Musings-On the editor's mind
October 4, 2023
If my parents were alive, they would be stepping through their second century in America. My mom, born in 1920, would be 103. My dad would be 109. They were children of the Depression. I have long called myself a child of children of the Depression, typically recalling my mother’s insistence on buying on sale everything from clothes to Kleenex. She did not waste and collected cottage cheese container and egg cartons.
The United Auto Workers on strike made me think of my dad. My family grew up in Toledo, Ohio, where Jeeps are made. Jeeps are rooted in Toledo’s history: Automobiles were first built at the original factory in 1910, originally for Willys-Overland. It was a long road to Stellantis buying Fiat Chrysler in 2021.
My dad was a union member, but of the Newspaper Guild. A journalist, for over twenty years from about 1954, he was editor of the Toledo Union Journal, a weekly newspaper for Local 12, the Jeep workers local. Imagine that, a union local so big – 10,000 members, maybe – that it had its own newspaper.
The sense of justice that leads one into journalism for a labor newspaper may have been developed during the Depression. I just thought of that this week, recalling the small monthly magazine all UAW members received in the mail. It was called “Ammunition” and the point was to provide useful information to help workers understand and know which side they were on. As a young teenager in the sixties I read it for the cartoons, single frames like in The New Yorker. They were something like Woodie Guthrie’s sketch of a worker “Punching the Clock,” a guy in work clothes with boxing gloves giving a hard jab to a time clock. There is tons of solidarity in that cartoon.
Maybe it was just a job when he got an offer of employment, but I want to believe and hope the values my dad earned by the life he lived and the world he grew up into made him decide to keep that job for the rest of his career. He did.