By Linda Williams
Columnist 

The Cost Of Everything Went Up In 60 Years

Growing Older and Other Blessings

 

August 22, 2019



OPINION

As we stood at the altar waiting for pictures some 60 years ago, my thoughts flashed forward. How old would I be if we were still married after 50 years? The possibility of 60 years never entered my mind.

And yet, here we are. On Aug. 30, we will celebrate our 60th wedding anniversary. On that warm August day, so long ago, the fact that we would have two healthy children, a girl and a boy; that we would build a home on the lot my husband owned; that we would enjoy so many great experiences and sometimes endure some painful events were not even considered.

We also had no idea where the world would go. On Aug. 30, 1959, we were just 14 years past World War II. PTSD, while probably suffered by many, had not been diagnosed. Wacky ideas now thrown about by liberals would have been laughed at hysterically. Men using a women's bathroom because they felt feminine that day; nongender identity; now how crazy is that?

A minimum wage of $15 would have been thought insane. I still tend to think that way. In 1959, most folks were happy to make a $1 an hour; $1.25 was good; and $2 quite livable. We rented our first apartment for $45. I remember ordering our first telephone and had some problems because we had no credit. I debated over getting a colored phone but decided the extra $10 just wasn't worth it. Black would do just fine.


Our furniture was indestructible but a Haywood Wakefield bedroom suite and a Nelson Living Room Suite were both purchased for less than $500. In addition to the telephone, we had an electric bill, paid for our own health insurance and automobile insurance. Our groceries, including meat and some special treats, were $10. A doctor's appointment was $4. We think our new Volkswagen cost about $1,500.

We went out to eat on special occasions and the total bill was less than $5. When our daughter came along about three years later, the hospital bill was mostly paid by insurance but totaled $200. The doctor charged an additional $100.

The 1960s

By 1962, it was time to think of building our house. We had saved $5,000 even with those kind of wages. We borrowed $11,000 and planned to pay it back in 15 years. Somehow, we accomplished that feat in 12. When our children were born, the thought of a two-income family was not even a possibility. We had no one to babysit and there were no daycares. Our budget was tight, but certainly not impossible. We were able to save for camping vacations, went roller skating, to the movies, and out to eat. I learned to sew and made a lot of my own clothes and some for my daughter. I don't recall ever really doing without anything we desperately wanted or needed.


As the years rolled by and the children grew and went off to school, we did become a two-income family again. Meanwhile, wages continued to rise and with it, the price of everything. Heating oil which had been about 17 cents a gallon when we built our home creeped upwards towards a dollar. Twenty dollars wouldn't buy groceries for a week and suddenly we had a cable bill.

It quickly became evident that if wages go up, so does everything else and you are no further ahead. It became almost impossible for young couples to be a one-paycheck family. Years passed and what we had considered luxuries became necessities. If you have two jobs, you need two cars, two insurance policies and today, at least two cellphones. The cable expanded and there are those who probably pay a couple hundred a month for television entertainment.

With two people working, food bills increase because there just isn't time to do everything from scratch. I remember baking three pies a week and it cost me pennies. Today, a bought pie at the grocery is somewhere around $8. With expanding waistlines, I no longer do much at all about pies.

Health care is totally out of sight. No longer do you take a child to the doctor for $4. I think our health insurance policy as a very young family was about $15 a month. Today, that would be $500 and the deductible would be in the thousands.


What is so unbelievable about all this is, it happened in just one lifetime. I remember my grandfather sternly telling me that they were lucky to get an orange for Christmas. As a child I always received a nice pile of toys under the tree. My children did likewise but today's electronic whiz-gigs and gee-haws have an unreal price tag.

No end in sight

Speaking of which, where will the cell phone epidemic end? Everywhere we go, we see young people glued to their phones. On a recent trip to Lancaster we went on a hayride. There were young people on the trip and, guess what? They were looking at their cell phones the whole time. We visit a museum and see the same thing. Instead of looking at the ancient offerings, they are using their thumbs to text friends.

Somehow, my husband and I seem to be able to muddle through life without one of these creations. Oh, we do have a flipper phone that is fine if we need to call for help or to add something to the grocery list. We have cameras in various sizes that take as good as and mostly better pictures than cell phones. We talk to each other and to our friends who are in our age group. We enjoy nature and love to sit on our patio and watch the birds, squirrels, bunnies and deer in our back yard.

After 60 years we are most thankful for our health, which has remained surprisingly good. We are sorry for the high divorce rate and wish that today's couples could realize the rewards to be had by settling your differences and riding out the storms.

We can truthfully say, we are thankful for each and every sunrise and sunset and will continue to look for joy in every day so long as we are able.

 

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