Friday, March 16, 2012


   The other night, I was watching "Wheel of Fortune" with my wife. One puzzle was "Proper Name" - The answer was: "Billionaire Bill Gates". The contestant said: "Millionaire Bill Gates" and was wrong. She lost. It got me to thinking, which is a rare thing these days...

   I remember back when I was in my senior year of High School and contemplating going out into the world and becoming a "Working Man".

   I began asking my parents about the cost of living. You know, what does it cost for an apartment, car, gas, rent, food, electricity etc.? This was back in 1967 and things were much cheaper then.

   A one bedroom apartment back then was around $50 to $75 a month with utilities included depending on the neighborhood. A really nice furnished apartment might run as high as $80 per month.

   Gasoline was running about 18 to 20 cents a gallon. You could drive a car for a week on $3 to $5 (or less). My little motorcycle would run for a month on $2 worth of gas. (bliss!).

   Service stations, (where they would fill your tank, air up your tires, wash the windows and check the oil and radiator levels) would in addition to all of the services mentioned give you trading stamps.

   What? You don't know what trading stamps are? The two biggest were S&H Green Stamps and Blue Chip Stamps. They would give one stamp for each dime of your purchase. To increase sales, some stations would offer as many as 10-X stamps for a fill-up. that's 10 stamps per 10 cents of your purchase! (A penny apiece!)

   So what? you say... Well I'll tell you what!...You'd take the stamps and stick them in the collector books and then redeem the stamps for merchandise at the redemption centers or by mail through their catalogs. A sleeping bag would be, say... 4 books and perhaps a toaster would be 6 books. A great way to furnish your new apartment! Good stuff!

   Ground beef was 20 cents a pound and you could go to McDonalds and get a hamburger, an order of french fries and a soda for less than a dollar.

   I remember a little "Mom and Pop" hamburger stand near our home that made the best burgers in town. A double patty burger with thick slices of onion and tomato for 45 cents! They apologized to me once for having to raise their price to 50 cents because their costs went up for tomatoes.

   After all my research was done I determined that if I could find a job where I could bring home $200 a month... why, I could live like a king!

   At the time I was working part-time at a drive-in theater in the concession stand and as a ticket-taker. I brought home about $30 dollars a week so I had to move up to a better paying job. 

   The times being what they were - the '60s during Viet Nam and with the military draft still in place - I enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard. I wanted to follow my Father's example and join the Marines but he told me that it wasn't fun being a target and that there was less chance of me being shot at in the Coast Guard so I conceded and joined up. At one point during my enlistment I had to have my own apartment. I lived in a one bedroom apartment in San Francisco, just off Taraval Ave. and 50 yards from the Pacific Ocean beach and paid $87.50 per month. Try finding that price today!

   Four years later just before my enlistment was up, I was making over $400 a month with few expenses other than my car payment (1969 Volkswagen Bug) and my own entertainment.

   Fast forward to the present day. Gasoline in my town just hit $4.09 a gallon. It costs about $60 to fill the tank on my car, assuming that I fill it up before it goes dry.

   To go to the local cafe and buy a cheeseburger, fries and soft drinks for two (for my lovely wife and I) costs me between $25 and $30  dollars. Easily a week's wages back in 1967.

   Today's cost of living is breathtaking when compared to that of the 60s. If we knew then what we know now... we'd have probably just stayed in school longer to become plumbers or landscape gardeners or proctologists.

   I foresee that with a steady rate of inflation, in the next 10 years we'll all be millionaires... of course a Big Mac will cost $4,000 and an order of fries will be $2,500. A tank of gas will put us back $10,000 or more!

   Back during the late 70s and early 80s in Argentina inflation was so bad that they suspended the use of bank checks and credit cards. It was a cash only economy. A friend of mine told me that to go to dinner in a nice restaurant it was truly necessary to carry a briefcase or duffel bag packed with cash. Tipping was optional.

   The Geezer is on Social Security and even now has to watch his budget just to get by. So save your money for a rainy day. You might be able to use it as insulation in your walls or to stuff in your worn-out shoes because you won't be able to afford a new pair...


  1. Damn right. I remember those days ... and prices.

    You and I are outright blessed to have lived then, though. Because so much "quality of life" was so much higher. Do you remember just how good those Big Macs were? Not just the pricing, but what ya' got for it, too.

    And remember what real tomatoes look and taste like, regardless of a nickel more per?

    Everything's steadily cheapened in quality, while skyrocketing in costs.

  2. I agree. If you want a tomato that tastes like a tomato you have to grow it yourself. Remember that the Big Macs used to come in that little cardboard ring inside the box to keep all the deadly goodness from falling over?

    I posted this essay very much aware that I would sound just like my Grandmother who always started a lecture with: "When I was a kid, we had..."

  3. I remember when Mom and Dad raised my allowance (in High School) to $5.00 a week - I bought all my Christmas presents for everyone from savings, bought all my own books to read, any "entertainment" that I wanted (going to the movies etc.) and paid for most of my school clothes and supplies from my allowance - which I earned by doing dishes, making my bed, cleaning house, taking out the garbage, helping with yard work and by doing anything else that I saw that needed doing without being asked! The good old days!


I'd be interested to hear your comments. Thanks for reading The Geezer Guide!