The cost of living
By: Jim Bucher
As I stand here fueling up my car – or should I say battleship (at press time, gas is hovering around $3.49 a gallon) – so I can drive to the nearest fast food chain and pick up a $6 value meal, it got me to thinking. What happened? Why did the cost of everything go up and so quickly? I would laugh at my dad when he said, “When I got my first car, gas was 15 cents a gallon.” “Whatever,” I said as I filled up my Ford Galaxie 500 for 10 bucks.
Now look, the economists say when fuel prices go up, so does everything else – groceries, lumber, washers, dryers, etc. – because most things are delivered using fuel. That is, unless you count the Amish community, where most things are still brought to and fro by horse and buggy. But wait, hay is more now, too.
I thought it would be fun to look back 80 or so years to see what things cost then as opposed to now. I’m not going to waste space to tell you current prices, you already know that and it’s too depressing to see in print and online.
So, let us pretend its 1933 … (Insert dream sequence here.)
First, you were lucky if you made 15 cents an hour. That’s if you were lucky enough to have a job during the Great Depression. Before the 40-hour work week, employers had you put in 60 hours. You brought home around $19.80 a week or $85.80 a month – just about what it cost to fill my aforementioned battleship. (Oops, promised not to talk about current prices.) Speaking of, a new automobile would run you between $445 and $565.00 – tax and title extra.
A pair of men’s shoes – pre-Jordans – were priced at $3 a pair and men’s slacks around $1.95.
My Publisher, Paul Noah, loves a good steak; how about paying 27 cents a pound for a good cut of meat? Paul, at that price, I’ll buy next time.
Can you imagine the fun you’d have firing up the grill in 1933 with burgers at 4 cents a pound for ground beef? Wait, did they have backyard grills then? McDonald’s, eat your heart out.
My friend, Doug Mann, with Dyer, Garofalo, Mann & Schultz – you know, “The Tiger?” – well, Doug and his wife Beth love salmon, they eat it almost every night. But they would love it even more at the 1933 price of 25 cents a pound.
How about a loaf of bread at 6 cents or 16 cents for a quart of milk? Donuts, jelly filled to boot, for 17 cents a dozen; peanut butter rang up for 25 cents; Miracle Whip – yes, they had that back then – just 10 cents; and tomato soup, a staple back in the day, could be had for the budget busting price of 7 cents a can.
Isn’t this fun? Or is this depressing as heck?
Have you checked out the price for a gallon of paint lately? (Again, more depressing.) Well, back then, you were looking at $2.75, which – if applied liberally – could paint the whole house for 10 bucks. And since we’re on the subject of homes, an average one with six rooms would put you in the hole for around $4,750 – subject to higher prices in California of course. Or you could rent a home for $22.50 a month – heat and water included. How about an apartment with five rooms for $35 and up?
My friend, Montgomery County Commissioner Debbie Lieberman, just returned from a Reds game where you can get a $9.25 beer, a $5 coney and a $5 bucket of popcorn. Just think Deb, if you were around in 1933 it would run you 33 cents to see the Cincinnati Red Stockings.
How about catching a flick at a downtown movie palace for 20 cents, save a dime and see a matinee for 10 cents. You could grab a bite at the local lunch counter from 50 cents and up or splurge for a banana split at 16 cents.
Coffee lovers, this will perk you up because the morning cup of Joe was 23 cents-a-pound. If you like to sweeten your coffee with a little sugar, 24 cents for a five-pound bag is all it took to do so. Ice cream was 39 cents, iceberg lettuce just 10 cents and a dozen California oranges rang up for 21 cents.
Other meanderings: flour was $1.03 for a 50-pound bag; sour cream was 6 cents a pint; cheddar cheese, 23 cents a pound; a dozen eggs just 14 cents a dozen and corn flakes just 7 cents for a box. So, eggs, corn flakes and a cup of coffee in the morning would run you around 50 cents. (According to my math, but remember I spent six years in high school.)
I guess the point to this article is … wait, there is no point, other than to have a little fun looking back 80 years to see how much has changed. You can only imagine what things will cost 80 years from now. I won’t have to worry about that. But know one thing; the Dayton City Paper is always free.
I know a bargain when I see one.
The views and opinions expressed in On the Beat are the views and/or opinions of the author and do not reflect the views and/or opinions of the Dayton City Paper or Dayton City Media and are published strictly for entertainment purposes only.
For more than 25 years, “Buch” has been a local television icon. Known and loved by thousands in the Miami Valley, his followers describe him as trust-worthy, fun, the guy next door, a friend and a role model. When it comes to promoting your business, Buch has the ability to grab your customer’s attention. Reach DCP freelance writer Jim Bucher at JimBucher@DaytonCityPaper.com.