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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

1950’s USA Economics

1956 Ford Custom V-8 4-door
From my youthful recollection the whole time of the 1950’s seemed like a laid back time almost sleepy in all aspects of life.  In reality the 1950’s was a vibrant progressive time that I couldn’t guage, because after all I had not witnessed the 1930’s and 1940’s. 
The 1930’s were a time of struggle and sacrifice.  A time when you worked extra hard just to reach a level of survival.  We are talking about the 10 years that followed the Great Depression.  Everyone used every penny they could bring together just to have a meager meal of bread and water.  Soup was a luxury for most of the country.  If you happen to have a large family you were in for a real struggle.  Those were times when parents many time would go to sleep hungry just so their children would have something in their stomachs.
The 1940’s were not much better than the 1930’s until the war started and most able bodied men signed up to defend the country.  Women took the placed of men in the factories to supply the war machine, and the economics didn’t improve much because sacrifices needed to be made because of the war effort. 
The 1950’s were in fact a Decade of Prosperity.  Young people like myself were aware that all our needs were being met, and didn’t question how.  By 1956 my family bought the first brand new car a 1956 Ford Custom V-8 4-door.  Our car payment was $24 per month.  By 1957 we bought our first brand new 3 bedroom house.  I don’t remember the cost of the house but the mortgage payment was $58 per month all inclusive (Interest, insurance and tax if there was one).  1957 was also the year we bought our first black and white Philco Television.
  • To put this in perspective, 1957 is considered to be the height of the baby boomer generation.  Dwight D. Eisenhower was the United States President and Richard Nixon was the Vice President.  There were around 170 million people living in this country (compared to 300 million today).  The 1957 Best Picture of the Year (The Bridge on the River Kwai) grossed $27,200.  In 2007 the movie “The Departed” grossed $125 million.  No one owned a computer fifty years ago.  The only games were “board games” and make believe games.  Girls still wore dresses and guys still dressed up to take a girl on a date.  Mothers stayed at home to raise the kids and fathers were happy to be the breadwinner of the family.
  • A lot has changed in fifty short years.  The United States of America bears little resemblance to the country bearing its name not even two generations ago.  States that were mainly deserted deserts fifty years ago are now the fastest growing states in the country (Arizona, Nevada and Utah).  Areas that were farms fifty years ago are now cities with hundreds of thousands of people.  There was only one Interstate Highway fifty years ago and that was I-70.  Now people can travel all over the country on multi-lane super highways going pretty much as fast as they want. 
  • In 1957, the average income of America’s 44 million families (according to the United States Commerce Department) was $5,000.  There were actually 4 million families whose income was over $10,000.  There were also 6.5 million families whose annual income was under $2,000.  The vast majority of American families, 33 ½ million of them, had annual income between $2,000 and $10,000. ~Shmoop University, Inc.
In the 1950’s and even 1960’s most of us didn’t have fitness center memberships and if we did it, it was the YMCA.  Most of us drank water from the tap (faucet) for free, not bottled for a fee.  Most of our exercise came from walking almost everywhere, or doing chores round the farm or around the house.  We performed many of the physical jobs that are now performed by robotics also for exercise. My family treated the children to a hamburger or a ham sandwich twice a month, today a majority of children and adults eat fast food as much as twice a day. Hang in there, the best is yet to come…..

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