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home : life : business & finance November 25, 2015

7/17/2013 8:01:00 PM
In Days of Yore
Bob Penick
Bob Penick
By Bob Penick

After just turning 82, I sat down and looked at some old pictures and thought about what life was like in my country in 1932 when I was one year old. Perhaps some of you folks around my age would like to reminisce with me. And, if my Love Line column ran on a different page, some of you younger readers might find things I write about interesting. Let's compare life today with that back then.

An old edition of Changing Times magazine shared how things were in 1932 during the Great Depression. This is the world I would begin to learn about when I was about one year old. My parents could buy a dozen eggs for 25 cents, a loaf of bread for 7 cents, and hamburger meat for 10 cents a pound. They could rent a house for $18 per month, and could have bought a car for $610, but as a mechanic, Dad couldn't afford a new car until 4 years later. Dad wore coveralls most of the time, but an imported English flannel suit for church would cost $ 26, and a shirt would be an extra $1.19, and he could get hunting boots for $29. Dad really liked to let Mom dress up. She could get chiffon frocks with sleeves, bows and quaint tuckings for $5.95 and silk stockings, of course, for 77 cents a pair. My folks loved music, so they bought a windup portable phonograph, probably $7.45, and a Kodak camera, likely about the same price. If they had invested in General Electric stock at $3 a share, General Motors at $1.25 per share, or U.S. Steel for $3.50, they could have gotten rich, but they didn't have money for that. My folks loved to drive all over the place, and they could afford it because gas was only 10 cents per gallon with a one cent tax. Dad always took a vacation in the summer, and they traveled around the country to places like Red River, New Mexico living on pork and beans and pancakes. Only the rich could afford a one-month, all-expense vacation trip to Europe by boat, for $300-tourist, and even they might have had second thoughts about it after their U.S. taxes went up from 25% to 63%. But, for those making $5,000 a year, their income tax was only a paltry $16.88. Dad was a great mechanic, so he had a regular job, but 13 million people, almost a fourth of the population, were without jobs, and average wages for those working were between $1,120 and $1, 650 per year. A secretary-stenographer with a college degree could make $20 a week, and an accountant-book-keeper with experience might expect $22 a week.

This was the year that Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic, and the Olympic swimming champion, Johnny Weissmuller, became Tarzan in the movie Tarzan the Ape Man. My high school dream girl, Elizabeth Taylor was born in England, Loretta Lyn in Butcher Hollow, Kentucky, and John Wayne too. Bing Crosby was singing Brother Can You Spare a Dime. Los Angeles hosted the lOth Olympics, but I found no record of a Miss America being crowned that year.

The Great Depression came in with a bang when Wall Street crashed Oct. 29, 1929, and it lasted for a long time. In 1932 tornados killed 184 people across the South, and the Dust Bowl finally hit the East coast in that year. I accepted the dust storms as a way of life until some time in the 50's.

Thanks for joining me in a trip down memory lane. I hope you enjoyed it.

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