Thursday, October 18, 2012

Hometown Odyssey

Highland Lake Hideaway
Winsted, CT

My hometown odyssey to Winsted, CT always fills me with mixed emotions. It's as if I am reading Dickens' Tale of Two Cities all over again. "It was the best of times, it was the worst of time." My town fills me with a tremendous sense of confusion and compassion.

It remains one of the prettiest places in all of New England. A town nestled in the foothills of the berkshires and surrounded by natural beauty. But it's also a town with a sad past and an even sadder future. It's void of hope and its young people leave at the very first opportunity they have. In essence the future alludes them.

A Gated Community
Mason Silk Company
Winsted, CT
By the time we were teenagers the last of the major industries were shifting production south to avoid both the union demands and to escape environmental legislation. By the early 70's, we were in the final phases of the industrial exodus.

Here's how our town's industry was once described: “Typical of New England cities of this size, Winsted has its share of industries, and manufactured goods bearing a local trademark are shipped to all points of the globe. Gilbert clocks, woolen products of the Winsted Hosiery Co. and the New England Knitting Co., electrical appliances made by the Fitzgerald Manufacturing Co., Jewell Manufacturing Co.’s wood articles, scythes, tools and similar implements turned out at the Winsted Manufacturing Co., and Winsted Edge Tool Works, the Mason Silk co’s thread, wire fashioned by the Sweet Wire Corp., Dano Electric and Hudson Wire concerns, the products of Union Pin and American Knife companies and name tapes of the Stirling Name Tape Co. are noted commodities.” 

Son Chief Electric
Winsted, CT
The companies that once pumped life into this berkshire community remain empty shells with no prospects for tenants. Those that could leave left and those left behind commute to other cities. It's all gone now. The industry is gone and so is the infrastructure that provided the tool and die makers and the machinists. What is left are a few fast food stores that dot the main street, a community college to help you leave the town, and stops lights to try to slow you down on your way out. It's a shame. A beautiful place that could be so much more, I wonder if anyone cares enough to bring it back.

My father and mother worked in these factories. In fact dad worked two jobs, one in New Hartford at Amseco, and in Winsted at the Mason Silk Company. Mom worked at the Old Gilbert Clock shop before they shut down and then finally at Son Chief Electric. I've memories of all of this and they remain vivid.

The decisions that large corporations make impact us all. We need to combine our resources and figure this all out again. Too much is at stake. People like me had to leave a beautiful place to chase a living. I suppose that makes me a contemporary nomad, and an industrial age bedouin.

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