Wednesday, September 7, 2011

My mother's tea party - a rhyme

I had a little tea party,
this afternoon at three.
'Twas very small, three guests in all,
I, myself, and me.

I ate up the sandwiches
and drank up all the tea.
'Twas also I who ate the pie
and passed the cake to me.

My daughters seemed to enjoy it. My son listened attentively, and then returned to doing whatever he was doing at the time.

I'm reminded ot this rhyme because of the nonsense that is being uttered by today's Tea Party membeers. It sounds to me, like they want to return to the "good old days" of black smoke air pollution, poisoned water that results in river fish kill, gas guzzling 8-10 miles per gallon cars, and unregulated snake oil medicines that enriched the crooks who promoted them.

As for labor unions, child labor, health care, social security, and pensions - when my grandfather, my mother's father, was 14 years old, he fainted in the sweatshop factory where he worked. After he woke up, they fired him. No severance pay, no health benefits, and, like what happened to John Henry in the song, "John Henry was a steel driving man," his pay was docked for the time he lay unconscious on the floor.

When he returned home, his step-mother told him, "no pay, no stay," and she threw this 14 year old boy out of the house.

Fortunately, his resilience and brilliance led him to be a cabin boy on a ship. He worked there for several years, saved his money, went back to New York, where he met my grandmother.

In one of the many epidemics of the time, he succumbedc to typhoid fever. The tretment, without health care, consisted of relocation to the country. His family -wife and four children (including my mother) moved to Mountaindale where he recovered. Still no health insurance. Then, they moved to Ellenville where he opened an umbrella handle manufacturing company.

My grandfather, on my father's side, died from "acute indigestion" when my father was six years old. No medical insurance, no widow's benefits, no children's benefits - and my father had seven siblings.

Times were tough. My father was very, very smart. Every acadmic achievement prize that came with money, meant food for the family. Nine of them lived in a small row house in Philadelphia. My grandmother rented out rooms to strangers, hosted philanthropic get togethers, and always found a little extra to give to charity.

Are those the "good old days" that the Tea Party members yearn for? The days when the Robber Barons did whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted. The days when Union organizers were vilified.

I'm sure there were exceptions to the "public be damned" philosophy of those days. But these benign despots were few and far between. Milton Hershey kept his workers happy and satisfied, mostly, by building a community of houses with schools, hospitals, and a clean environment. As did John B. Stetson, of Philadelphia (near Front and Lehigh). It's still fun to go to Hershey, PA and inhale the intoxicating chocolate aroma. But, and there is a but, it was his town, his rules, his company, and a person worked there as long as the boss was happy. Eventually, the workers revolted and the happiness ended with a bitter strike.

Back to today's Tea Party. My interpretation of them is "I've got mine. It's just too bad if you want yours too, because, unless you curry favor with the right people, no matter what they ask, you are not going to get it."

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