I hate my job, but not for the reasons you might think. My profession is that of theater projectionist. It’s the perfect job for the college student: a flexible work schedule with a couple of hours to do nothing after starting films. An ideal time for homework, reading books, etc. The biggest perk is watching Hollywood “product” for free instead of paying the outrageously high ticket prices. “So what’s the problem?” you ask. I happen to live in Fall River, and because of the scarcity of jobs, I need to travel 65 miles round trip to Wareham just to work part time…and I am not alone.
Trying to find work in Fall River today is like locating an adult at a Justin Bieber concert: nowhere to be found. Ask the downtrodden on a cause, they’re quick to point the proverbial finger toward City Hall at the Fall River Office of Economic Development (FROED) for the city’s woes, and they would be correct as they have done very little in their 30 year history to reverse a 50 year economic decline (thanks to the textile industry leaving for greener and cheaper pastures in the South or overseas). In dealing with an unemployment rate that has reached 16.7% this past January, according to the latest report from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development (Massachusetts), many of Fall River’s jobless must find work outside of the city limits by either commuting or relocating.
Some can argue that in today’s recession things are tough all over and they would be right as New Bedford’s unemployment rate is comparable to that of Fall River (16%), but New Bedford is steering in the right direction by having an established arts scene downtown and the local businesses doing well feeding off of it. Fall River on the other hand is a different story. The lack of vision from FROED and the RA (Redevelopment Authority) to successfully lure businesses in its own arts district has the downtown area devoid of any life, leaving a plethora of empty storefront windows donning the same old signage of “For Sale”, “For Lease” or “For Rent”. The area resembles that of a ghost town from the Old West, but in our current setting, you can still witness the alcohol and drug induced violence with the clear distinct sound of gunfire. A reminder the outlaws have not left town and are still running amok.
Compounding that further, FROED and the RA don’t even recognize the city’s own potential. The recently rediscovered Capital Theater downtown is being proposed to be revitalized as a performing arts center by a non-profit organization with the help of students and professors at the University of Colorado (Herald). Being a city of ninety thousand without a theater, The Capital Theater would be a boon to downtown Fall River that would aid in attracting other businesses into the immediate area and thrive. To date, both administrations have done nothing to support them as moviegoers still flock to the suburbs to seek entertainment and college students, such as this author, to find employment.
So as Fall River’s plight resembles that of the film “The Last Picture Show”, a dying town with no movie theater, I am reminded that Fall River’s dilemma is also my own, and it’s a dilemma that affects the entire South Coast community like one symbiotic circle. If Fall River can recover economically to where people are staying and flocking inward, the dynamics in the region would change throughout. Until then, I and others will have to make do by saddling up and search for prosperity and entertainment in lands other than our own. Wagons North, South, East and West!