Dad Makes a Fateful Decision

     A couple of years before he passed away in 2008, my stepfather Ernest C. Diaz shared with me something that I never knew about him.  After the Korean War, Dad was demobilized from the U.S. Army.  He returned to civilian life in St. Louis, Missouri and began looking for a job.  Within a few weeks, Dad was working at one of the garment cutting shops on Washington Avenue in Downtown St. Louis.

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Diaz Siblings – Adele, Dad, Rita, Quentin and Marie

     What I didn’t know was that Dad had applied with Anheuser-Busch Brewing Company after leaving the Army.  A-B as they are known locally called Dad a few months after he had been working in the garment industry as a garment cutter.  Dad decided to stay in the garment industry and turned down Anheuser-Busch’s job offer.  Dad told me in hindsight he would have been better off working for A-B.

     However, at the time that he made the decision, it did not look like a bad decision.  At the turn of the Twentieth Century, St. Louis was “first in shoes, first in booze and last in the American League.”  Prohibition forced many of St. Louis’ breweries out of business.  A-B was the last brewery standing.

     St. Louis was the largest garment manufacturer outside of New York City.  When Dad started working in the garment industry, Washington Avenue was almost completely populated by garment manufacturers.

     In the 1970s, things began to change.  Garment making moved oversees and many of the U.S. businesses became importers.  The last Downtown garment manufacturer closed in the early 1980s.  Dad was in his early 50s and would work a series of odd jobs until his retirement at 68 years old.

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Mom and Dad, Ernest and Patricia Diaz.

     Dad’s experience proves that hindsight is 20/20.  I’m sure that not many Americans in the 1950s could predict the state of American manufacturing in the 1980s.  While his decision seems like a mistake today, it was a good decision at the time.  Staying in the garment industry gave him more options then and importantly he enjoyed it.  Everything worked out in the end.

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