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TimeSpace: Half A Tank
TimeSpace: Half A Tank

Post photographer Michael Williamson is traveling across the country covering the economic situation.

Cleaning House in Wildersville


Robert Hackett and Casey Perry clean our motel rooms in Wildersville, Tenn. Photo by Michael Williamson/The Washington Post

WILDERSVILLE, Tenn.—If Robert Hackett had a choice, he’d spend his days at a factory, making generators. Instead, when we met him, he was cleaning my $29.99-a-night motel room at the Knight’s Inn.

Wearing camouflage shorts and a white tank top, he didn’t fit the stereotypical image of a hotel maid, and he knew it. “One woman told me she had never seen no male housekeeper,” he said. “I don’t consider myself no maid. I just work here.”

Up until about a year and a half ago, the hotel position was a second job for Hackett. He'd come here and work part time after finishing his shift at the factory. But when he lost the $12.55-an-hour job making generators, he started working the $6.55-an-hour cleaning job full time.

“It’s a big change,” he said. He'd just picked up his sons, ages 5 and 17, to stay with him for the summer. He worries he won’t have enough money to take them on the family vacation to the Smoky Mountains that he had promised.

Still, he added, he’s seen people who have lost more than a job and so he feels fortunate.

“There’s people who come [to stay] here ‘cause they lost their house,” he said. “It’s rough, but I’ll be all right. I'll make it.”

By Theresa Vargas  |  June 22, 2009; 3:19 PM ET
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Next: Taking Care of Business in Memphis


spamsucks, this is the beginning of a real bonafide depression. There were enough government controls to keep it from spiraling instantly into a deep and crushing economic downturn. But even those are limited. I don't think Obama has control over this yet. I rather doubt that he would admit he does.

In the end its about exhausting the surplus generated post-WWII. And then going into the negative. Which puts us right back into the
Great Depression which had not yet ended at the
outbreak of that war.

In the end its about solving the problems not just ameliorating symptoms. The "symptoms" described by our intrepid reporting duo are sure signs that it hasn't ended, isn't even close to ending ...

Herbert Hoover was a good man. His Republican advisers (just as today) advised him to let the market correct itself. If the market were truly a completely "free" market perhaps that would work. Unfortunately, there were and are too many very greedy people who use their gold to slant things too much their way. Roosevelt felt that the only way to stop that is through government controls and oversight.

But there are always loopholes, angles, and the fact that people do not invest their money as they should. Entertainment and the media (our culture) have now become our primary export. That is not how to build for the future. To run an economy.

Posted by: periculum | June 22, 2009 3:37 PM | Report abuse

This is a good positive human interest story. Mr. Perry's attitude creates an upbeat atmosphere for everyone he touches. It makes a great difference, and we know he knows it. You summed it up with his statement, “It's rough, but I'll be all right. I'll make it.”

Looks like by now you're probably in Jackson, TN and heading west toward Memphis. If you get a chance to head back east to Middle Tennessee, you really should check out Cookeville in Putnam County. It's the hub of the Upper Cumberlands, and the center of the 14 rural counties that make up the Upper Cumberland Development District.

Cookeville/Putnam County is a very special micropolitan area. I lived there for 16 years form 1992 to 2008. I know it's been touched by the current recession, but don't know to what degree.

Historically it's had a good stable economy and times never really boom or bust there. It's got a diverse economy of factories, small businesses, Tennessee Technological University, and the Cookeville campus of Nashville State Technical College . It would be very interesting to see how it's economy has been affected.

I suggest you get in touch with greenbuck97 who left a comment on your “Serving Up Soul in Celina” post. I know greenbuck97 very well. Greenbuck97 knows the region inside and out, and really understands those Middle Tennessee rural counties.

Posted by: artdiva | June 23, 2009 12:16 AM | Report abuse

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