Wednesday, March 24, 2010

TWO BITS: What's a Quarter Worth, Anyway?

ANOTHER LONG BLOG THAT I THINK IS WORTH YOUR CONSIDERATION.

A quarter dollar. Two Bits. What's it worth?

I had a reason to do research on what a quarter would buy today. Practically nothing! It might buy a "penny" gum ball from the machine; one token from Chuck E Cheese; and not much else. Don't believe it? Google it yourself. In 30 pages of information on "what will a quarter buy today" there was just nothing. Check it out.

So what, you may ask. For one thing, and no small thing at that, if you retired twenty years ago on a fixed income, the continuous loss of buying power which it brings about, at the least, will be a major change in one's lifestyle.

If you read my last blog on "SOUTH SEA ISLAND: A Sea Food Buffet" you might say that the effect on my lifestyle hasn't been too drastic. Well first of all, my good wife still works at a fairly well paying job. Secondly, my lifestyle has changed. Ask my grandchildren at Christmas time and they will inform you that it is not like in the good old days, like 20 years ago.

There are very few of us today who recalls the buying power of a quarter. What comes to my mind was two chili dogs and a 12 ounce Pepsi from "Rags Place", a hole in the wall in Point Pleasant, WV. Cost? A quarter.

Was that era the good life? Hardly! It was next to impossible to come up with a quarter. It was the great depression and unemployment was 25%. And, that figure was misleading. Dad was not unemployed. He was employed but only worked a few days a month. Several months he did not work at all, but he wasn't unemployed. The point? The unemployment figure was far greater than 25% in my opinion, just like it is higher than 10% today. In those days there was no such thing as unemployment benefits.

How difficult was it to get a job in those days? A large landowner, with land inherited from Revolutionary War grants, hired Dad and both of my two teen age brothers to cut corn for him. They worked in the morning from "when you could see" until the evening to "when you couldn't see". In other words from daylight to dark. I recall the joys in their faces when I'd show up in the field about noon with Mason jars containing beans with corn bread. I can still see Dad as he sat on the ground, rolled himself a smoke and drank the cold jar of coffee with canned milk. The pay? It was a dollar and a half for the day for the three of them.

Cutting corn is very difficult work that cuts hands and faces. Not only did they work without complaint, they were thankful for the buck and a half. Dad was big as a horse and a hard worker with two husky teenagers to help him. A lot of other men would like to have had the opportunity to make a buck and a half a day.

There was a lot of tobacco grown in our neck of the woods. My brother, Henry, also a hard worker when he worked, was hired to pick off the huge green tobacco worms. His pay? A dollar a week. That dollar was so important! A dollar would buy a 24 pound bag of flour. I once wrote it was a 25 pound bag and Henry corrected my error. It was important to him. With that bag of flour my Mom fed us. Dumplings into whatever she cooked, biscuits three times a day and, most memorable, gravy every morning, and maybe fried potatoes, to go along with the biscuits.

In those days you could go to a movie for a nickle and for another nickle you could buy a bag of popcorn. As a preteen who was fascinated by the horror movies of the day, so laughable today, my sole purpose in living was to somehow come up with at least five pennies during the week. Resourceful even then, I was successful about half the time.

Barefooted, with my five pennies, I'd walk two miles down the railroad track to "down town" and sit through the movie at least twice before walking home in the dark. Uh, yes, I was anywhere from five years old and upward. I'd go with my cousins, Bob and Junior Shirley and Ralph, Jr. was a couple years older than me. Walking by the stock yard in the dark with all the strange noises was more terrifying than the movie.

My Mom once traded her gold wedding band for a chicken to give to another family who had absolutely nothing to eat for Christmas Dinner.

A pet rooster, which I had given to me as a nearly drowned biddy, became the feast at Thanksgiving time. Mom named the little, nearly drowned biddy "Old Lucky" because she said "He'd be lucky if he lived". Live he did and quite well! As a six year old, I worked full time catching bugs and worms to feed that little white leghorn rooster. He followed me around like a dog. The family put it to a vote as to whether or not we should eat "Old Lucky". The vote was 5 to 1 for eating the chicken. What can I say? Tasted pretty good and I learned a lot about what life was about that year, what was important and what wasn't.

In 1989 I had a modern day vision of those difficult days in America when, with my wife and two sons, I travelled on a train from Vienna, Austria to Budapest, Hungary. The difference in life style when the train crossed the "iron curtain" into Hungary was vivid. The houses were shabby and run down. The people were poorly dressed. AROUND EVERY HOUSE, IN EVERY AVAILABLE PATCH OF GROUND, WAS A GARDEN. There were dirt roads and cars were few and far between while horses and wagons were abundant. There were piles of black coal for sale here and there. Just like America in the '30s.

IS THIS BLOG JUST A TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE OF AN OLD MAN? Not at all! What was can be again. Am I just being unduly fearful? I don't think so. I'm just not a fearful person. I hope for the best, prepare for the worse and I have always done well in life. I still do.

In a chat with my oldest son, Mark, yesterday he remarked upon my ability to look into the future and strategically plan for what will most likely happen. I informed him that throughout my life my position as a senior management person required that I be monitored and psychologically evaluated on a regular basis. Mark's assessment was confirmed when the Navy evaluated me as a 17 year-old radioman handling classified material and was repeated though out my 43 years of management.

I will soon start to work on being 80 and have hopes of another 10 years of life. Hope springs eternal, huh? I AM OF THE OPINION THAT IN MY LIFE TIME THE ODDS ARE AT LEAST 60/40 THAT THE UNITED STATES, AND THE WORLD, WILL RETURN TO THE DAYS OF THE 1930's!

In those difficult years the needs were basic, food and shelter with the ability to protect what you had from those who would steal it from you. Hunger, especially hunger in one's children, can turn a normally good person into a thief!

WHEN ONE CONSIDERS THE LARGE POPULATION THAT THE GOVERNMENT HAS MADE DEPENDENT FOR THEIR BASIC NEEDS, FROM HOUSING AND FOOD TO MEDICAL NEEDS, PROTECTING ONE'S PROPERTY WILL BE A CHALLENGE WHEN THE GOVERNMENT CAN NO LONGER SUPPLY THOSE BASIC NEEDS.

Remember the riots of the 60s and 70s or the more recent burning of parts of Los Angeles for no real reason other than hurt feelings. The police looked on helplessly, remember?

The tendency by most folks today is to consider such thoughts as being paranoid. Never in my life have I been paranoid. I'm a middle of the road guy and about as normal as Mom and Apple Pie. I just believe that the "spread the wealth" of today equals the devaluation of the dollar by Franklin D. Roosevelt. It didn't work then and it won't work now.

IF YOU PREPARE FOR THE WORSE AND IT DOESN'T HAPPEN, IT WON'T HURT. NOT TO PREPARE FOR THE WORSE CAN BRING DISASTER TO THE LIVES OF YOU AND YOUR LOVED ONES.

In the words of Spock, "It's just logical!" I say to you LIVE LONG AND PROSPER.

God Bless!

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