miles from here, a site I visited often when it first opened, but lately only when I get the tires rotated at the shop across the street.

Both of my parents lived through the Great Depression.  My mother graduated from Salt Lake City’s West High in 1932, and plunged into the grim job market.  She said that, on the farm, they had little awareness of the depression.  On farms in the late 1920s, everyone was poor.  Off the farm, things were a lot worse.

My father spoke about catching the first job that comes along.  His series of jobs in the Depression came from big businesses collapsing about as often as he got a better job from jumping.  He said it was possible to stay in employment, but once one got knocked out of the employment market, it was very difficult to get back in.  He was happy to have the skills to get a job behind a drugstore or cigar store “fountain.”

What was the difference between a depression and a recession?  They couldn’t say.

Tuesday I dropped into our remaining local Starbucks (may it remain open) for the weekly purchase of the New York Times featuring the science section. The woman barista noted my identification badge.  “My husband was just fired from that school,” she said.

I said I was sorry, I said we miss him badly (true in all cases).  I told her I hope he finds something soon.

Then I had to leave fast.

She’s working in a location condemned to close.  He’s just been laid off.  I didn’t ask about children.

%d bloggers like this: