NOTES ON THE ECONOMY – second half  2010 and beyond.

I was rebuked recently for not having presented an overview of economic shifts on my annual Oracles talk.  Not paying attention, eh? was my initial reaction but I just nodded my head and decided it was probably time to REMIND everyone of what I said in 2009 about 2010 and the economy.

Observations over the years, especially recently, convince me that Saturn and its movements are the major factor in timing and interpreting our economic reality.  The recession began (as predicted by at least this astrologer) in September 2007 when Saturn entered Virgo and the collective consciousness went into austerity, frugality and less is more mode.  This continued unabated until the end of October 2009.  This public attitude is what makes it impossible to consume our way out of this recession (thank the stars!)

The overall effect of the end of 14 years of speculation and gambling as the prime mode of economic activity (Pluto entered Capricorn in November 2008 ending that run of Sagittarian force) and the concurrence of Saturn in “down to essentials” Virgo is what we now face – a deflated economy and a population recently converted to spending less – way less.  Consuming as a purpose in life is over.

It is this concept of “being over,” that is crucial to rebuilding.  The economy is NOT going to bounce back.  It is NOT going to recover. Most of the lost jobs are GONE FOREVER!  The economy is morphing into something new and never before seen.  Unfortunately, NOT JUST YET.    It is this reality that must be factored into public policy decisions about how to keep people from drowning.

Pluto remains in Capricorn until 2025.  Economic life remains hard, reality-based and needing institutional restructuring through that period.  So…end all thoughts of hanging on until the end of the month or end of the year or end of the decade then things will be back the way they were.  WRONG.  They may be better, they will certainly be different, they will NEVER be back the way they were.  Ponder that as you review the value of your skills set.

What is happening? And what is happening now?

Saturn entered Libra on July 21, 2010 and remains until October 5, 2012.  Someday, historians will look back and identify this period as the shift to the new mode.  We are now in a period of reestablishing balance but at the low level that resulted from two years of stripping down to basics.  It is the period of the “new normal,” such a marvelously descriptive phrase.   FIND YOUR BALANCE.  Find your new normal and move from there.

Practically, this means there will be no more precipitous drops in the economy, in fact, probably few drops at all.  Things will just hover at least until next spring when the innovation and new institutional forms that are the ONLY hope of general prosperity returning begin appearing and taking root.  We had a taste of new stuff this summer but that phase ends on August 14, when Uranus returns to Pisces for about six months.

Once again – hovering, searching for equilibrium.  The new forms are gathering strength beneath the surface.  People want to rest, reassess and then gather their resources to explode into a new system in the spring.

YOU ONLY HAVE TO MAKE IT THROUGH THE WINTER.

The form of the new system remains shrouded in the future although there are some trends indicated by the planetary players of this time.  Institutions are transformed – banks, financial systems, currency, commerce….the list is endless and all have dramatic implications for life as we know it.  One thing is certain – if you don’t like change, constant change, find a new planet.  Find your place in the scheme of things even if it is space that never existed before.

So…specific trends from now until the end of December:
— new ideas continue to emerge strongly until mid-August and a few weeks beyond, a dribble here and there.
— then….equilibrium.  Statis.  Stagflation the rest of 2010.  The entire planet breathes a huge sigh of relief in mid-September and settles down for six months of drifting and gaining balance.  Expect no gains – or modest ones at best.
— those left standing this fall, have a good foundation for making it through the winter and onto the new stage next spring.

Morgan County is fortunate to have a hospital.  Today’s War Memorial communityhospital started out life in 1933 as The Pines or  Cripple Children’s Hospital.  We have a photo of FDR on his visit surrounded by children.  It was believed that bathing in the spring waters helped those stricken with polio.

In the late 1940s, local civic leaders banded together to save the closing facility and turn it into a community hospoital.  War Memorial still serves the community today in the same location although its owner, Valley Health, has broken ground on a new $30 million hospital just out the ridge from the current location overlooking the town.  The Pines will soon enter a new phase.

For our project, the hospital scrapbook was a good source.  I went up to the hospital on Thursday afternoon,  7/29, picked up the scrapbook from the custody of Lyn Goodwin and went back downtown to call Betty Lou and bring the scrapbook for her to see while I scanned it.  It turned out, she was at the hospital.  (Only overnight.  She’s OK.)  I returned to the hospital and her room and we looked at the scrapbook.

The bulk of the photos in the “historic” section were from a photo shoot in 1960 (we ater learned.)  As we looked at them, Betty Lou exclaimed: “I think that’s Mary Lou Trump.”  The young nurse in the photo certainly resembled Kirsten, Mary Lou’s daughter.  I sent the photo to Kirsten who confirmed and dated it.  “Mom remembers that shoot,” she said.

ENTERING CRONEHOOD
© Jeanne Mozier – March 1996

Here in the Center of the Universe, we found ourselves once again on the cutting edge of a major sociological trend.  Turning 50.  Entering cronehood. Baby Boomers receiving recruitment letters from AARP.

We didn’t need network news and national magazines to tell us what the hot topic should be at our annual ladies lunch.  We didn’t need to hear national survey results to know what turning 50 means.  We simply caught up on our lives since the last gathering and there it was – cronehood, defined as a woman over 50.

Most of the women in attendance at the lunch spoke of feeling empowered, reveling in their accumulated wisdom.

“It all comes together at 50,” reported one woman.  “All the wisdom, experience and knowledge are there along with a real grounded feeling about life.”

Several expressed a sense of responsibility  — and a willingness – to pass on that wisdom.  “I feel more need to bring what I’ve learned to young people,” remarked a woman who recently began a youth group at her church.  Another mentioned that she finally understood being matriarchal.  “There’s been a change,” said a jeweler.  “I find myself beginning a lot of sentences with ‘now that I’m 50…’”  A Montessori teacher was surprised at how little change she felt.  “I thought I’d be more grown up at 50, but here I am, still wondering where’s my charge accounts and bank books?”

Comparisons with turning 40 were popular among the crowd.  A landscape designer spoke of feeling less remorse than she did at 40.  Another woman agreed.  “At 40 I was pissed off and wanted to leave the planet, now I feel great.”

An office worker asserted that she felt better at 50 than she had at 45.  A massage therapist, who is only approaching 50, believed it had to be easier than the first five years of her forties.

No one spoke about failing physical energies.  “A lot of my friends are younger,” reported a 52-year-old.  “I’ve started roller-blading and long-distance biking.  My body seems to be screaming for action.”  Another celebrated her recent 50th birthday with a special hiking vacation.  In spite of their energy, the reality of time passing was not lost on the group of women.

“Both my mother and grandmother died in their early fifties,”  said an artist.  “I’m worried  about how many years I have left.” Even those who did not feel pressured by a family history of early deaths acknowledged the limits of time.  “I still feel like there’s a lot to do and I better hurry up,” reported one woman.

Only the group’s certified Aphrodite spoke about sex, or rather the change in her sexual energy.  “I feel retired, monkish, like the ashram master.”  Artistic energy fared better.  None of the several artists at the gathering noticed a lessening of their creativity.  They agreed with the wisdom that over-50 women are moving from pro-creation to pure creation.  Every older woman at the gathering spoke of being happy with her work.

No one complained about the body changes.  “They’re workable,” said a woman who works outdoors.  “I wouldn’t want to go back.  It’s the stage I should be in now, so it feels right.”

The times make this issue a different conversation than would have happened 15 or 20 years ago.  Our homeopath, who is also one of the older group members at 56, has been an invaluable resource.  She is adamant about treating the aging female body as healthy and right in its action.

“We are not suffering from estrogen deficiency disease,” she emphasized.  “Our bodies know what they’re doing and we should treat them with respect for their innate wisdom.”

She encouraged use of homeopathy and other alternative and non-invasive modalities to help our bodies through the natural process of re-balancing.

The most practical comment about the rewards of cronehood came from the jeweler who had been 50 for less than four weeks.  “I got a refund check from my car insurance.  Now that I’m 50, I’m in a safe driving group.”

Repeatedly, the women commented on the benefit of having a supportive group of women in a similar age group ready and able to discuss the passage of time and its effect on their lives.  “Aging seemed to be a taboo subject for my mother and her friends,” said one woman.  “I feel the value of a supportive group of women, of our valued place in the community.”

The women wondered aloud about the audience for our wise comments about aging.  “All the women here under 35 were polite but uninterested,” commented our hostess.

If the national media coverage is an indication, we post-1940 babies are, as usual, talking to ourselves.  Yet, there are millions of us to listen, some bearing fresh wounds from a bout with the mid-life, some with 50 just ahead.  It was for them that I scheduled my semi-centennial celebration which turned out to be a 10-day-long series of parties in five cities and three states.  I felt duty bound to show that there were bright sunshine and warm breezes on the other end of the forties.

The common enemy to be faced in the passage of time is fear…fear of moving ahead to the next cycle, fear of body deterioration and the solutions that are forced on women by a mostly male medical establishment.  The collective wisdom of millenniums of healing wise women is not lost, it is emerging in the world all around us.  We can find the answers we need by listening to each other, to older women and those who have blazed the trail.  With information and encouragement, this return to our original nature can be the most joyous of journeys, the best of celebrations.

Today (7/15) I flew solo since Betty Lou went to watch her 12 year old grandson compete in a major tennis tournament in Washington.  I went to the Historical Society to explore the Mendenhall collection.   Nancy Largent graciously stayed and helped me for about two hours as we plowed through mostly unidentified photos.  As a Hovermale with endless roots in the county, Nancy was able to recite various lineages of the folks we saw.

There were several treasures including a photo of John Hunter who built many of the major houses in town at the turn of the 20th century.  I’d never seen him before.   More photos of young men and young women in the park spoke to how it was obviously a major outing for locals.  One interesting photo is shown here — Route 9 west over Cacapon Mountain probably soon after the road was built in the early 1920s.

Dawn Childs is a VISTA worker assigned to the local foods folks here.  She’s been collecting information on Morgan County farmers for months.  Early on, she volunteered to ask about using their photos in our book and this week shared some from Julian Hovermale, one of the icons of the local farm community.  Among our favorites was this one of a young Julian (circa late 20s) with a giant rooster.

As part of saying thanks, I brought Dawn along on Thursday (7/9) as Betty Lou and I reviewed our photos to date.  Even better than a hundred or more vintage photos was Dawn’s chance to meet my legendary co-author.  Everyone had a great time.

A couple more weeks and we’ll be ready to go public with a call to fill in the gaps we may have.  My tentative new chapters headings are: Hotels; Farms and Industry; Town Life; “The Grove,” Fires and Floods; Festivals and Parades; Bands and Musicians.

Dawn Childs reviews photos with Betty Lou

Checking out the images

Julian and the giant rooster

We still have not decided on a cover.  There are technical requirements and then there’s the search for the most compelling photo we can find so folks MUST buy the book.  Here’s an early candidate: Charlie Jack’s stagecoach which was the shuttle bus of the 19th century bringing folks from the railroad stop along the Potomac at Sir Johns Run to the hotels in town.

Andrea Adams of Great Cacapon saw the original article about Betty and me doing this book in the Morgan Messenger.  She called Betty, said she had some photos and we set off to meet with her on April 16.  We sorted through her photos and selected three to scan.  One of them – kids eating watermelon — was an early favorite.  We keep hoping to turn up more Andreas: folks who call us and say – “I have this fabulous photo.” 

One of the things I’m learning from this wonderful exercise is who the people are whose names are on many of the county’s roads.  To understand the impact of this statement, you need to know that the roads were named in Morgan County less than a decade ago.  Most of these folks were long gone.  Mary Mellott provided us with a photo of her grandfather’s Highland Ridge farm; his name — Michael Fairbee.  The road that winds through this area is….you guessed it, Fairbee Rd.

We also heard about Doctor Horace BW Rau who delivered Mellott’s ancestor,  Elsie Niota Michael for $3.  A discussion ensued about how most of the payments in the day were in kind.  Another appealing image is of Mellott’s mother, Mary Louise and Anna Pritchard.   Later Mary brought me the most alluring photo of all — one of her ancestors starkly stalking across a field, wagon in the background.

This was our April 15 session and we had no idea of all the fun that lay in store.

Mary and her mother as a child

If photo scanning sessions get to be much more fun than today’s, I may melt with pleasure.  Margi Carroll McBee was a saver from a long rooted Morgan County family of savers.  There were early daguerreotypes of the Kiefers (husband and wife,) Uncle John in his Spanish-American War uniform complete with sword, and several photos that had Betty Lou — who thought she’d seen them all — a-flutter with delight.  Margi and Dwan’s daughter, Teresa, is now the keeper of the trove and was generous about sharing.

As good as the photos — although not to be part of the “Images” book — were the stories, not to mention the names: Anna Matilda, Ida Mae, Viola — and the nicknames like Buckwheat ( a female, now in her 80s) who always swore like a long shoreman.  “So did her mother,” claimed Betty Lou.

My favorite story was of a local jeweler (who shall remain nameless although oldsters will know him) who always took a longtime fixing a watch.  But being considerate, he would loan customers a watch.  One customer caught on to the trick when, after weeks of waiting for her watch and wearing a loaner, saw HER watch on someone else’s wrist (as a loaner.)  A watch shell game!

Listening to the stories, I realized how the flow of people shifts.  During the 1930s through 50s, locals got educated and went to Washington to get good government jobs.  For the past couple decades, the flow has gone the other way with Washington folks coming to the country.

My final observation — eccentrics have always been a Morgan County demographic.

Once the stars were in their proper places in February, Betty Lou and I set out to begin scanning the hundreds of photos from which we would choose.  We decided the scanning needed to be done here.  Neither of us could face the responsibility of taking peoples’ precious life images and send them to the publisher not having them returned for two years or more.  So, I bought a handy-dandy portable scanner we could take into peoples’ homes, scan the photos and never remove them from their possession.  For those of you who are equipment geeks, it’s a CanoScan LIDE100.  Only$60 and it turns faded, tiny, hundred year old pictures into the 30 MB images the publisher wants.

It took a while and some very helpful communications from the folks at Canon for me to scan to their satisfaction.  At last, we were ready and decided to practice on Betty Lou’s extensive collection.  In case I messed up, it would be easy to go back to her photos.

Betty Lou’s hundreds of photos and postcards are well organized and collected in scrapbooks and files.  She’s been at this for decades and learned one of the cardinal rules of collecting photos — write the names of the people, the location and date on the back of the photo.  You may remember who they are but guaranteed, most of our photos will outlive us.

We set up in Betty Lou’s comfortable kitchen and I began to get the rhythm.  I scanned and Betty Lou chatted about what was in the photos.  I scanned more than 40 photos that day.  Among them were a stagecoach that brought passengers from the railroad stop into the hotels in town in the 1870s, a mini golf course in the 1920s on the main corner that was the extensive Van Rensselaer estate and is now a 24-hour Sheetz, and a portrait of Rosa Suit for whom Berkeley Castle was built.

One of our favorites was this one of McCaffrey’s goat.  I loved one of the town police standing proudly over a huge pile of rat corpses in the street sometime in the 1950s.  I thought it might make a great cover.  Betty Lou wanted it nowhere in the book.  We’ll see how it turns out but one thing is for sure — I’ll use it somewhere.

For the past couple months, Betty Lou Harmison and I have been engaged in the process of ferreting out historic photos of life in Berkeley Springs.  We visit folks, scan their photos and hear their stories. That’s been the best part even though this book is basically photos with captions rather than stories with photos.

It’s a rare and incredible opportunity to peek into life in this special place long before I ever know it existed. Part of the magic comes from working with Betty Lou.  She is an 84-year-old dynamo who has been collecting photos, postcards and the local history since she arrived here as a teenager.  She knows everyone and everything.  The photo is Betty Lou with her WV History Hero award in 2008.  Over the weeks to come, you’ll see more of Betty Lou with various ones of the folks who have so graciously allowed us to scan their family photos.

Betty receives her WV History Hero award

Today we visited with Tom Ambrose, Superintendent of Cacapon State Park.  His HQ building is the building in which he was born and grew up since his father worked for years at the park.  We scanned construction images of the dam being built that created the lake and of the CCC workers who built the cabins and trails.  There was a terrific photo of the kitchen staff in the late 1940s showing a young boy who later became president of the local bank.

In this world where many people hardly know what city or state they live in today, exploring the roots of a place where folks have lived for generations is a rich and satisfying experience.



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