American Consequences - June 2019

Life magazine did a multi-page photo essay. Eleanor Roosevelt praised Toledo’s “foresight” in her weekly newspaper column. Toledo was labeled the “most planning conscious city in Ohio, perhaps in the nation.” The close, fussy, and crowded old grid of Toledo streets would be supplanted by wide, calm, lovely curving avenues. Never mind that closeness, crowds, and fuss are what make a city. The avenues would be crisscrossed by congestion-proof “super” highways. Big business would rise in airy spires set midst civic-minded greenspace. (Where small business would go doesn’t seem to have been considered.) Low, dirty slums would be replaced by clean bright apartment towers because no one had figured out that it’s a bad idea to stack poor people. And right in the middle of downtown Toledo Tomorrow, within walking distance of tomorrow’s boardrooms and corner offices, there’d be a vast “Union Terminal” with underground roadways and a railroad station paved over with runways long enough to “bring the largest of tomorrow’s air liners into the heart of the city.” Toledoans could go to a single downtown location and catch a plane, train, or bus to anywhere in the world. Like they cared... They were driving their new cars. The only part of Union Terminal (in fact the only part of Toledo Tomorrow) to be built was the train station, in 1956. Just in time for – or, rather, a little late for – the 1955 opening of the Ohio Turnpike. Geddes should have known better. He was

Here is one more way that economics earns its title, “The Dismal Science.” Economists can’t grasp the idea that war is never an economic success. Those 1,195 dead would have been the parents of – with post-war average birthrates – some 3,000 children and hence about 7,500 grandchildren and thus by now 14,000 or 15,000 great-grandchildren for a total of more than 25,000 human beings who never had the chance to worry about Toledo being an economic failure. Economists don’t count them. Toledo produced more than $3 billion in combat materiel including 300,000 military vehicles, 4 million high-explosive shells, and more than a billion rifle, pistol, and machine- gun bullets. Plus airplane wing sections, nose assemblies, gyroscopic stabilizers, and some of the electrical parts of the atomic bomb. Toledo was well-positioned for the post-war economic boom. It didn’t quite come to Toledo. This was a shame. Toledo had planned carefully for the economic boom’s arrival – knew right where to put it and just what that boom would look like. The Toledo Blade ’s publisher, Paul R. Block, Jr., was an almost Jesup W. Scott-worthy booster. During the final years of World War II, Block commissioned the celebrated industrial designer Norman Bel Geddes to create a scale model of “Toledo Tomorrow.” The model was revealed on July 4, 1945, at the zoo’s science museum. It was 61 feet in diameter. Toledo Tomorrow embodied the happy innocence of the 20th century’s second half – back when “the future” had a future.

American Consequences


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