I’ve written about these before. But one of my nephews—mid-forties or so—was reminiscing about them to his eldest child last week. And I was not going to rain on his nostalgia in front of his daughter, especially about how much candy he could buy for a QUARTER!
There is NO doubt about how much candy he, his younger brother, and older sister could buy with their quarters. The family dentist—he’s still alive—can vouch for it.
However, I’m older—a LOT older—than my nieces and nephews are. And whatever candy they could buy with a quarter, I could buy with a PENNY.
In fact, as young as I was, I vaguely recall that first trip to MY long-dead childhood dentist. He was the same dude who gave me my first haircut… in the SAME chair!
His nurse—and I use the term LIGHTLY—strapped me into that chair, placed a gas mask over my nose, told me to take deep breaths, and then turned on the gas.
I couldn’t breathe! I stiffened in the chair and started breathing through my mouth; at which point Sally Sadist clamped down on it with a damp cloth.
When I awoke, after what seemed like HOURS, my mouth hurt; the “nurse’ handed me my tooth wrapped in a Kleenex, and told me to put it under my pillow when I went to bed that night. I did as she had told me.
And when I awoke the next morning, there was a DIME under my pillow; I was financially set for life. I spent the fortune on more candy. And I didn’t care that I had blown the whole dime, either. The way I saw it, I had several more teeth in my mouth.
But kidding aside, those “good-old-days,” while providing a lifetime of nice warm memories, weren’t nearly as good as our selective recall would have us believe.
The day I was born, Franklin D. Roosevelt was the President of the United States, and Henry A. Wallace was Vice President. Japan had not yet formally invited us into WWII by attacking our naval fleet in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
TV would not become consumer-available for another 6-years. Telephone services were analog, and only the rich could afford them.
The country had no interstate system; there were no jet liners; and there were no residential air-conditioners for the working class. In fact, there were still huge pockets of people without electricity and, in some cases, no indoor plumbing.
Even so, we all thought we had “arrived,” but we HADN’T! It just seemed that way when compared to past generations. Looking back from today, life pretty much sucked.
As well, once we viewed both sides of the financial coin, the cost of living wasn’t anything to brag about, either. A loaf of bread cost $0.09; a gallon of milk cost $0.60; and a dozen eggs cost a whopping $0.61.
My parents could have bought a new home for about $6,500 with a 25% down payment. They could have bought a brand new automobile for $1,100 with a 10% down payment.
Incidentally, they could have filled its gas tank with LEADED gasoline at a measly $0.20 a gallon, while mailing their mortgage and car payments with $0.03 first class postage stamps.
By comparison, things were a lot less expensive in those days. But still, life was no lark for shirtsleeve working stiffs. But RICH people—defined as those earning around $10,000 a year—could buy the world.
Of course, even back then, there was a MINIMUM wage; it was $0.30 an hour. And just like today, the Right-wingers complained bloody murder about it, and they bellowed even louder every time some “do-gooder” Liberal tried to decimate the market system by increasing it.
Average annual gross income back then was about $2,350 (about $45 a week). From this came federal/state and other withholding taxes. About $8 would buy a week’s worth the groceries for a family of four. About another $20 went to mortgage and car payments.
On average, after all of this, a family—if they didn’t blow it on foolishness—would have about $7 or so with which to splurge and/or sock away for emergencies.
So, by the time we adjust all of this income and expense for inflationary effect, life for shirtsleeve middle class Americans was up hill just as it is today. The difference today is that the middle class is shrinking fast and the hill has a steeper incline.
Medically, a breast cancer diagnosis was a virtual death sentence—within anywhere from 6-months to a couple of years, depending on how soon it was diagnosed.
I distinctly remember my 4th grade classmate and good friend, Roger Coyne. One school morning as we were standing at our desks finishing up morning prayers and the Pledge of Allegiance—we were yet to become “…one nation, under GOD”—he threw up all over the floor.
We kids didn’t know it, but his family would soon find out that he had Leukemia. And MUCH worse, Roger would be dead 4-months later. I still think of him often, some 60-years later.
Neither I nor my siblings were allowed to swim in swimming pools. My father wouldn’t even consider it. They were, in his mind, breeding tubs for POLIO.
Another of my classmates contracted it. She spent a lot of her life inside of an iron lung. Polio vaccine would not become available until around 1952 at the earliest.
Yes, many of those “old” days were GOOD, but some of them were NOT. But as good as many of them were, the bulk of the “bad” ones were really BAD. And this does not include other unpleasant social conditions that are too numerous to mention here.
Though my generation still calls them the “good-old-days,” none of us seem eager to go back to them. And a future generation—if humanity survives—will one day call “now” THEIR “good-old-days.”
But I’m betting that—once they think it through—none of them will be all that eager to return to THEIR wondrous days of yesteryear, either.