Prices too high? It's all relative

by C.F. David

We all complain of high prices and lament and wish for those “days of our youth when things were cheaper.”

However while we remember cheaper prices, we seem to forget, cheaper wages.

On line is a site called Time Capsule. This site allows you to check a variety of things about history by day; for instance, on Jan. 28, 1945 when I was born in Liberal, Kan. some of the popular songs of the era were Sentimental Journey by Doris Day, and Rum and Coca Cola by the Andrews Sisters.

Also, I found that the “Slinkey” and I will hit 60 next month.

A further examination reveals that bread cost nine cents a loaf; milk was .62 cents a gallon, eggs were .64 cents a dozen, the average cost of a new home was $10,131, an average automobile cost $1,250 and gasoline was .21 cents a gallon.

However remember that eggs, milk, gasoline, bread and the tires for your car were all rationed and automobiles hadn't been made for public use since 1942. Oh yes, and by the way, the average income at the close of WWII? $2,807 a year, the minimum wage was .40 cents an hour and the DOW Jones Average (The average values of 30 publicly traded companies such as General Motors) was 193. (On Dec. 1, 2004, it was 10, 590.22.)

This all made me curious, so, I backed up to Dec., 1904; a century ago.

Bread was then four cents a loaf, milk .29 cents a gallon, a new car cost $500, (There were no numbers on gasoline, the service station hadn't been invented yet.) The average home cost $4 thousand, the average income was $844 dollars a year, (The minimum wage hadn't been established.) and the Dow was 70.

Fifty years later, in Dec., 1954, bread cost .17 cents a loaf; milk, .92 cents a gallon; a new car, $1,950. Gasoline was then .29 cents a gallon.

A new home cost $17,500, the average income was $4,684, the minimum wage was .75 cents an hour; and the Dow sat at 404.

By 2002, (the last year updated on the website), bread was $1.02 a loaf; milk was $2.85 a gallon, the average car was $23,500; gasoline cost $1.44 a gallon; a home was estimated at $235,700, the average income was $71,032 and the minimum wage was $5.15 an hour with the Dow hovering at 8,342.


It would of course be interesting to learn about how much of that .40 cent a gallon gasoline was inflated by road taxes such as we have today.

In any case, as we complain about the price of anything, food, automobiles, equipment and gasoline, we'd do well to look back on this price snowball and ask if we really wish to return to those cheaper prices..and wages.

Boise City News
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