Teresa Blake

Teresa Blake Managing Editor, The Times

There are plenty of lessons to be learned from this week’s feature story about the life of Tremont resident, Myrlene Fox.

If it’s water you’re after, dig deep…even if you’re afraid.

If you want to be the first one chosen, prove it before the line-up is called.

And the biggest, and likely the oldest lesson of all, hard work never hurt anybody.

Yet with all these philosophical statements comes one looming question...where have all the Myrlene Foxes gone?

In a pre-Covid world, one local factory touted over 1,000 employees. Today, with less than 500, they pour money into media advertising and sign-on bonuses to attract would-be employees.

It isn’t working.

Fast food restaurants post signs of apology for delays before customers are even prompted to place an order. A customer at one local establishment recently commented that she noticed a rude tone in the voice of the person on the other end of the speaker while she was placing her order. It wasn’t until she paid for her food at the window that she realized the young lady was putting on an apron after handing her the receipt.

Not only had she manned the drive-thru, but she was cooking the food.

Small businesses, the lifeblood of the U.S. economy, creates some two-thirds of net new jobs. Yet according to a recent survey by the National Federation for Independent Business, 42 percent of small businesses reported positions they cannot fill. The scenario often forces business owners to work long hours leaving them frazzled at the day’s end.

Will they remain open if this trend continues?

These precedents bring about even more questions. Have we backed ourselves into a government handout corner? Has the ongoing pandemic hit the reset button prompting people to live on less and adjust their priorities? Are we just plain lazy? It’s hard to say...maybe it’s all of the above.

Nevertheless, the question still looms, where are all the Myrlene Foxes? Those hard-working, heavy lifters that make the wheels of this nation turn.

I catch a glimpse of one or two occasionally. It’s the fellow at the gas pump across from me at Wild Bill’s. His clothes are covered in grease and the starter on his truck drags a little when he cranks it. He still uses a flip phone. He changes your oil.

It’s the lady in front of me in the checkout line at Food Giant. The joints of her fingers are arthritic. It’s the tell-tale sign of a furniture factory seamstress. She has been tugging on those leather hides on a double-needle sewing machine for too long. There’s nothing like a fancy leather sofa to plop down on.

And I can’t go without mentioning my father who for four decades volunteered for those seven-day stretches at True Temper Sports and somehow still manages to plant a garden and wrangle 65 goats. Those string beans at Sunday lunch are divine.

Yes Virginia, there are still Myrlene Foxes out there.

They are just too few and too far in between.

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