A volume jumped out at me recently as I breezed past the packed bookshelf in our family’s apartment for the 1,000th time since late March. The 50-year-old book’s hardcover is faded — the dust jacket disappeared many years ago — but the spine holds fast. And the words inside hold particular meaning to our current, collective situation.
Hard Times was written by Studs Terkel, a master interviewer who chronicled the lives of Americans — some boldface names, but by and large common folks — in books and as host of the Studs Turkel Show, a syndicated radio program that ran on Chicago’s WFMT for 45 years. I think of him as the grandfather of podcasters.
Turkel’s work tackled some of the biggest events of the previous century, and Hard Times was no exception, in which he chronicled the Great Depression. The book follows a common theme that ran throughout his life’s work: a look at the hopes, the fears, the losses and gains and survival mechanisms that got people through the tough times. And how they longed to turn the page to the next chapter.
History repeats itself. We are trying to come to terms with the collective trauma of the covid-19 pandemic, mourning those we have lost and pondering what a return to normal will look like when this period fades into history.
Long before the coronavirus outbreak — and many months before I took the helm of Soundings Trade Only — this issue was slated to focus on leadership. I was thrilled with the overwhelming response we received from more than two dozen industry leaders who answered the questionnaire that comprises our main feature (“How We Lead,” Page 18). As I read their responses again, I’m amazed at the common themes woven throughout.
Naturally, nearly all spoke of attempting to right the ship after a period of upheaval and doing business in a changed landscape, of overcommunicating to staff and stakeholders as face-to-face meetings and trade shows morphed into Zoom sessions and virtual events. “Stay calm and stay in touch,” was a communal mantra.
Many responders also acknowledged what I’ll call the “god of small things” — the gift of spending more time with loved ones, of family dinners and hikes and working concurrently on clearing the inbox and their children’s assignments. On the small, domestic comforts that may have never been shared with the demanding travel and work schedules of many marine executives.
“We will all eventually get back to our routines,” one responder said, “but you will look back on this and appreciate the familial bond that is occurring and has already occurred. Embrace it.”
With more businesses resuming production and supply chains restarting, old routines are returning with each passing day. But like many of you, I want to know how exactly we move forward. Can we we safely walk the docks at a crowded marina, shop at our local chandlery or take the family to a favorite dockside restaurant? And how do we turn the page but retain the lessons learned during the pandemic? The answers can be elusive.
But as we ride out this storm together, the strong sense of community that binds the marine industry can answer the bell for those returning to their favorite pastimes, and welcome those new to boating and fishing with open arms.
This article originally appeared in the June 2020 issue.