November 3, 2014

What Happened The Year You Were Born?

Hard as it is for me to believe, I was born three score and five years ago- not quite like the Gettysburg Address but close. With constant change the only constant today, I thought it might be fun to look back 65 years ago. I wanted to see what things were like in May of 1949 and how different things are today.

The obvious technological advances are common to us all. My family didn't have a television until I was six, and that was a small black and white screen with all of three channels (with Howdy Doody being the most important).

Telephones were either a rotary dial  in the bedroom or a wall phone in the kitchen. There were both morning and afternoon newspapers and my parents got both.

During my early childhood the I remember we received milk deliveries a few times a week. Families were lucky to have one car; the first one I remember was a greyish 1949 Ford.
Supermarkets didn't exist nor did shopping centers or even strip malls. Small retail establishments lined the main street or were on the nearest corner. No one shopped on Sunday since nothing was open. Mom went shopping a few times a week because the refrigerator was small and food preservatives were pretty much unknown.

The #1 song on the radio in May of that year was Cruising Down The River by The Blue Barron Orchestra 

The Top Movie Stars included:

*Bob Hope
*Bing Crosby
*Abbot & Costello
*John Wayne
*Gary Cooper
*Cary Grant
*Betty Grable
*Ester Williams
*Humphrey Bogart
*Clark Gable

How about costs for things we bought?

A new house was $7,500
The average yearly salary was just under $3,000
The average minimum wage was 70 cents an hour
Milk was 84 cents a gallon though most folks bought the half gallon size

Bread (white only for most of us) was 14 cents a loaf
Gas cost 26 cents a gallon and the new car to put it in was $1,420.

And, in world events:

The Berlin Airlift ended in May, 1949.
Russia set off its first atomic bomb
Communist China was established
6,000 were killed in an earthquake in Ecuador
RCA built the first color television

NATO founded
The first VW Beetle sold in U.S. (my first car 18 years later)

What I found both interesting and important to remember were the rather momentous events happening on the world stage. We tend to think of today as a period of tremendous upheaval and uncertainty. But, 1949 saw a major  disaster, the atomic bomb "club" expanding to include Russia, and the establishment of a communist government in the most populous country on earth.

Maybe we can feel a little better about the state of affairs today when we look back and realize there have always been events and actions that can shake our world. 

You might find it fun (and educational) to do some quick and easy Internet research on the year you joined the human race.


  1. My first reaction was,' he surely can't be 85'! I'm guessing you meant three score (3x20) and five. Congratulations.

    1. You are correct, I am not that old...yet. As several have noted I meant three score and five. That line has been corrected! In my defense I had just watched a PBS special about Lincoln and the Gettysburg address, so........

  2. Bob,
    Enjoyed the read as I am one month behind you, with an April birthday! Minor correction, though. We are three score and five, not four score. A score is 20 years. :-)

    1. See comment above! The first thing that goes is the mind.

  3. I agree, even in three score and five, a lot has changed. But I've always thought that a lot more changed during our parents' lives -- airplanes, cars, radio and TV, telephones. Heck, B's grandmother who lived out in the country in Pennsylvania had no indoor plumbing until about 1960. When B went there in the summers as a girl, she had to use an outhouse. (One good result -- now many years later, she doesn't mind using those port-o-potties you see at fairs and football games!)

    1. Computers, cell phones, the Internet....have they changed our everyday life just as much as the introduction of radio, TV, planes, and indoor toilets? That is an interesting thought. I don't have an answer - I'm still working on figuring out how many "scores" in 60.

  4. Being just one year behind you, this brought back some memories. I remember milk being delivered, and a bread truck. I loved the old Ford's, and I am a huge VW fan. But, you're right to add the world events, to put things in perspective. The game changer, these days, is technology and how it effects those world events.

    1. I watched an excellent movie, Parkland, last night, about the JFK assassination. What was striking was a reminder about how long we had to wait for information. The TV networks didn't have confirmation of JFK's death for quite awhile after the fact. They just had reports from a radio station in Dallas but nothing official. The instantaneous, 24/7 nature of our society today changes everything about our world and how we react to things.


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