A Sign of the Times in America
Twenty miles away in the town of North Canton they are getting ready to auction off the machinery and equipment in a neat-appearing factory in the heart of town. It's a sign of the times in America today and it isn't a happy one.
It began 100 years ago when a factory janitor named James Spangler rigged up a pillow case, soap box, broom handle and electric motor and used it to clean the floor. Spangler patented the gadget but a short time later sold it to W. H. Hoover, soon to be known as "Boss" to the people who went to work for him producing a little more sophisticated version of Spangler's machine.
The factory with a large smokestack bearing the name Hoover soon followed because these vacuum cleaners became an overnight hit. So much so that in England people still refer to it as "hoovering" the floor when it needs cleaning.
In North Canton, life revolved around that plant. They even named the school system Hoover. Shortly after World War II a friend and I went to see the North Canton Hoover Vikings play a game of football. At halftime the fans stood up and sang a song to the tune of the Field Artillery Song - When the Caissons Go Rolling Along. They changed the words a little so the song was about Hoovers rolling along, or sweeping along.
Yes, life in North Canton truly centered on that Hoover plant. But no more. Hoover will still manufacture vacuum cleaners, but not in North Canton and the company no longer is top dog in the field. Folks there blame it on mismanagement after Maytag took over Hoover some years back. Their jobs are gone and they say the same thing happened to Maytag employees out in Iowa. They also say the Maytag CEO had millions in his pockets when he left.
The same story can be told by millions of people who once were loyal employees of companies that packed up and left town, often for some place overseas. Is it any wonder that young people laugh when someone talks about being loyal to your employer?
No, it isn't the same America that it was when people were singing that song about the Hoovers sweeping along. The steel mills around Canton have shut down too, and twenty miles to the north the only tires they make in Akron are for racing cars. On Wall Street the people who make money without working for it call that progress.
There is an ironic twist to the story in North Canton. People are hoping that when everything has been auctioned off the tall Hoover smokestack will remain. Loyalty - even after taking a beating it is still ingrained in older generations. What will replace it for the young?