Wednesday, February 11, 2015

THYME Magazine: Perley Albert Thomas

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume IX, Issue VI

The Genius of Perley A. Thomas

One of my  heroes is a man born in Chatham, Ontario in 1874. He trained as a millsmith, primarily working in wood, and went to Cleveland, Ohio to work in a factory manufacturing streetcars. In 1901 he moved to Detroit, where he attended night courses at Case Institute of Technology. There he studied technical drawing, design skills, and structural engineering. In 1910 he accepted a position with the Southern Car Company in High Point, North Carolina. Perley A. Thomas became chief engineer, draftsman and designer for the company. In 1916, the company folded. Thomas, now unemployed, undertook a contract to renovate streetcars for the Southern Public Utilities Company of Charlotte, North Carolina. He signed on a lot of his old colleagues from Southern and was able to obtain the use of Southern's shuttered shops. A year later he would organize the Perley A. Thomas Car Works.

The Thomas Car Works would become famous for their streetcars. Tennessee Williams would write a play, A Streetcar Named Desire, about a route named Desire in New Orleans where Thomas streetcars ran. But as the 1930's transportation began to move from Rails to Roads [click to read]. The Great Depression slowed business. Perley A. Thomas and his two sons struggled as they reinvented the company to make buses. When there was no work, Thomas returned to his woodworking skills. Many a fine home in High Point, North Carolina boasts a fine mantlepiece carved by Perley Thomas!

The company was eventually reorganized as Thomas Built Buses and became one of the United States' three largest manufacturers of buses in the Twentieth Century. Today the factory in High Point, North Carolina is a sprawling subsidiary of the Freightliner Group of Daimler AG. Thomas was inducted into the North Carolina Transportation Hall of Fame in 2004 and the North American Railway Hall of Fame, St Thomas, Ontario, in 2010.

The True State of the Union

Here’s something that many Americans -- including some of the smartest and most educated among us -- don’t know: The official unemployment rate, as reported by the U.S. Department of Labor, is extremely misleading. -- Jim Clifton

In an article entitled The Big Lie [click to read], Jim Clifton debunks the government's claim that unemployment is now at a new low of 5.6%! He continues: "And it’s a lie that has consequences, because the great American dream is to have a good job, and in recent years, America has failed to deliver that dream more than it has at any time in recent memory."

Clifton points out that if you left the labor force and after four weeks you are not looking for a new job, the Department of Labor doesn't count you. Even more misleading is the knowledge that if you are unemployed in your main area of expertise, but working -- even part time at something else, guess what, you are counted among those employed! As Perley Thomas found other sources of work, so have many of us affected by the 21st Century Depression.

That is why Thomas is a hero to those of us who know what is going on in America. We may not be counted... but we intend to make our service count!

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