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Back in the 1950s

Small Town America

Where did You Grow Up?

Cars, trucks, trains, and planes all looked much different than today. Cars had great big fenders, and you couldn’t put $5 worth of gas in the tank. Eleven cents a gallon for gasoline. A new Cadillac could be bought for $3,500, a Ford or Chevy was only $2,500 or less. Houses were built with large wrap-around porches where neighbors could stop by and catch you up on the latest gossip. Highways were narrow concrete with spillways to drain water off the roadway. At night you would find a truck turned over where they had tried to take a sharp corner way faster than the vehicle could do. Drunk drivers were allowed to continue driving after multiple wrecks, unless they killed someone. 

Rural America has contributed much to what America is today, we still have too many drunk drivers. Illegal Drugs are available on many a street corner and schools are being destroyed by people who hate our country. Airliners are much larger and still crash, thus more people die in one crash.  Bananas by the stalk, sold for three to five cents a pound. Watermelons could be found for 2¢ a pound, bread was 10¢ a loaf, and garlic baloney was 29¢ a pound. Mom and Pop grocery stores have become rare since Walmart has come to many mid-size towns. Some people want to fight this change, thus personal services such as custom meat cutting, better choices, and grocery delivery. 

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No Self Service Gas
1960 Corvette
1960 Corvette $3,872 plus Options

Back in the 1950s, when a new factory come to town, people would line up for blocks to get a job that paid only 50¢ an hour. Retail stores had to raise their wages from 25¢ an hour or close their doors from their employees quitting to get double the money. Gasoline rose to 29¢ a gallon, thus inflation became the norm.

Remember names like Ben Franklin 5¢ & 10¢, Western Auto, Gambles, and IGA grocery? K-Mart, Jupiter, Montgomery Ward, MFA Grocery, and TG&Y are ALL gone with the winds of change.

1960 Corvette base price: $3,872 but no one bought the base model, fully loaded $6,447.25 plus tax. That was more than a good sized Cadillac 4-dr sedan.

Down in the Ozark Hills of south Missouri where I grew up, there were people still coming to town in horse drawn wagons. Several locals drove Model A Fords with hand-crank starters. The next town down the road had very active moonshiners, shipping hundreds of gallons to Kansas City every weekend.

Banker had a dog named Prince, he was a Boxer and earned extra dog food for refilling the town’s fire hydrants. We had an indoor movie theater that charged 15¢ on weekends and only 10¢ during the week. Our town was built along the railroad tracks, two beer joints, a liquor store that doubled as a pharmacy. There were three new car dealers, four filling stations, two grocery stores, and a Ben Franklin 5¢ and 10¢. Someone put in a Western Auto store, a furniture store, and two cafes that changed owners at least two times each year.

Old Red Car
dog on hydrant

What kept the town going was women teaching school, so their lazy husbands could go to the two beer joints and drink beer. Then go to the pool hall and lose what money they had left from their wife’s check. When they ran out of beer money they could catch chickens at the rate of 50¢/hour for the local chicken hatchery.

Some men and boys loaded hay bales in the summer, others did get jobs washing cars for the local dealers Ever wash and vacuum a dirty car out 2 for a dollar?

Oh Happy Day! a shoe factory came to town paying $4/8 hour day. People thought they had reached Heaven on Earth, $20/week. Then a clothing factory paying $1/hour came to the next town over.

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