Linda's Cafe
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Linda's Cafe • Posted: Aug 11, 2017 09:45:15Comments WelcomeVote CoolPhotoblogsPurchase a PrintShare

Visited an interesting small town recently, the “least populous city” in MA, per the 2010 census and Wikipedia. Old, not what it once was, but thriving quite well compared to many small towns across the U.S.

First settled in 1745, North Adams MA grew up along the Hoosic River and became home to a host of small industries, including lumber milling, shoe making, cabinet-making, brick making, marble cutting and polishing, wagon and sleigh making, iron smelting, machining, textile printing, and finally electronics manufacturing.

The thing about prosperity is that it seldom lasts. Initial problems began back in 1870 when workers in Calvin T. Sampson’s shoe factory went on strike for better pay and working conditions. Sampson broke that strike and undercut workers by bringing in unskilled immigrant Chinese from California. By 1905, Arnold Printing Works had replaced Sampson’s as the major employer of North Adams workers, printing textiles for a world market. However, by 1942, that industry failed due to cheaper competition. Sprague Electric later took Arnold’s place as North Adams’ primary employer, supplying components for the military during WWII, and even NASA during its missions to the moon. Unfortunately, Sprague Electric closed its doors in 1985.

Today, the North Adams economy is less dependent upon one major employer, having become more diversified like in its earliest days, with restaurants, art galleries, a small college, and many small businesses taking up residence in refurbished old factory buildings along its river banks. However, Linda’s Cafe, 23 years in existence with Linda herself still taking orders, is still frequented by many who remember a very different North Adams, patrons who worked for, or whose families worked for, one or more of the major employers that no longer exist. To a person, they believe they once enjoyed something special, but, through no fault of their own, have now been forced to endure that special something disappearing.

The story of industries dying and workers being displaced by cheaper laborers and more efficient methods is not unique, to say the least. That those same retired and displaced workers gather daily and talk with each other is less common. The result is a feeling of community not self-evident in many cities, failed or thriving. Linda’s patrons care about each other, care for each other, and are not continuously looking for ways to exploit each other for gain at the other’s expense.

If an antidote to the ups and downs of exploitive capitalism is to be found, it likely will be created and implemented within small cities and towns like North Adams. And very likely, the new guiding mantra for both workers and employers within such an antidote will put innovation and hard work that supports sustainable community well before profit at the expense of others.

Wishful thinking perhaps, but I do believe capitalism is on its way out. Only accounting will survive. Full accounting, that is, accounting that includes consequences to others and the world we live in. Society and communities crumble when the “have nots” out number the “haves”. Downfall begins with petty jealousies and ends with bloody war and revolution. It is a tragic human pattern, facilitated by self-serving incomplete accounting, that does not have to endlessly repeat.

Perhaps that tragic repeating pattern will finally meet its demise in towns like North Adams MA.

Thursday, July 27th, 2017
North Adams