Fed chairman visits hometown

Associated Press
Ben Bernanke: Federal Reserve chairman had an interstate exit named for him in his hometown of Dillon, S.C.

WASHINGTON --- Playing saxophone in the marching band. Waiting tables at South of the Border. Those were some of the memories that came flooding back to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke when he visited his hometown in South Carolina on Saturday.


The Fed chief was in Dillon for a special distinction: Exit 190 on Interstate 95 was being named in his honor.

"I must confess that, until recently, I did not realize that highway interchanges were named after people," Mr. Bernanke said in prepared remarks.

"But as I thought about it, I realized that it is indeed a high honor for someone whose job is focused on supporting the economy," he quipped. "Efficient transportation is crucial to economic development."

It was a long journey from the small town to becoming the United States' top economic official, a job he has held since February 2006.

Mr. Bernanke spoke one day after the nationwide unemployment rate bolted to 8.1 percent, the most in more than 25 years.

The Fed will do all in its power to "support the restoration of financial stability and the resumption of healthy economic growth," he said Saturday.

In South Carolina, the unemployment rate jumped to 9.5 percent in December as laid-off textile, clothing and other factory workers found it difficult to find new jobs, according to the most recent data available from the U.S. Labor Department.

Mr. Bernanke was born in Augusta and as a small child moved to Dillon, where he lived lived for 17 years before going to college. He recalled working in the family owned drug store as a boy and "hiding out by the comic-book rack."

The summer after he graduated high school, he worked in construction and waited tables six days a week at South of the Border, a famous tourist stop off I-95.

He left to attend Harvard University, where he studied economics. He earned his doctorate in economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.