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Stock market doesn't dampen everyone's view of economy

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
October 13, 2008
— Feeling queasy every time the news reports talk about Wall Street's slide? Join the club. But not everyone dwells on the latest stock market slide.

Most people at an art fair in Milton on Sunday were looking at the good things in their lives rather than dwelling on what they can't control.


"The news is always scary and depressing, but you have to keep on living, because what else are you going to do?" said Leah Brooke Conway, an art student who will graduate from UW-Whitewater in December.


Conway said a lot of students are staying in school because job prospects are not good. That's the plan of her friend Brad Corso, also a UW-W art student.


Corso said he's not dwelling on what's happening with the stock market.


"You just have to keep going on and try not to get bogged down. You have to adapt," Corso said.


Retiree and weaver Janice Pieterek of Milton said she's not worrying about the stock market "because I can't do anything about it."


She does worry a bit about what might happen next but feels good "as long as there's food in the grocery store, and I have a daughter who has a garden—just like in the Depression," she said.


Yes, the "D" word was on people's minds, but no one was saying they expect the massive social disruptions of the 1930s.


Retiree Jack Kislia of Janesville was sitting with a couple other retirees who remember the '30s.


"Most of us know how to live with less because we have lived with less," Kislia said. "We look back, and we had some great times when we were broke."


Some sectors of the economy are doing great, pointed out Jennifer Retzlaff of Marshall.


Retzlaff's husband lost his job recently, so they began selling his beautiful glazed tiles at art fairs. But Retzlaff's employer, Trek bicycles, is having a great year, she said.


Retzlaff, 39, was like most people interviewed: They didn't talk about stocks or 401(k)s until a reporter broached the subject. She said she hasn't checked her own 401(k) account.


"I say thank God I'm married to a potter, because our money's in our business," Retzlaff added.


Terry Williamson, owner of Goodrich Hall Antiques, said business is excruciatingly slow.


And when people do come, they hesitate to buy.


"Everybody that comes in is talking about the economy," Williamson said. "It's tiring, being so gloom-and-doom. I don't like it."


Jay Goralski of Janesville said he feels lucky to be an artist who can sell his ceramics. He pointed to people in China and India who don't have all the advantages of Americans.


"We should be happy for what we have, actually," Goralski said.


Painter Larry Schultz, on the other hand, worries about his income, which comes from his paintings and work for a ministry.


"The stuff I do all relies on stuff people put on the bottom of their lists," Schultz said.


Schultz said he's seen it before, most recently on Sept. 11, 2001: "People get scared and hang onto their money a lot more."


Lynn Retzlaff of Janesville—her husband is a cousin of Jennifer's husband—said she's keeping a positive outlook after her husband lost his job when Lab Safety Supply acquired Highsmith.


He's looking for work; she's selling her art, and they have four children.


"It is very rough," Lynn admitted. "The scariest thing is lack of health insurance. "You can always shack up with family, but they're not going to pay your medical bills."


And it's hard on her husband, who is out there looking for work. "I try to stay positive for him, too."


She smiled brightly as she said: "If we lose everything, we still have each other."



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