Friday, March 29, 2013

Zero to Sixty, Chapter 5. Four-Cent Stamps and Nickel Candy Bars

Living to be 60, along with inflationary trends, creates some interesting memories of prices of yore. I remember the purple Lincoln four-cent stamps—and the beautiful commemorative stamps, too. I routinely spent my 25-cent allowance on two comic books—which were all of 12 cents apiece. I remember riding in the car and seeing gas selling for 26.9 cents a gallon.

Of course, money was worth more, too. You got 50 cents an hour for babysitting and that was pretty useful cash. My brother and I would wash Mr. Kramer’s Pontiac LeMans every now and then and split his whopping $3.00 payment. Wow.

As a young man, I earned $1.65 an hour as a bike messenger in downtown San Francisco at the start of the 1970s. I could actually live on that.  A couple of years later, I shared a three-bedroom flat in the upper Haight-Ashbury neighborhood in San Francisco for $198 a month — total — not each.

It goes on and on. I’ve gotten used to spending two dollars for a cup of coffee (just the regular kind). Gas is more than $4.00 a gallon at this writing. I’m also used to earning the equivalent of around $45 an hour, too. I’m doing better, and the economy has, well, inflated.

This means that in my six-decades-old mind, things are supposed to cost a particular amount. While I can deal with four-dollar gas, sometimes a shirt at 75 dollars seems like just too much. But an iPod, which didn’t exist when I was growing up, can be whatever the price should be—there’s no basis of comparison. I do remember buying vinyl records at $2.98 at Long’s Drug Store and 45 singles at Earl’s Music in Concord for a whopping $1.00. By inflation’s standards, that single would be something like $8.00 today, right? You can buy a song on iTunes for 99 cents today, so some things are actually getting cheaper.

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