Sunday, April 22, 2007

Rooted

I was born in Kellogg, Idaho to parents who had migrated to the northwest from the deep south for the opportunity presented by this booming and growing region. My dad, being uneducated, though hardworking, found job opportunities severely limited in southern Georgia in the late 1940's. The labor intensive jobs that he qualified for paid "nigger" wages. I do not use that word in disrespect. I use it to illustrate that blacks and poor white folks in the deep south were paid the same scant wages. My dad worked in the mines of the "Silver Valley" for 35 years and though never wealthy, he eked out a decent life for my mom and me. I lived in a very sterile environment. We were pretty much all white, though our ancestors immigrated from many regions of Europe. There were Scandinavians, Poles, Italians, Germans, and Irish. Except for a few people in town, we were all pretty much in the same economic class. There was little poverty and even less wealth. Unemployment, for those that chose to work, was nonexistent. I was lucky enough to escape Kellogg before all that came to a sudden end. Most of the mines closed due to economic and environmental reasons. The lumber industry, another of the primary employers of that region, also all but disappeared for similar reasons. The heartier of my classmates stayed and toughed it out, but the majority of us had to leave the area to advance our lives Many remained in the Pacific Northwest, moving to more prosperous places like Coeur d'Alene, Spokane Washington, or the Oregon coast.

I have traveled the world and as I approach retirement, I have relocated to the coast of South Carolina, very near my parents roots. I notice that things are not much different here than my dad found it in the late 1940's. The difference now is that in the working class, blacks and poor whites have been joined by another rapidly growing group, illegal Mexicans. Wages are still very low. There is a lot of poverty here. The Myrtle Beach area is very affluent, with the influx of northern wealth, but very much like much of America, everyone does not share that wealth.

5 comments:

Janie Hickok Siess, Esq. said...

Very interesting. I have heard that term you used before, but not for many years. (I remember my parents using it.) I have never been to the South but ran into an atty. with the US Dept. of Justice on Friday who told me some of the things he encounters and I was horrified. Here in California we take many things -- like diversity -- for granted too much of the time.

My Sunday Scribblings are posted, too. Stop by!

sundaycynce said...

What you have said sounds harsh alto I know it is true.

Where do you feel you are rooted? in Utah, where you grew up? or in the South, where your family started and to which you have returned?

myrtle beach whale said...

Thanks for your comments. I do not use that word either but it was necessary to illustrate the plight of uneducated people in the south of any race. It is also part of the vernacular that I grew up hearing and my kids did not. I stopped racism in my family tree. I debated whether I should include that word and decided it needed to be said. As for my roots. I grew up in Northern Idaho but have absolutely no ties there. I feel I am at home on the Carolina coast and love the weather and quality of life it affords me. I have returned to the roots of my family. All three of my grown children also now live in the south.

thefirecat said...

You write about the panhandle so tellingly. I spent two years in Spokaloo (hah!) in grad school, and fell in love with that part of the country. Sadly, when I graduated I realised exactly that--I couldn't eat rocks and pine trees and live in a cloud. So here I am, back on the east coast. But a part of me will always remain rooted there.

It's funny, where we end up putting our roots.

Did they ever get rid of that traffic light in the middle of I-90 near Kellogg? Because that was just wrong, after three days of freeway driving west.

myrtle beach whale said...

Since I traveled so much in the military I learned to make wherever I was my home. But now that I have been in Myrtle Beach for 7 years, I have finally put down permanent roots. The fact that it does not snow here, we have 60 miles of beach, and over 100 golf courses certainly helped those roots take hold.