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“The Magic City”

The steel mills of Gary Indiana, the narrow
crowded streets, the grit, grime, ash heaps,
crime, the money! – my uncle John was a
plant foreman. I moved in with him and my
aunt Ann when I graduated high school in
Chicago.
You couldn’t beat the pay at the steel mills.
They paid twice as much as any factory I would
have worked in Chi-town and the benefits were
just as good.
My cousin Jerry, also just out of school, got
hired the same day. With overtime, bonus
checks, double time for working holidays,
we were making as much as doctors (almost.)
We got a bachelor’s pad, new cars, snazzy
threads, Talk about the American Dream!
We were unskilled Jet Setters (or nearly).
Lurking within that dream, however, was an
American nightmare, the Vietnam war.
The draft was introduced and Jerry and I
were taken right away. Everyone was sent
to the war, unless they could dodge it in
college or join the peace corps.
The mills were getting stripped of their young
workers. Every plant was.
Fifty thousand plus died in the conflict.
Another hundred thousand and more were
wounded, many permanently.
Our dreams didn’t last long.
“The Magic City” fell apart too. When we
got out of the service there were no jobs for
us. We had hired on to a work force of thirty
thousand. Due to globalization, and outdated
machinery the mills shrank exponentially.
Less than six thousand people work there now.
Work disappeared in Indiana and dreams died,
same as in the rest of the country.

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