The following was written by Guest Columnist Henry Peter Gribbin:
I was watching an episode of Mad Men on AMC a couple of weeks ago. The show follows the exploits of Madison Avenue advertising executives in 1960. In one episode, one of the account executives mentioned that he made seventy five dollars a week. One of the secretaries mentioned that she made forty five dollars a week.
I was somewhat surprised at the levels these people made. I was six years old in 1960, and I really had no idea how much money my father made at that time, but I remember that a couple of years later, when I was about eight or nine, I did receive one dollar a week in allowance.
Now, today’s young kids would sneer at receiving a dollar a week allowance, but I can tell you that if you were a little frugal, that one dollar went a long way. A trip to Isaly’s, a local store in Pittsburgh, got you a single scoop of ice cream for a nickel. A dime got you a skyscraper ice cream cone. Comic books cost a dime, and candy bars were a nickel. I remember buying a weekly bus pass for one dollar (not my allowance), and if I wanted to go to Forbes Field to watch a Pirates baseball game, a ticket in the left field bleachers cost a buck. I would save up for a couple of weeks so I could have a hot dog and coke while watching the game.
I also remember doing a little chore for my father when I was a young kid. Right up the street from our home was a Sun Drug store. It was a pharmacy with a lunch counter, and they also sold cigarettes. My dad used to tape a quarter to a note which said, “Please give my son a pack of Camels.” The sales clerk would read the note, and then take the quarter and give me a pack of Camels. Imagine trying to do that today.
I do not remember when things started to get expensive. It had to be in the 1970’s I guess. But people started earning more, and I do not think that people want to go back making the wages workers made in the 1960’s. However, I think any kid would want those nickel ice cream cones to come back. I know I would.