THEN and NOW 1912—2012
Just for the thought-provoking fun of it!
By: J. Marlando
We are now twelve years and a few months into the new millennium. A hundred years ago people were saying they were twelve years and a few months into the new century. There’s simply something exciting about being around when a major change on the calendar occurs. After all, we celebrate every New Years to usher out the old and bring in the new. The new is not always good of course. 1912 is the year the Titanic sank but, on the other hand, it was also the year that Oreo cookies were launched and both Arizona and New Mexico became states. 1912 was election year and the candidates for president were Teddy Roosevelt, who incidentally was shot in the chest while orating but spoke for another 80 minutes after that. Well, as said, he was quite a tough old bird. The other candidates were Eugene Debs—running for the Socialist Party and Woodrow Wilson for the Democrats. Wilson won that year and Taft was out of office after only one term.
In 2012 kids are still eating Oreos but often while being tutored over the internet. Computerization remains at the root of the most amazing technology ever thought possible—smart bombs to smart phones—in 2012 it is virtually possible to never leave the house since you can do everything from shop on “line” to pick and choose a candidate for marrying. Indeed, we can charge stuff and pay our bill electronically! And, thanks to computer science, we have a lot of our farming equipment being operated from satellite these days—while manual labor was king in 1912 it on its way to being obsolete in our times! After all, we have assembly line robots and mechanical ditch diggers to replace muscle and blood workers. In our times we have so many amazing technologies including pilotless planes with some the size of a butterfly. In 1912 it was quite a journey to travel from Denver to Chicago but in 2012 we are no longer very impressed even by folks rocketing off into orbit. In 1912 we Americans were becoming the leaders of the Industrial Age but in 2012 we Americans are anticipating a launch into the new frontiers of the Space Age.
When we think of 1912 and 2012, I think it is also important to give some reminiscence to 1961 because the early 1960s were most virtually the half way mark between the two decades. For example, in 1912, ladies dresses rose from floor length to slightly above the ankle—a daring transition for those times. After all, before 1912 a lady who showed her ankle had always been thought to be cheap and brazen. In 1961, however, the mini skirt was just around the corner and today there’s nothing new or shocking about seeing nudity on the TV screen in one’s own living room. By and large, sex and violence have replaced story and character in filmmaking. The major feature film in 1921 was a silent import from France with title—Queen Elizabeth; a boring, pomp of a picture but no ankles were exposed. In 1961 the big hits were West Side Story and The Hustler with Paul Newman. In our times Avatar and Iron Man were big box office so, these days, if “they” make one or two pictures a year that are actually memorable on the human level we’re lucky…and surprised! (We shudder to think what the movies will be in 2112 and offer that they might well be holographic experiences).
How about the cost of living?
In 1912 the average income was $1,033
In 1961 the average income was $4,743
In 2012 the average income is $41,673 (Lots of people earn a whole lots less!)
In 1912 A gallon of gas was 7 cents.
In 1961 a gallon of gas was 27 cents.
In 2012 a gallon of gas is $3.50—$4.50.
In 1912 a loaf of bread cost 5 cents.
In 1961 a loaf of bread cost 23 cents
In 2012 a loaf of bread cost $375—$5.00.
In 1912 a quart of milk cost 9 cents.
In 1961 a gallon of milk cost 49 cents
In 2012 a gallon of milk cost $2.75—$3.50
In 1912 a dozen eggs cost 34 cents.
In 1961 a dozen eggs cost 57 cents
In 2012 a dozen eggs cost $3.00—$5.00
In 1912 a medium priced home cost $2,750
In 1961 a medium priced home cost $17,200
In 2012 a medium priced home ranges between $250.000 and $550.000
What makes the U.S.so difficult in modern times is not only the high price of daily living but there is simply more to buy, more we assume is essential to having. In 1912 going shopping meant going out to purchase the essentials. Grocery stores back then stocked a few can goods, milk, eggs, coffee, tea, flour, sugar and not a heck of a lot more. Today supermarkets stock isle after isle of items with thousands and thousands of choices. Department stores are as vast. In 1912 most people walked to work and cars were considered a luxury. Ford had not even created his assembly line yet. Today for nearly everyone cars and/or trucks are essential. Then we have advertising—those TV commercials that tell you can be more beautiful, slimmer, healthier if only you buy this or that and so the cost of living goes up and up and up. For example, A household without a TV is all but unheard of and, these days, the computer is necessitated in most households.
In addition, in 1912 credit was always a last resort—the idea was if you couldn’t pay cash for something, you didn’t buy it. Today credit is encouraged and over debt has become common place. In 1912 the goal was to live within one’s means. Today most people live beyond their means until it catches up with them and…it always does!
There’s something else to consider however:
In 1912 life expectancy was men 48.4 years and women 51.8 years
In 1961 life expectancy was men 66.6 years and women 73.1 years
In 2012 life expectancy is men 75.42 years and women 81.75 years
I have a theory about this however. In 1912 the cost of a funeral was a couple of hundred dollars and if a person was broke he or she was buried free in what was then called Potters Field. Today a “decent” funeral costs thousands of dollars so what I’m thinking is, because of the high cost of living not many people can afford to go.