Statistically, Lawrence, Mass, was in parlous shape. Lawrence is a textile town (it makes more worsted than any other U.S. city); this winter some mills' production had been off as much as 40%. More than 20,000 of Greater Lawrence's 52,077 workers were listed last week as unemployed.

But along the Merrimack River, the textile mills hummed and chattered. The cobbled main street was thronged with shopping housewives, suits moved briskly off the rack; at Nick Maloof's restaurant ("where the elite meet the dawn") business was fine. Said Austin O'Toole, owner of the town's biggest market: "These people aren't on...

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