Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Large Harbour-Caught , Dressed Shad ... 18¢ and 25¢ a Piece !

When I was a boy, Momma would send me down to the corner grocery store
with a dollar, and I'd come back with a peck o' potatoes,
two loaves o' bread, three pints o' milk, a pound o' cheese,
a  packet o' tea, a hand o' bananas and a dozen eggs.
Ya' can't do that nowadays.
Too damn many security cameras!!!

This wee joke opens the door to a subject I've been wanting to address for many moons already........ the buying power of the dollar in "the good old days" ! Now the older I get , the more I find myself harking back to  "the good old days" ..... the 1930s and 1940s in my case .... and telling stories of how my parents scrimped by on very little and eked out a living on less  ....... "tirant le diable par la queue" or "dragging the devil by the tail"  as Quebecers put it. But we were by no means alone as all families in Pokiok squeezed by and made do with the meagre salary the breadwinner brought home every week. Socially and economically we were all on equal footing .... hard-working longshoremen , quarrymen , limeburners , soldiers , sailors , millmen , painters , carpenters , two lawmen , fishermen , labourers , etc ..... no bankers , oil barons or rocket scientists near or beyond The Crick in those days !

Rummaging through my Dad's old documents and papers after his death I came upon a number of old income tax returns from the early 1940s. His return for 1942 , for example , shows that during the previous fiscal period he had earned $ 1999.45 ....... and divided by 52 weeks would situate my Dad's weekly take home pay at roughly $38.00 .........and now I'll get tto the "nitty-gritty" , la raison d'être or the reason why for this post.

It seems that every time I begin relating my early childhood and youth growing up in Pokiok ... mentioning both the sweet memories as well as a few real sour ones ... the outhouse especially in winter , no running water , long treks to and from school , the scarcity of money , etc  .... that some wiseacre pipes up with , " Maybe so , but the dollar went further back then .... you got much more for a dollar in those days than you can nowadays !" ..... and to this I usually reply , " Objectively speaking you're probably right ... however , back then there were fewer of  them ( dollars ) to go around!"

Since it is a frequent subject of conversation ...... the value of money nowadays as compared to "back then" ,,, I have decided to let my readers make up their own minds. I went to our public library and consulted microfilm copies of the Evening Times Globe for May 2nd , 1942 ... roughly 70 years ago and coinciding with the year my Dad earned an average of $38.00 a week. Below the you will find  a cross-section of  ads from many food stores of the era ... Dominion Food Shops , Red & White Store , Barkers 5 Stores , MMA Stores , Garred's Fruit Store ( my favourite place for an ice-cream soda ) , United Thrift Stores , Stephen's Super-Market , etc .  In our own case my parents had a "running bill" with Gaults ( God bless Gerry Leonard ) in Indiantown , occasionally buying from Joyce's on Main Street ( God bless Cecil and Molly ) , Art McGuire's on Spar Cove Road ( God bless Art too !) .  So now you may grab your shopping cart and get your groceries for the week ! See how well you fare. However , please keep in mind your other monthly expenses such as heating and cooking year round  ( wood and coal ) , clothing , electricity , transportation , entertainment , upkeep and home maintenance as most families in my neighbourhood were still adding onto or trying to finish the interior of their homes. And to boot there were likewise a few miscellaneous but regular expenses such as .... like most parrochial-minded , church-going and God-fearing folks in the 1940s my Dad would always drop a $2.00 bill in the collection plate at Saint Peter's every Sunday ... thereby dropping his salary down to $36.00 weekly. Although it fell short of ten percent of his salary , my father believed in the principle of "tithes" and gave according to his means.


  1. Kathy Ruttan Mike CrandallDecember 5, 2012 at 1:07 PM

    Wow a 14 oz of Heinz Ketchup was 21 cents, a 75 lb of #1 potatoes was 1.99 and Baxter's Milk fresh daily from the United Thrift store.... It seems that you got more for your dollar in those days. I bought 3 Honeycrisp apples and it cost more than 4 dollars! I didn't notice any apple prices but 3 grapefruit was 23 cents....Those were the good ole days

  2. With my favourites , scallops and lobster at 29 and 45 cents a pound respectively it is evident you got more for a dollar in those days , Kathy. However , my query here is .... what percentage of my Dad's salary went for food on a weekly basis ? True that things were cheaper .... but number of dollars available fewer and hard to come by ! I'm sure that Ernie and Kay , Tom and Alice as well as Bertha and Freer experienced the same problems as we did.