American Consequences - December 2017

Champion Spark Plug, Autolite Batteries, DeVilbiss Paint Spray Guns, and Toledo Scale. It was the largest soft coal port in the nation. It was called “The Glass Capital of America” because the Libbey-Owens-Ford, Owens-Illinois, and Owens Corning glass companies were all based there. Business and employment opportunities abounded. Now let me try to figure out how and where an ordinary 1952 middle class Toledo, Ohio, life could be lived in 2017. It has to be in a place that’s hip and has a strong economy. Toledo was never hip. But in 1952 it was hip to be square. And Toledo was very square. So the modern equivalent would have to be someplace like Portland, Oregon. Portland’s median household income is above average. Its unemployment rate is below average. Portland is, as Toledo was, on the cutting edge of what’s contemporary in technology. Portland is sometimes called “Silicon Forest” for its abundance of tech firms. (And for all the nearby trees that hipsters love, like the squares of yore loved

wide open spaces – which Toledo had in plenty with corn fields growing right up to the city limits.) Portland is twice as populous as Toledo was in 1952, but the whole U.S. is twice as populous now. And, in the “Things We Don’t Talk About Department,” Portland is very white (72%), about as much so as Toledo was in my boyhood – if you count the Irish as white. I searched the Internet real-estate listings for a home in a Portland city-suburban neighborhood. Healy Heights seems to have the lowest crime rate and the best public schools. Other people have noticed this, too... Only six houses were for sale. The best deal I could find for a 4-bedroom with a 2-car garage was $650,000. It’s a little more posh than the house I grew up in but, having been built in the 1970s Left-Coast Modern style... Throw away the level and plumb-bob! Put the windows anywhere! Let a crazy person draw the roofline! Slap up the wood siding every-which-way! is a lot more ugly. Mortgage rates were close to the same in 1952 as they are now. Dad’s monthly mortgage payment was probably about $100 ($930 in chained dollars). The Healy Heights mortgage payment is estimated at $2,536. Now to shop for two cars. Dad’s 1952 Buick Super Riviera sedan cost $2,563. ($23,836) Mom’s ‘52 Chevy station wagon cost $2,297. ($21,362) But you can’t fit three kids and the giant backpacks all kids carry everywhere these days into a modern sedan, especially

Public schools are full of bullies. Public schools


don’t teach Mandarin.

American Consequences | 9

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