When COLA was a drink

Published 11:32 am Thursday, April 21, 2011

Things were a lot different when I was a boy growing up during the Great Depression.

It was a time when soft drinks were sold in reusable bottles for a nickel and also served from a soda fountain by a “soda jerk.” Pepsi broke the Coca Cola stronghold on the market by offering “twice as much, for a nickel, too.”

Now the government has had us senior citizens on “Diet COLA” for two years running while the COL (cost of living) has increased considerably. A few years ago it occurred to me that everything cost 10 times what it did when I became an adult!

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I have had a Social Security card about as long as I’ve had a driver license, and I have probably received more dollars than I paid in the tax.

Of course, I am “entitled” to these dollars because my government said so. It is also my government’s policies that have made so many more dollars necessary to buy things now.

Trouble is, they have taken great gobs of “my” dollars to spend on other things and now tell me there is not enough to give me what they promised so glibly when I was a little boy.

For you young folks, I want to offer some more price comparisons you may find hard to believe. I remember the cry that went up in the land when bread went from a dime to 11 cents a loaf right before WWII.

Price controls and rationing meant prices generally only doubled during the war. I earned 35 cents an hour in the grocery store in 1945, but I got 60 cents an hour at the lumberyard in 1946.

I was paid a dollar an hour working in a gas station in California in 1954 after I got out of the Air Force.

At the start of WWII, an Army Private was paid $21 a month; when I joined the new Air Force in 1948 I drew $75 a month during basic training.

When I was discharged as a tech sergeant in 1954 I was drawing $183.46 per month. That was enough for me to buy a used Buick (on “time payments,” of course) for $995.

John Moore built a four-room house on Rippy Hill for my mother in 1940 for about $2,000 (his cost; he did it to keep his men working during the winter.) I paid $14,250 for my first house in San Diego in 1957; similar houses are now listed at $399,000.

My first new Buick cost $3,110 in 1966. I could get about four gallons of gasoline in Texas for a dollar; it cost 10 times that a year ago, a lot more now.

Remember the “penny postcard?” First class letters went for 3 cents, but only 2 cents if mailed in the same office to which it was to be delivered. Air Mail was 6 cents, I think, and was usually written on very thin (lightweight) paper and put in similar envelopes.

I had a rubber stamp to mark airmail letters as they were then handled separately. Now all first class mail goes by air, if appropriate.

The Tryon Daily Bulletin cost a penny a copy before WWII, a nickel right after; I pay $5 a month now (but it is twice as big, and is still “the world’s smallest daily.”) LIFE magazine was a bargain at 10 cents, as most magazines were 15 cents, or a quarter.

You can buy one little flat package today and download as many books as you want to read and it does not get any bigger!

My computer tells me these things are going away in the next few years: landline telephones; the post office; printed books, magazines and newspapers; checks; the music industry; network television; hard copies of anything and privacy as we have known it.

Looks as if all we will have left will be our memories. I write to keep them alive and well. Please read while you still can!