Obsolete Jobs

Sometime within the next four years yet another of the drawbridges that I work on here in town will be replaced by a fixed span flyover bridge, thus putting quite a few bridgetenders out of work. Bridgetenders worldwide are becoming as rare as hen’s teeth. The only chance you have of any future in this job is if your bridge is extremely historic and quaint, and if the shore is too built up in the area for new construction. I’m going to miss this bridge when it’s gone.

That had me thinking of other jobs out there that are disappearing.

  • Once upon a time in New York City there were people whose full time job it was to do nothing but keep pigs from wallowing in the muddy streets so as not to block the horse drawn carriages. Can you imagine?
  • When’s the last time you saw a milkman make a delivery? Same with ice men, rag collectors, coal deliverymen, and knife sharpeners.
  • Fuller brush salesmen are a thing of the past, as are encyclopedia salesmen and vacuum cleaner salesmen.
  • It used to be that a “computer” was a person who sat around making calculations.
  • I know someone who used to run a VCR repair shop, and someone else who was trained in computer punch cards.
  • And what about those people who went around emptying coins from payphones?
  • You don’t see nearly as many human beings directing traffic or taking tolls on the highways. Most of that is mechanized now.
  • The number of trained librarians has been reduced worldwide, and I think that’s a tragedy.
  • Newspapers seem to be disappearing, and ethical, unbiased journalists are nearly extinct.
  • I’m sure there must have been a whole industry making iron lungs for victims of polio.
  • I can’t remember the last time I saw someone delivering a telegram.
  • Are there any gas stations left where you don’t pump it yourself?
  • Drive in movies, and thus the people who worked in them, are for the most part a thing of the past.
  • It’s a lot harder to find a travel agent these days, and good luck coming up with a doctor who makes house calls.

For every career that goes the way of the Dodo bird, there are large numbers of people who have fond memories of it. These people are left scrambling to find work or retrain themselves, and many of them never fully recover. The march of progress has a tendency to trample anyone standing in its path.

Dodo Bird

The Dodo Bird — Poster child for obsolescence.

[Image credit: Wikipedia]

13 thoughts on “Obsolete Jobs

  1. Carole

    I was fortunate to have seen many of these people doing their jobs. Milk delivered in glass bottles, in the winter the cream would rise and we’d break the cream off the top. Ice deliverymen, FullerBrush men and many others. I was once upon a time a Line cord operator for the phone company before the breakup and the mini bells. So much has come and gone, But I do look forward to what lies ahead. I hate to see the beutiful bridges being replaced, We had many covered bridges along the backroads of TN, and they are being torn down and soon will be no more. While there are people that try and preserve history, there are just as many that seek progress at history’s expense.

  2. Carole

    I remember that also, and was also on the receiving end of that gossip. There were and even now few kind words for women raising children on their own. I worked full time, over time and tried to do my best with three children. Not much time for anything sordid. We should praise them, encourage them, help them, not try to dishonor them. Sorry off subject.

  3. I’m sorry you’ll lose your job, but there are 3 drawbridges in our area of FL that are 100 years old, or almost. And they’ll be going up and down more often if All Aboard FL builds a high speed passenger train, to share existing tracks with freight trains. Oh, and there will be more freight trains, carrying evermore dangerous cargo that our first responders are not allowed to know about.
    Meanwhile, we’ve see the incredible bridge at Millau, France, 3 times now-you can find an excellent youtube video showing the experience of driving over it. And as an 73 year old American, I wonder how “old Europe” can afford such wonders, while we hand out $4 Billion to Boeing to build “space taxis” for astronauts instead.

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