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Measuring Decline By Prices

In 1939, the year I was born, gasoline was ten cents per gallon.  A new car cost $700.  A new house cost $3,850, and the average rent was $28 per month.  Harvard tuition was $420 annually.

A loaf of bread from the bakery was eight cents. Hamburger was 14¢ per pound, eggs were 19¢ per dozen, coffee was 40¢ per pound, and sugar was 59¢ for 10 pounds.

The average annual income was $1,729.

I don’t remember these prices.  By the time I was six years old, World War II had ended, and the postwar U.S. inflation was about to begin.  Still, I remember as a five- or six-year-old being sent to the bakery with 9, 10 or 11¢ to get a loaf of bread, and to the grocery store with 15¢ to get a quart of milk.

Milk and bread were not ordinarily purchased in stores.  In the Atlanta of my youth the breadman and milkman made home deliveries in horse-drawn vehicles.  Mathis Dairy was so clean that the milk was not pasteurized.  The cream was at the top.

Movie admission was 10¢ for 12 years old and under, and 25¢ for adults.  A Coca-Cola or a Pepsi (which was twice the size of the Coke), was 5¢, and so was a candy bar.  A case (24) of Coke or Pepsi was one dollar.  I flinch every time I see a person put a dollar into a machine for one Coke.

There was deposit on the bottles.  Kids could collect discarded bottles from...

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