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February 16, 2001

My recent column containing nostalgic quotes from the 1950s stirred a few memories for David Payne, among others. He agrees that average incomes have increased during that same time span, but he likes to compare the amount of time we spend earning the money to what we can buy with it. "Another way to say that," Dave writes, "is, how much TIME does an item cost me?"

Here's how Dave sees it: "Does it take any longer to earn a loaf of bread now than it did 50 years ago? I remember my mother telling me about scrubbing floors for several hours for enough money to buy two loaves of bread. When I got my first real job earning minimum wage, I got $1.25 an hour cleaning tables at the Dairy Maid. It seems that I could buy about three gallons of gas or three or four candy bars with that one hour's work. It seems that a loaf of bread might have cost about 25 cents, so that would have gotten me five loaves. About the same as today. About five hours would buy a pair of shoes. I just realized that the calculator that I'm using cost about 33 hours to buy (it is a very old one). I can buy a calculator with more capability today for less than one hour's work. The first bicycle that I bought for myself I think cost about $45. If I had bought that with the $1.25 per hour rate, it would have cost me 36 working hours. Today a bike with more speeds and lighter weight (read easier to ride) could be bought with about 27 hours of work. In 1968 I committed us to a debt of the equivalents of four year's salary to buy our house. Today, the same size house would be about the same commitment for a beginning engineer, I suppose. So, I'm feeling pretty good. The numbers have changed but we're not in too bad of a shape after all, once you skin it down to the real costs."

I think that's pretty good logic. It leads to a few more of those reminiscent looks at the 1950s. Remember, these originated in another era. Here they are:

"Kids today are impossible. Those duck tail hair cuts make it impossible to stay groomed. Next thing you know, boys will be wearing their hair as long as the girls. Also, their music drives me wild. This `Rock Around the Clock' thing is nothing but racket."

"I'm afraid to send my kids to the movies any more. Ever since they let Clark Gable get by with saying `damn' in `Gone With the Wind,' it seems every movie has a `hell' or `damn' in it. And, it won't be long before couples in the movies are sleeping in the same bed. What is the world coming to?"

"Pretty soon you won't be able to buy a good ten-cent cigar."

"I read the other day where some scientist thinks it's possible to put a man on the moon by the end of the century. They even have some fellows they call astronauts preparing for it down in Texas."

"Did you see where some baseball player just signed a contract for $75,000 a year just to play ball? It wouldn't surprise me if someday they make more than the President."

"Do you suppose television will ever reach our part of the country?"

My thanks to Kit Froebel of New Braunfels, Texas, for providing the quotes above.