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Why was the typical middle class American family able to live comfortably with a single breadwinner 40 years ago and today both spouses work and are barely able to make ends meet?

I wasn’t born until 1956. By 1959 my parents were able to save enough money to buy a small mom and pops store with a house attached. I believe it was around 14,000. Dad’s parents threw in a couple thousand also to get started and then we all prayed.

There were 7 of us. My parents and five kids. The house really wasn’t really big enough. But my brother hadn’t been born just yet, so we made it work. My brother was born in 1965. My dad and mom had a additional bedroom built in the basement for the girls.

My parents store was open from 6am until 10pm, every day of the year. Everyday. It never changed. There were no holiday hours. My mom opened the store early and then my dad took over by 11am. He’s the one who worked till closing. So I guess that’s about 11 hours, seven days a week. I had two older sisters and one older brother. By the age of about 11/12 they were working in the store for an hour or two. Nothing to long and not during hours that would normally be too busy. It was a mom and pops, so there was usually free time between customers.

There was no credit really. I think this is a key point. You could get credit to buy a house or to buy a car. Some stores offered a type of credit but not many people used it. Well, anyhow the only thing my dad put on credit was the house and store. By 1967, less than ten years the house and store were paid off. That’s the way he liked to do it. There was no question about taking out a second mortgage. Once it was paid, that was it. Deal done and never spoken of.

We also went to a private catholic school, because my dad had and he felt like it was important. So, he spent the money on that.

While I was growing up there was plenty of talk about the Great Depression. Both of my parents had weathered that storm. My mom’s family not doing as well. It was a tough time. They had to scrimp and save and maybe that is what helped them pay off the store and house, just knowing it could all be taken away.

My dad paid cash for all our cars and they weren’t the best of cars but he always bought new, because he didn’t want to buy “ someone else’s problems”

Business was good but by the mid ‘60’s most people were doing fairly well. There were many manufacturing jobs that paid more than what people are paid now. It seems like each small town had something in manufacturing even if it wasn’t a giant automakimg plant.

The pay was good. Most people in our town owned a house. Very few people rented. Mainly the people who rented were those who were saving for a down payment on a house. My sister was able to buy a house when she was 22 and single. She was a beautician, wasn’t exactly great at saving. She liked to party a lot on the weekends. She was still able to buy a home on her own salary. Houses were fairly cheap. I believe she paid around 20,000. She was making around $15/20 and hour depending what she was doing.

She could do three people an hour. I believe it was about 8 dollars a person but more for a perm or color. Woman at that time went once a week to a hairdresser. Business was good. Why? Because everyone was working and making decent money ….

Anyhow we all helped work in the store. My mom got to the point where she only wanted to open the store from 6am and then just work a couple hours. She also wanted to get her own job but she didn’t have to work. She did eventually get a job at my sisters and she liked it much more than the store. She didn’t have to use this money to pay bills. She called it her pin money.

I never heard one fight about money ever. My dad would get pissed if we didn’t turn out lights when we left a room and we definitely could not make long distance calls. Calling even 20 miles from homes was a big charge.

We had a tv in about every room. My dad was a sports nut. That being said there were only maybe 5 channels. It didn’t matter to us. We didn’t know anything different.

Pay was good. People had jobs. Sure there were some people who had less money and there were many more that had much more money than us. I’d say we were in the middle.

We never had food pantry’s ….people didn’t shop with food stamps.

There were some cases where people lost a husband and had it hard. It seems like others came to their rescue with a job or help. People were kind. We had thug types too but they didn’t last long. There’s very high accountability in a smaller town. If you were just trying to scam people …well might as well move because that wasn’t tolerated. They’d be shunned. Although I honestly don’t recall anyone who had to move.

Men could get jobs easily. The work was good and if that person put in some good work, they were definitely rewarded. Let’s say they got older and couldn’t do the physical aspect of the job. The owners would find some job at the company. Anything, just because they were so loyal to anyone who worked for them. This was expected. If a business treated workers poorly, that got around fast and they might be short on customers.

So …they acted decent and ethical. Waited till the worker was ready for social security. Had a party for them and gave them a watch.

Company’s are not accountable today. They fire people so they can make more money. Anytime they want. And we wonder why people are so angry and violent. We had unions and that helped too. You don’t know how bad this right to work is, until you’ve lived in a society that actually gives a crap about the worker. Most people felt secure, because they were.

People stayed in a company maybe their whole life. That’s the way it was. They both treated each other well, and company’s weren’t so damn greedy. It wasn’t all about money but it was about relationships to people and community.

I have to say it was a nice life. I loved it and it was America the Beautiful !

Obviously, we aren’t so accountable now in particular with computers and being able to do business in other countries and live here. People started outsourcing jobs. So, it sure became much much more about the money and much less less about relationships and community.

I’m not sure what all that money is doing for them, if they have no ethics. That’s the sad part. That’s why people are so depressed.

They don’t feel valued. The company has a big edge over the worker. It’s wrong to treat people that way. You don’t need religion to know it’s wrong.

Anyhow that was the great time 40 years ago. I wish people could time travel back because I think you’d love how wonderful life was with out all these worry’s about health care. Our doctor was 10 dollars a visit but it did finally go up to 35 and we felt like that was too high. Now it’s $180.00 for 15 minutes.

Prices are to high …like rent, and wages are too low. Very bad combo right now. I do have faith our newest generation will figure it out for the best. People over profit. That’s the most important thing I learned from growing up in the 1950’s. We were a society that was just taking baby steps from the Great Depression and it was people over profit. Money goes but people tend to hang around.

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