Dave Moulton

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« The simple physics of going straight or around corners | Main | Relevant »
Monday
Jul162018

The American Dream

There used to be something called the American Dream. I’m not sure if it still exists, but I participated in it back in 1983.

I had arrived in the US just four years earlier in 1979. Before leaving England I had turned over everything had to my former wife and my children.

I literally came here with the clothes on my back, the luggage I carried was mostly the tools I needed to build bike frames.

I had a job at Paris Sport in New Jersey, and the owners Vic and Mike Fraysee paid my air fare, and I lived in Vic Fraysee’s basement. They even bought me work boots, jeans and other work clothes, because I only had the clothes I was wearing.

A year and a half later I left Paris Sport and took a job with Masi in San Marcos, California. I was by now not quite as poor as I was on arrival in America, and I was able to furnish a modest apartment and buy a car.

I worked for Masi for a little over a year, when the economy took a down turn, and this coincided with Masi being overstocked with several hundred frames I had built. Masi laid me off, but prior to that had allowed me to build my own frames in my spare time. This had helped my income, and I had built a relationship with a few bicycle dealers.

I could have collected unemployment, but would not on principal. I had not traveled 6,000 miles from England to stand in an unemployment line. Instead I came to an arrangement with Ted Kirkbride, the owner of the frameshop, and after a lot of cold phone calls to bike dealers all over the US, I started to get orders.

I was able to take an order for a custom frame, and deliver it in as little as two weeks, which was unheard of at the time. The dealer was able to make a mark-up on the frame, plus the components and charge for assembly.

It just so happened there was a little strip mall across the street from the Masi shop, and in a tiny retail space, there was a bank. (Just starting up.) I initially banked there because it was convenient, I could walk across the street.

Because the bank was so small, the manager sat at a desk just inside the front door, and as I was depositing checks almost daily, he struck up a conversation, and asked me what I did. This is how the relationship started and he told me the bank was building a brand new building just down the street.

By 1983 this new bank had opened, and it became obvious if my business was to grow I needed my own shop. The cost would be $30,000. I had saved $7,000 so needed a loan of $23,000. Here was the tricky part. Because I had only been in the US for four years, I had no credit rating. I could not even get a credit card.

I had bought a new car two years earlier and was paying that off. The reason I had bought a new car was because it was easier to get a new car financed than a used one.

Because I had built a relationship with this young bank manager, he loaned me the $23,000 on my signature alone. No credit rating, no collateral. I seem to remember I paid it off in a couple of years.

The $30,000 it cost to open my frame shop in 1983, would probably be $100,000 in today’s money. Would I have been able to do that today, under the same circumstances? Somehow I doubt it. Which is why I doubt the American Dream exists anymore.

 

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Reader Comments (9)

Dave, it does exist, in the world wide web of the internet. I was a Boy Scout(now Scouts) scoutmaster for a bunch of years and have been following some of the boys we had in the troop. A few of them have started internet companies or designed internet applications from nothing and sold them for quite a bit of money. They will tell you the American Dream does exist! And the stories they tell on getting investment capitalization is similar to your bank manager experience.

July 16, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterTom

What I think of as the American dream is that you can have it all, even as a middle-class worker. Not so sure that exists for them any more.

July 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterStephen McAteer

That does depend on what 'The American Dream' is.

Dave's story tells of a person who had nothing but a skill, worked hard, got a few breaks and made a success of himself while riding out the bumps in a rough road. That dream is still alive.

For a lot of people the American Dream is one that involves making lots of money, buying a large house, having multiple nice cars and 2 2/3 children........and always buying things! I think they're mistaken.

My American dream involves being in a country where hard work and drive can be rewarded with the chance for happiness - not things.

My own story started out similarly to Dave's. I came here with almost nothing (from India). I went to school and got my PhD, and then worked for a couple of pharmaceutical companies for about a decade in total. I made money, but wasn't happy --- my desires had changed over the years. Then I got laid off, which (in retrospect) was the best thing that ever happened to me.

I could have continued in the same field, but chose instead to try and find a new career that made me happier. After a few years of doing part-time jobs, I landed a nice job with a good company and used that as a platform to launch a new career in public service. The job pays a lot less than my old jobs, but I'm much more fulfilled and my family loves the change too.

We're happier now than at any other time. We don't have as much 'stuff' but that's not the point of living.

So, at least in my case, the dream lives on. :)

July 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterYohann M

@Yohann M - I think you're right to say that the dream is about having lots of "Stuff" - cars, boats, motorcycles, houses, gadgets, holiday houses, vacations...

July 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterStephen McAteer

$100,000.00 today is a very small sum to be asking for to start off a business, especially if you are dealing with a smaller bank with a manager who knows your financials well. What might hamper someone asking for a loan is asking for too little money. For any bank, a $100,000 dollar loan is small potatoes, they can't make much money from it. Full disclosure: My own grandfather emigrated to Canada in similar circumstances, very little money, but highly skilled as a master mechanic having trained at the Morris Garages(MG) works. He quickly found work, and eventually started his own business, employing up to 30 people. I admire people like him and my other grandfather who worked in a foundry as a pattern maker and tool maker.
I don't know much about the "American Dream" , partly because I never shared the experience of an immigrant. I was already here.

July 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJohn P

I left Brum England in March 1957 for the ultimate American Dream, one that would never be materialized. THANKFULLY, As a musician, my dream was to play and be part of the American big band scene. I soon found out that my talent was nowhere near what would be needed to fulfill that dream. Plus I would need to get involved in the drug booze and women culture that dominated musicians then and now. In fact, I know now that had I done that, I would in all possibility be dead right now, But I soon found that this great country, if you worked hard and played your cards right, had plenty to offer. I took other paths and found my niche and now at age 85, I have quite a lot to show and be thankful for. Material objects mean nothing as long as you have family and friends to share your life with. So just what IS the American dream?? It's up to you to find out, NOT sitting on your arse complaining

July 18, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterjohn crump

I love to cycling bike . It's very benefited for health. Thanks for your post. You may look up this too - http://www.mybiked.com/

July 19, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterHarry Bauman

Don’t dreams only come true in fairy tales? Isn’t that why we dream when we sleep?

If we awaken, become disillusioned, then we can get to work and start living, and not be shackled by “The American Dream”. I never knew what that was. Didn’t need to, because I didn’t have time, or maybe I was too busy reading, learning how to be a machinist, being married and raising children, and racing my bike. There wasn’t something missing in my life. I wasn’t a victim, and I didn’t miss opportunities unless I chose to.

Maybe it’s because I never thought I had a right to anything. It all took effort and work. Life did, riding a bike did, learning machining, and anything I got interested in. Didn’t all this become life? Not like life, but was life.

Instead of pursuing the American Dream, I am an American that dreams, and has ideas. I’m not ready to hang up my shoes yet, so that will never stop.

July 19, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

The trend in income and wealth inequality in the USA in the last five decades clearly shows that the American Dream is only a dream. Political leadership continues to write laws/IRS rules that favor capital over labor.

According to the research, conducted by Stanford economist Chetty in 1970, roughly nine out of every 10 American 30-year-olds earned more than their parents did at the same age, after adjusting for inflation. In 2014, only half of 30-year-olds could say the same.The slowdown in mobility shows up in all 50 states and is true across the income spectrum. The biggest declines were among the children of middle-class families.

French economist Piketty and others that found that the bottom half of American adults by income today earn no more in pre-tax income than the bottom half of American adults did in the 1970s.

It is undoubtedly getting harder but some who work in IT have seen the dream come true.

July 24, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJack

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