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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

1950’s USA Economics 2

Hop fields
I was way too young to understand what was happening with the economy nationally, but I did understand that our (family’s) economy specifically was getting better by leaps and bounds.  As I mentioned in the previous post: January 21, 2014, “1950’s USA Economics” in 1956 and 1957 we acquired our first brand new car (right off of the showroom floor), and our first 3-bedroom house respectively.  My step-father earned a respectable $4,000.00 annually and according to the Census bureau the average median income was somewhere around $4,200.00 annually.  There is no doubt in my mind that he earned his money working a 6 day work week and 10 to 12 hour days.

The Decade of Prosperity

·       The economy overall grew by 37% during the 1950s. At the end of the decade, the median American family had 30% more purchasing power than at the beginning. Inflation, which had wreaked havoc on the economy immediately after World War II, was minimal, in part because of Eisenhower's persistent efforts to balance the federal budget. Except for a mild recession in 1954 and a more serious one in 1958, unemployment remained low, bottoming at less than 4.5% in the middle of the decade.

·       Many factors came together to produce the Fifties boom. The G.I. Bill, which gave military veterans affordable access to a college education, added a productive pool of highly-educated employees to the work force at a time American businesses were willing to pay handsomely for engineering and management skills. Cheap oil from domestic wells helped keep the engines of industry running. Advances in science and technology spurred productivity. At the same time, potential competitors in Europe and Asia were still recovering from being bombed into smithereens during World War II. ~Shmoop University, Inc.


Mid 1959 my step-father received a job offer that required us to move from Texas to the Pacific Northwest.  The offer consisted of being second foreman in 10,000 plus acre ranch that included: cattle, hops, beets, wheat and corn. The pay offered was perfect for my step-father because of his natural instinct to be a workaholic.  The pay was $3.50 per hour plus a free of cost 3 bedroom house, and a pick-up truck (free gasoline and maintenance) for his use 24/7.  Oh, I almost forgot the best part of the deal was all the hours he wanted to work (and he did: averaged around 14 to 15 hour days, Monday through Sunday).  His total compensation was worth approximately $400 per week (year round).  During the Winter months there was cattle to feed, and maintain, as well as time spent in the shop welding and making other repairs to farm equipment, including harvesters, tractors, bulldozers, trucks, repairing fences, etc.
The only thing that kept me and my step-brother from living the great life is that my step-father was still extremely tight with a buck.  The only part he didn’t like about his new found wealth was every year April 15th; you got it, tax time.  While I couldn’t freely share my step-father’s hard earned money, I did have one major unexpected benefit.  After a year my step-father became the number one foreman, and I became the oldest son of the number one foreman.  I loved to work then I still do, so I took advantage of my position to work as much as I could, whenever possible.  I have no complaints, life was great, and I developed a taste for the better things in life, but also the value of a dollar.  The best is yet to come….

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