??How Much??

With all the talk about the demise of the middle class, I am reminded how much easier it was to be in the middle class a few decades ago.  I am grateful that I came of age during that time period.  I didn’t know wealth, but I lived comfortably and fully with what income was available.  I did not know any families where both parents had to work to make ends meet.

It seems to me that the only justification for many of today’s high prices is that they are determined by whatever the traffic will bear.

designer bag

A bar of candy, be it Hershey’s or Mounds or Mars of Necco Wafers cost 5 cents.  Gourmet chocolate didn’t exist in this country at that time.  I easily learned to love mediocre chocolate.


When I got my license to drive, gas cost 17.9 cents per gallon.  That meant I could take the family car, go for a jaunt, and afford to replace the gas I’d burned  so my parents would never know what I’d done.

Dollar amounts for houses or apartments in desirable cities can cost millions and millions of dollars.  It seems like yesterday (you know you’re old when you start saying things like this) that the benchmark for an expensive house was $100,000.  That amount of money could buy you just about anything anywhere.  We’re talking 1970’s.  Our first home cost us $35,000 and it wasn’t just a garage.  It was a 1920’s gem with 4 bedrooms and 5 fireplaces, and 10 foot ceilings.

Today, a loaf of artisanal bread can cost as much as $7.00 or more.  When I was growing up, a loaf of pasty white bread that you could play with by rolling the white stuff inside the crusts into balls, cost a mere 21 cents.  That was in the 1950’s.  It was also great for toasting and covering with sugar -sweetened cinnamon that came premixed inside a little container.  I also discovered that you could flatten the center of a slice of white bread with the palm of your hand, making a sort of bread pancake, then pop it in your mouth and savor the way it felt as it slowly disintegrated.

breadwhite bread

My parents, who owned an independent grocery store, put me and my brother through college.  Tuition was about $2000 a year.  They sacrificed to pay it, but it was do-able. They never could have afforded today’s fees.

Ordering a premium salted caramel ice cream cone today might set you back $4. As a child, I licked cones  at our neighborhood drugstore for 5 cents.  The flavors were limited to chocolate, vanilla or strawberry.  Coffee was too exotic for children,  but who knew what other possibilities existed then?

ice cream flavors

I didn’t break through the hundred dollar mark for a pair shoes until I learned that my adult children were paying that much for their shoes. They secretly laughed at my thriftiness and goodness knows what else.  Now, at high end stores, it’s acceptable for prices to soar over $1000 for a designer pair of shoes, particularly if they have a red sole and a Louboutin label.

louboutin shoes. $995

How in the world does anyone in their right mind spend over $1000+  for a handbag today? And that’s just a point of departure for some labels. I Blame Sex & the City for making that acceptable.

When we got married, our first one bedroom furnished apartment in Coral Gables, Florida cost $100 per month.  We kept it at $100 per month for five years.  Rent was never supposed to be more than 25% of income.  Ours never was.

I made $4250 a year teaching school, while my husband who was in graduate school, earned zero.  We never went hungry. We went to the movies almost every week, spending $1.00 or $1.25 per ticket and also ate out regularly.  I never felt poor. Although, I was told in later years, my mother wasn’t so sure.

When I was ten years old, an uncle of mine easily convinced me and my cousin to pull dandelions out of his backyard lawn for a penny a piece to provide money for us to go on rides at a local amusement park.  $1 went a long way and was not to be sniffed at.  We had a fine afternoon at the park after we’d picked our quota.

pulling dandelions

During college, I received $20 a week for expenses, which were primarily food related.  By purchasing a 25 cent cupcake from a dispensing machine for breakfast, I could save up money to buy clothes I wanted.

When I look at the advertised prices for many of these products, I wonder what is the ceiling for them?

I’m glad I knew the times when the living for most was a whole lot easier and probably more pleasurable.  Sure, it was a dream to Strike it Rich, but in those years that most likely meant being able to afford a big shiny Cadillac or getting a fancy new refrigerator.


Does anyone in the USA remember the simple pleasure of  sinking one’s teeth effortlessly into a piece of tender white bread?  bread I’m here to shout that the self-denial and accompanying snobbishness of turning up our collective noses at white bread is not justified, simply because of the great pleasure it returns when eaten.

The Japanese have taken white bread consumption to a whole new level of pleasure.

As an American, when you first see that all white rectangle of gluten, you immediately go, “Wha???!!” Then, as you learn to trust Japanese culinary taste and talent, you start to think that you might be missing out on something. You also consider the fact, that the Japanese are much more slender than Americans, appear quite healthy, and apparently are none the worse for eating white bread!

When my husband brought home the above package of sliced, one inch thick white bread, four slices to a package, I was secretly delighted.

Waking up early this morning, I made a beeline to our kitchen and that cute package waiting on the counter.

It was everything I remembered from childhood times ten.  Those were the days when I could eat a whole package of Wonder Bread in one sitting and enjoy the fun of playing with its texture by smooshing it down with the palm of my hand until it was wafer thin.  Something, I imagined, like a communion wafer.

wonder bread

I did not play with my white bread this morning.  Just popped that baby into my mouth and savored every easy bite of blandness, refinement and gentility it represents.

p.s. It makes great toast, too.  WITH BUTTER!!!!!