The Kids Of Reading Pennsylvania - glimpses of a vanishing middle class.

The Great Radio Documentaries – “Payday Blues” – Tales Of Inflation And Middle Class Life – 1974 – Past Daily Pop Chronicles.

The Kids Of Reading Pennsylvania – glimpses of a vanishing middle class.

NBC Radio – Second Sunday: “Payday Blues” – June 9, 1974 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –

Continuing the series of Radio Documentaries, this one is from NBC Radio from June of 1974. Part of the Monthly Second Sunday Radio series which focused on current events and current concerns of the day.

This documentary is about inflation and how America was going through transformations and not the most pleasant ones. In this case, it was the gradual erosion and vanishing of the Middle Class in America. How towns and cities that depended on manufacturing for survival were fast becoming victims of downsizing, layoffs and technology rendered obsolete.

This episode focuses on one town in particular; Reading Pennsylvania – a small town built on factories and the railroad the town was named for. Its peak population during years of World War 2 had dwindled by the 1970s as businesses closed up shop, relocated to other towns or were merged with larger corporations whose headquarters were in another part of the country.

All this made for an uneasy environment, coupled with inflation which had eaten away at many household savings. The early 1970s were stressful times for many families because job security was becoming a thing of the past and unemployment was rising at an alarming rate. It was also the right time to move to another city or another state. Places like California where promises of sun, space and jobs made the trek west for many an obvious choice but not for long.

So even by 1974 the writing was on the wall, it would take a few more years for the damage to be felt by way of wholesale abandonment of towns and creating what came to be known as The Rust Belt. But the overall feeling of those being interviewed for this episode is hopeful, even though responsibilities and raising money to carry on with a lifestyle were becoming the concern of the entire household as even the kids were out getting jobs and using their own money to buy clothes or even cars.

It was time to put on a happy face and charge forward, as many families did. But this new economic climate was a far cry from the 1950s and it would be far cry from the 80s. Just listening to the price of things makes for a goodly amount of disbelief. But we have changed – and we will continue to change.

But for a glimpse of what it was like in 1974, have a listen to this and see how much has changed, or not changed.

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