I heard a quick sound bite on the radio the other day about jobs that have become obsolete and it got me to thinking about that.
I remember a day while I was still living at home when I told my parents that I had decided to move to Tucumcari and take a job as head pressman for the Quay County Sun. My dad thought about it a minute and said “If you like it, I guess that sounds alright. People are always going to need printers.”
It turns out the need for printers was never all that great by that day and age and the opportunities have gotten so slim that it’s not hard to imagine a time when they will be obsolete. The opportunity that I took advantage of dried up about three years later when it became impractical to dump sufficient capital into the equipment there.
I had worked with a few guys who learned in hot metal (linotype) days and they adapted through the many phototypesetting gyrations we went through on the way to desktop publishing and now the digital age. You know printers are in trouble when an ink-stained wretch like myself does most of his newspaper reading on an iPad these days.
The advance of time and technology has laid waste to more than the newspaper profession, though. How about telephone operators? When was the last time you talked to one of those folks? Now you get an automated operator if your call isn’t being switched directly.
Some of you may remember a time when you didn’t buy your milk at the grocery store. A milkman brought it by the house every day in a truck. There may even be a few of you out there who can remember having ice delivered to the icebox in your home. Milkmen I remember, icemen were before my time.
A search on the Internet brought up an NPR page that reminded me of a few other jobs that have become obsolete. They also included lector (someone who was paid to read out-loud to workers in a factory), elevator operator, pool typist, typesetter, telegraph operator, bowling pinsetter, lamplighter, copy boy, river drifter (someone paid to ride log rafts downriver to a sawmill).
A little more reflection and we can include service station attendants (I only know of one left in the area), wainwrights, tailors, blacksmiths, coopers, pony express riders and town criers.
A few professions headed toward extinction are cowboy, personal tax accountant, checker at a store and bank teller. The cowboy now rides a four-wheeler and we’ve all found that computerized machines can help us do our banking, shopping and even file our taxes for us.
Computers and the internal combustion engine have sure changed things.
I hope I haven’t tromped on your toes by listing your profession here. If I did, I hope you’ve got a better back-up plan than I had.
“Would you like fries with that burger?”
Karl Terry, a former publisher of the Quay County Sun, writes for Freedom New Mexico. Contact him at: