Hell of a Guy

Do You Remember When It Only Cost a Penny?


I overheard that question at the grocery store in a conversation between two adults as a small child, glaring a bank of candy dispensers, begged his mother for a gumball that cost a quarter.  It made me think, and you all know how dangerous that can be.  The question I overheard sparked a host of memories and a quick nostalgia trip.

Yes, I remember.  I remember penny candy.  There was a little store just down the street from the elementary school I attended that offered a variety of penny candies to a wide-eyed clientele of elementary school children.  The store displayed a bunch of appealing, silly stuff like bright red lips made of a sweetened wax, and little bottles made of wax containing a sickening, sweet liquid – only God knows what it may have been – that you bit off the top of the little bottle and sucked out the concoction inside.  There were little Tootsie Rolls, jaw breakers, bubble gum and a host of wrapped confections that would have driven Michelle Obama up a tree with rage.  We loved it all.

Not far from where my family lived a house was being built.  It was a “Cape Cod” styled home, and my mother loved to drive by it on Sundays after church.  She called it her dream home.  This was about 1955 and as I recall the house was $15,000.  It was nice, but it was way outside the family budget, so we stayed where we were.  My folks finally sold the house we grew up in in 1995 having lived there for fifty-two years.  They paid $4000 for it in 1943.

In 1963 I bought my first car, a 1957 Volkswagen, for the exorbitant price of $600.  The VW had a ten-gallon gas tank, and it could be completely filled for under $3.00.  My girlfriend and I could go to a movie, have snacks and stop by a restaurant on our way home for some victuals all for less than $10.00.

On York Road in Baltimore there was a men’s clothing store.  “Eddie Leonard’s” sold “Joe College” clothing, the preppy fashion of the day, especially ties.  Students in my high school back in the late 50’s and early 60’s wore dress shirts and ties to school practically every day.  The really cool guys all had Eddie Leonard ties.  In the summer of 1960 I worked as an usher at the Senator Theater about a half block away from that store.  My first week there I worked for forty hours and made a grand total of $16.00.  When I got my week’s pay I made a beeline to Eddie Leonard’s and bought a regimental stripped tie for $2.98.  I was too cool in high school once I had my Eddie Leonard tie, though I looked a little weird wearing it every day the first week I had it.

Yes, I remember when gumballs cost a penny.  I also vivid remember accepting an offer to work for the Equitable Trust Company after high school graduation for the brain numbing salary of $40.00 a week.  I worked for the bank for 18 months in sort of a “pre-management” training program, provided I go to night school.  The mere thought of going back to school freaked me out, so I enlisted in the Air Force in September of 1963 where I was paid the grand sum of $30.10 a month.  In the good old days I bought my first house for $24,500 and paid $193.00 a month as a house payment when I was making just $9,000 a year.  Gasoline that year was $29.9 per gallon.  I traveled with my job and often stayed in less-than-classy hotels for under $30.00 a night, some as little as $18.00.  Oh, those were the days!

Not being one to live in the past, I love to occasionally visit it.  I remember when gumballs cost a penny.  I also remember when I didn’t have enough money to buy one, and have little interest in going back to “The Good Old Days.”

Today is The Best Day Ever… 

And that is all I have to say about that…

Next entry: Biloxi and the Beau Rivage… Previous entry: I Never Saw My Dad Eat Tomatoes…

Recalling how much things cost really makes me feel old sometimes. especially the price of gas. Good post, David!

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