Just after having a discussion with some of the guys at the office about the cost of gasoline one day earlier this week, I received an email from a friend that brought a smile to my face. It was the second time on the same day that after a conversation about a particular subject I received an email that was eerily similar.

The email was a good one. It took me back to 1955.

I can’t say I remember the year well because I was just a rug rat not even to the curtain climbing stage. The terrible two’s were in the future. But, I do recall that things were much simpler and definitely cheaper when I was growing up in the late 1950s. 

Cokes were a bargain in a glass bottle, bubble gum cost a penny and those great balsa wood airplanes could be bought for a dime (15 cents with wheels).

Titled “The Year Was 1955”, the email detailed the way things were with photos and even had prices of certain items. 

Older readers will likely sigh and exclaim, “those were the days.”

The younger crowd is apt to think “no #$%#? You’ve got to be kidding.”

“Nope, I’m not,” I would respond. “Yes, gas was in the 20 cents per gallon range at a full-service gas station and it cost just pennies to mail a letter.”

Boy, in thinking back I realized how much times have changed and what people born in the 1950s and earlier have seen in a lifetime.

Many of the older ones have experienced a world war, the Korean Conflict and Vietnam. Then there was the Cuban Missile Crisis, the assassination of a president, and the race to space that culminated with man stepping foot on the moon. There is the advent of the Frisbee, cruise control, dimmer switches and wiper controls on the steering column, FM radio, computers and cell phones. Black and white television, records, 8-track tapes and milk delivered to one’s doorstep are little more than distant memories.

The email pointed out that it cost just 7 cents to mail a letter, that the minimum wage was moving toward the $1 per hour mark and that a night in a typical hotel only ran a couple of bucks. 

Today, all that has changed. Yet, we still fuss at the cost of a stamp, that minimum wage is too low and now think little about paying $100 per night or more to sleep in a quality hotel.

Back in 1955 the thought was that fast food restaurants like McDonald’s were a passing fad. That theory proved wrong. It wasn’t long before there was drive-thru banking and the start of a society built on convenience, hurry up and move on was born.

“I’’m afraid the Volkswagen car is going to open the door to a whole lot of foreign business,” one part of the email read. Providential if you think about it. Soon, Datsun and Toyota were plying Japanese wares on America’s shores and the floodgates were opened wide to international commerce.

One of the funniest snippets was that a baseball player had just signed a $50,000 contract. “It wouldn’t surprise me if someday they’ll be making more than the president.” 

That proved to be true much sooner than the writer thought. Who can forget that the whole world was shocked when several years later on his graduation from the University of Alabama, Joe “Willie” Namath signed a $400,000 contract with the New York Jets of the AFL. What would he be worth in today’s market?

The email talked about the advent of the electric typewriter, the thought that one day the government would take close to half our income in taxes one way or another and one writer even wondered — “are we electing the best people to government?”

Times change but, in some respects, things stay the same. Health care is still too expensive, television and movies continue to push the envelope on what is decent,  the government still finds creative ways to tax people, and today’s generation, like baby boomers, believe they are growing up in the best of times. 

Yet, even though life is passing me by as fast as iPhone phones are upgraded, I wouldn’t change a thing about how life was when I grew up. I bet you wouldn’t either.


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