[Dixielandjazz] Money in Whiteman's day

Charlie Hooks charliehooks@earthlink.net
Wed, 25 Sep 2002 00:46:49 -0500

on 9/24/02 6:37 PM, Edgerton, Paul A at paul.edgerton@eds.com wrote:

> To make a valid comparison of the buying
> power of a pre-crash salary versus one from 1940 -- or from today -- one
> would have to factor in all of things people typically bought.

Well, Paul, I'm sure you're right about the best comparison featuring
everything, but "everything" is a bit hard to come by and would itself
involve much guesswork.  I chose the dry cleaning business because it exists
today in exactly the same form as back then, is used by people in about the
same proportion, and (most of all) because I know about it very well.

Bob Wills' Texas Playboys were paying well during the depression and had
guys off the Dallas Symphony working the show and glad to be there.  I
remember that during the war (WWII) "a bill and a quarter a week" was big
bucks.  My mother worked in a bomb factory for $50 a week (most women there
were making $35).  So my point was that $200 a week in the thirties was a
bundle, more like 5000 a week now.  Re-read the old Bud Schulberg novel,
"What Makes Sammy Run?" about Hollywood in the 30s.  The BIG PRINCELY
SALERY, the one that said you had Made It, was: 1500 a week!  Jesus!  My
wife makes 1400 q week teaching school!

So, if there's a "flaw in my logic," I don't see it yet.  Harry Truman said
during the early fifties that "there's no breakfast worth more than 35
cents" and he was right.  Multiply by 10 and 350 isn't far off the usual.
But in 1935, 36, 37--up until the war started, SUNDAY DINNER cost us 35
cents--chicken, mashed potatoes, another veg., and ALL THE HOME BAKED HOT
ROLLS YOU COULD EAT.  As a kid, I ate plenty!  This wasn't breakfast: this
was Sunday Dinner at the best resturant in a nearby town.

It's next to impossible to convey the value of 1930s money to modern folk--
(yet my parents were always complaining that "you're money just doesn't go
anywhere anymore.")  They were both born in the 19th century.  Yet a Texas
hamburger the size of a Burger King Whopper cost: 5 cents.  Four cents at a
place I knew in Houston at Travis and Fannin--only closed a few years ago,
if anybody (like Dixie Teel) knows it!  Two hundred bucks a week?  Man, are
you kidding?  That would keep your jaws chompin' forever!

Gotta shut up.  Making myself hungry, which I can't afford in modern money!
I'm paying it all to the tax guys who nab our inflated money-levels like
Democrats with a social ideal.  My parents paid no income tax at all--not
enough income.  But they could buy Sunday Dinner for 35 cents.  Go figure.

Inflation sucks,