It starts off with a tilt of the head. At the same exact moment there is just the tiniest narrowing of the eyes and slight wrinkle of the nose as a jaw drops in what is universally recognized as the ‘huh?’ look.
That is an expression you will see on my face on a fairly regular basis as my son asks questions like, “Did they have TV when you were little?” Or, “Were there cars when you were a kid?”
The most recent jaw dropping question came as I was going through my research for the book I’m editing. CJ shows a surprising interest in my writing and wanted to know what the book was about. So I explained to him that it takes place in 1918, during World War 1, and told him some of the things that happened during that time.
“And you survived all that?”he asked in a stunned tone of voice.
Just exactly how old do you think I am, son?
To clarify, 1918 was ninety-four years ago! Even the guys in this video weren’t born then…
Apparently he doesn’t realize that there’s a big difference between loving history and actually being a part of history. If I know about it, obviously I must have lived it, right?
While I know that wages were much lower back then, it never ceases to amaze me when I see the prices those people paid for food and other things. And so I thought I’d share just some of that information with you.
The current prices are in this week’s sale ad from a grocery store I shop at, as well as the Monthly Labor Review of 1919:
Sirloin steak…40 cents / lb 2.09
chuck roast .27.8 cents 3.99
pork chops 36.7 cents 1.99
bacon 50.5 cents 2.50 (12 oz)
hens 37.9 cents 2.99 lb (breast filets)
quart milk…13.2 cents 2.99 gallon (.75 per quart)
butter (1 lb) .51 cents 2.99
cheese…33.4 cents 4.99 and 6.99 lb
eggs…42.4 cents dozen 1.50+ per dozen
1 pound bread 9.8 cents 1.50 loaf
1 pound flour 6.6 cents 1.59 (30+ cents per pound)
coffee 30.1 per pound 7.99 (store brand $4.00 pound)
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could see price tags like the ones from 1918?
It was more fun looking through the copies of the newspapers I have from that time though. Store owners announced sales – and sometimes even listed the exact number of each item available. Definitely a ‘while supplies last’ thing there.
50 Coats — 11 Suits –35 Wool Skirts
On October 17, 1918, ladies ‘White Milan Hats’ were advertised at $1.75 – $5.00. Unless they wanted ‘plain shapes,’ and those were going for $1.00 – $4.00. In this same ad silk hose was listed at .50 – $1.25, and ‘Bungalow Aprons’ from $1 – 2.00.
‘Nu Bru‘ was $1.75 per case…delivered, or $1.60 ‘Kash & Karry.’ The ad claims that it is ‘just fine for ladies.’ As far as I can tell, Nu Bru was considered a ‘near beer,’ and made right here in Michigan…thanks to Prohibition.
That year, to help the war effort, there were no ‘big’ fireworks going on around the country. In fact, one local businessman understood that it could be rough on the guys and suggested that if they really felt the need to light something, he would be selling ‘good cigars’ for a nickle. I imagine that really made up for missing out on a spectacular fireworks display. Wonder if their families sat close to watch the burning end of the cheroots?
No, they weren’t completely without options. Another ad promised small fireworks for no more than a dime apiece. Small crackers, torpedos (their spelling, not mine), snakes, sparklers, Roman candles, and small rockets. So the kiddos were able to enjoy those…while their daddies puffed away on five cent smokes.
The thing that I am most impressed with, however, is the ad for an Electric Ambulance Service. ‘Prompt, careful service with the minimum of noise and jar. Careful trained attendants who know how to care for all cases.’ Day Calls…$3.00, Night Calls…$5.00. One article I found, dated June 2011, stated that an ambulance for uninsured people could cost up to $1,200.00. A bit of a price increase, hmm?
I just love this stuff, don’t you? Some of the things I’ve read kind of make me wish I could have lived back then. On the other hand, when I saw the sale ad for a Mola Electric Washer, I’m just as glad to be alive in this century. (Fortunately I was able to find a website that shows just how ‘easy’ housewives had it with this invention.)
I couldn’t find a song about life that long ago, but this is a favorite of mine about life a couple of decades ago.