Growing up in the 1940s and 1950s was quite an experience. The Great Depression was long over but its memories lingered on.
Losing their life’s savings in bank failure made many parents touchy when it came to money. I remember Mom and Dad telling stories of milk prices dropping to a nickel a quart (delivered) and buying pork chops four-for-a-dime.
All the news lately dealing with the economy might mean that it’s a good time to look back to those days of old when folks lived under the philosophy “a penny saved is a penny earned.”
In today’s world it’s common to see a penny laying on the sidewalk. Many people, especially the kids, won’t even reach for it. They figure it’s not worth the bother. Back in the 1950s, that penny wouldn’t have quit rolling before it was scooped up.
Even by then inflation had taken its toll as the dollar began to shrink. I can remember my parents saying, time after time, “I don’t know where it will ever end!” After all, pork chops had skyrocketed to 69 cents a pound.
Today’s kids probably won’t believe this, but there were nearly as many things to spend money on then as there is now. Bicycles had been long ago invented and candy bars were anything but new. Even though a bottle of pop cost a whole nickel, it was as big an attraction as soft drinks are today. The stuff was there it was just a little harder coming up with the funds for such extravagances back then.
Allowances existed but were in short supply. The average kid had to use a little creative imagination to come up with the cash for such luxuries as sweets.
One method was the same as it is today – only a lot tougher. This was long before throw-away anything so every bottle had its price. A pop bottle brought 2 cents while a milk bottle would fetch a nickel. Some bleach bottles would summon a whole dime.
That was the good news. The bad news was finding them. No one was crazy enough to toss an empty bottle in a ditch and most housewives guarded over their empties like they were gold. Although World War II was over scrap iron and tinfoil along with paper all brought a price but finding them was also a challenge.
No matter what method was employed to pick up a little spending money, yesterday’s kids were just like the young folks today – they spent it fast. For us it meant a trip to Mosey’s Cafe to either the candy display or the ice cream counter.
Buying candy was a real adventure. This was during the days when most of the candy still came in bulk. Container after container was filled with everything from wax bottles and lips, taffy, candy cigarettes, atomic fireballs ... the choice seemed to be endless.
When it came to the ice cream selection other talents came into play. It took a little patience and some good timing to do that right.
A single dip ice cream cone cost a nickel while, for the big spenders, there was the double dipper at a staggering price of 10 cents. That may not seem like a big deal now but back then it was like purchasing a Ford or a Lincoln.
Price was important but the real challenge was to know when to buy. If Stan Mosey was at the counter it was time to make a quick exit. The smart consumer would then hang around outside and keep a close watch through the big plate glass window until Mrs. Mosey took over then make a beeline for the counter.
It wasn’t that we didn’t like Stan, it was simply a matter of style when it came to the scooping of ice cream.
Stan’s technique was simple. He would reach down in the ice cream container, scoop up some ice cream, roll the scoop until the ice cream formed a perfect ball and then press it firmly in the cone.
Mrs. Mosey had a different style. She would run the scoop down into the ice cream until it was completely covered then force it into the cone. If a little fell out, she would retrieve it and stick it on top.
I guess the feeling of getting something extra for our money made it special. Sort of made us feel like we’d just hit a home run. We’d walk home with the cone in hand and a smile on our faces.
Ed Rood is the former publisher of the Tri-County Times.