A Bargain at Any Price

By Jeff Little

Did you know that you could buy a 50-pound pumpkin in 1950 for a dollar? Do you care that you could buy a 50-pound pumpkin in 1950 for a dollar? Probably not.

But it might interest you to know that in that same year you could have purchased a gallon of gasoline for 20 cents.

And if you thought that the price of fuel was worth writing about, you could have sent the information along in a letter for 3 cents in 1950.

By 1951 the price of postage and gas hadn't changed, but most everything else had.

And if inflation got you down, you could kill yourself affordably by overeating. A 14 ounce can of Hershey's Syrup was 17 cents, sliced bacon went for 69 cents a pound, and bread was only 16 cents.

If you survived your eating binge in 1951 but were still distraught, there was still no need to pinch pennies while planning your demise.

You could buy a 10-pack of Gillette Blue Blades for 49 cents and still mail a suicide note for 3 cents in 1952.

For the less stressed and clearer thinking individuals of the 50's there were bargains aplenty.

In 1953 a typical house went for around $17,400. You could even brag about your new home to all of your friends via U.S. Mail without breaking your budget. Postage was still 3 cents.

T-bone steak was 95 cents a pound in 1954. Journalists of the day reported excited carnivores corresponding with one another in unprecedented numbers due to the fact that letters still cost only 3 cents to mail.

The big economic news of 1955 was that a stamp cost only 3 cents. And since most people wrote with only one hand at a time, many busied their other digits with a Slinky they purchased for 88 cents.

Others stepped away from their desks long enough to ogle the girl next door, looking resplendent her nylon hose ($1.00) as she went off to work toting her Mickey Mouse Lunchbox (88 cents).

By 1956 the average American was making around $2.14 an hour (enough to buy 71 stamps with change to spare).

And if they needed transportation to the post office they could choose from a variety of Ford automobiles that cost under $1,800.

Bread was 19 cents a loaf in 1957. And milk was going for about $1.00 a gallon.

"But how much was postage?" you may ask.

Well, my friends, in 1957, it was a mere 3 cents to drop a letter in the slot.

Then came darkness for purveyors of penmanship in 1958 when he price of postage soared to an astounding 4 cents per standard letter, prompting millions of Americans to say, "Who cares?" as they munched on 4 cents a pound celery and looked toward the future.

And if that future included enrollment at Harvard, it would only cost them $1,250 a year for tuition.

The charge was 4 cents for conveyance of correspondence as the decade closed in 1959.

And while prices on this and most other things continue to fluctuate, one thing does stay constant: the value of the written word.
 

Bread was 19 cents a loaf in 1957. And milk was going for about $1.00 a gallon.

Bread didn't cost a lot of dough

By 1951 the price of postage and gas hadn't changed, but most everything else had.

Once, it was even cheaper

Udder Delight

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