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...