. . . The old lamplighter of long, long ago
First this blog is not about one of my books or the fact that book #1 in the CUL8R [see you later for you non-cell phone people], OMG [Oh My God] has been #1 on Amazon off and on for over a week on Amazon now.
The Old Lamp-Lighter” was a popular song written by Nat Simon, the lyrics by Charles Tobias and was first published in 1946. Several versions of the song made the best-seller charts in 1946-1947 and it was made most famous and hit #20 on the country charts in 1960 sung by the Browns.
A lamplighter, historically, was an employee of a town who lit street lights. Lights were lit each evening, generally by means of a wick on a long pole. At dawn, they would return to put them out using a small hook on the same pole. Early street lights were generally candles, oil, and similar consumable liquid or solid lighting sources with wicks.
Another lamplighter duty was to carry a ladder and renew the candles, oil, or gas mantles.
In the 19th century, gas lights became the dominant form of street lighting. Early gaslights required lamplighters, but eventually systems were developed which allowed the lights to operate automatically.
Why bring the lamplighter job of long ago up? Think back before say 1980.
- Where did the lamplighter jobs of before 1980 go to?
- What caused the demise of these lamplighter jobs?
- What does that mean to us today?
First…think back. What a fun list this could be if you’re not involved in a lamplighter job.
What’s different about young people entering the job market in 2014 compared to say before 1980 is there are far fewer jobs open to “entry” level people and even the next skill / experience level up. Today, jobs like McDonald’s, long ago purely an entry level job, are being thought of as a job where you’re supposed to earn enough to live on. How upside down is that? Back a century ago if you lost your lamplighter job it was easy to train you to become an electric meter reader. In the last 30 years if you lost your electric mete reader reading job it was a lot harder to train you to learn how to design and manufacturer electronically read meters.
Here’s a question…this is our quick list of jobs that just a couple of decades ago companies employed people to perform or small businesses were built on, but today far fewer if any people are employed doing. What would you add to the list?
- Bell hops at hotels [far fewer even at the best hotels]
- Red caps at airports [Damn wheels on luggage]
- Photo booth attendants [who takes film in anymore…what is film anyway?]
- Photo lab technicians [see above]
- Telephone operators [when’s the last time you called the operator?]
- Newspaper carriers and street sales boys [Bob and Bob’s mother and uncle did that]
- Television repair [Add appliances in there too]
- Home delivery of milk, eggs and bread [Maybe add in Charles Chips and scissor sharpening?]
- Professional portrait studios [Few and far between today]
- Toll takers
- Key punch operators
- Book store clerks and owners
- Newspaper press operators and copy boys
- Travel agent
- Elevator operator
- Mimeograph operator
- Utility meter readers
- Gas station attendant
- Walmart Greeter
- “Grease Monkey” [Remember when cars got a lube and oil change?]
- “Mailman” [and women…down 100,000+]
- Movie theater film projectionists
- Door-to-door sales people
What jobs do remember people did in their first 5 years of working that either don’t exist or are almost extinct?
And why is this important?
Simple. Free enterprise is driven to make people, processes and products more efficient and effective. If it wasn’t we could still have tens of thousands of lamplighters roaming the streets lighting wicks and polluting the air with soot and occasionally spilling kerosene and lighting buildings and nearby kids who would follow them through the neighborhood on fire.
So clearly business has responded to the technology benefits thrust upon society but within the U.S. borders it is left to the Federal government, education at all levels and business consortium’s to cobble together a means to equip the next generation of workers and leaders to function in jobs far more complex than a lamplighter’s job.
Two pieces of the response are fueled more than adequately. Business is motivated because they need workers and eventually private higher education institutions are motivated to change their offerings because they need students.
The government is motivated because…because…well they are well lead by insightful leaders with a long term view of ten years or more not just two year election cycles so they can retain their seats of power.
Okay…so the argument falls apart.
Insightful leaders today, now that we’re terribly behind the rest of the world in innovation, productivity gains and tangible ideas and plans to deal with the effects of our success have developed a list of great ideas like raise the minimum wage.
What should our leaders in Washington do?