July 12, 2023 at 6:35 a.m.

Prices in 1952, in 2023, and Inflation

By DAVID WEBSTER | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

My mom has been going through papers collected over 94 years. She is actually throwing a few away even though every paper in her many files is of importance in some way. Of course, there are many things around her home that cannot be filed in a folder which have much meaning to her, too. She will look at it and give the reasons why. If it was a gift, she will name the person. There was one paper of high interest to her and to me. Mom had put down the price of certain items in 1952: gas at $0.16/gallon, electricity at $6.03/month, doctor visit at $4.00. It was the year I entered this world with prosperity in the United States strong. Mom kept on asking the question, “Can you believe it?”

Mom had just shared how a utility bill had increased 50 percent. The company had requested more but, through negotiations, had settled for less until a later date. In the late 40s, Dad and Mom depended on their own well water on the farm which my dad had located through the art of water dowsing, an act I witnessed often. Well water was free! They initially didn't even have electric bills because it was not in their area then. They woke up with the sun and went to sleep as darkness settled in. And our bathroom was located in the outhouse. Their first car was a Ford 8N tractor, $1,350 with plow, which was a priority for the farm. They could not afford a car and a tractor; they visited neighbors by tractor! Would Mom want to return to those days? No! Would she like more reasonable bills in 2023? Yes!

There are many others who would appreciate lower bills. How often do we hear that there is no choice due to the inflation factor? What can the consumer do? That's a good question. A better question might be: What can companies do?

My wife is consistently coming home from the grocery store in a disbelief state of mind with comments like the following:

“I can't believe how small this package is now.”

“The package is the same size, but I can't believe how much smaller the item is now.”

“I can't believe how much I am spending for groceries.”

“Will proportions return and prices come down once inflation is over?”

I put in an order for food and a small ice water at a restaurant with a drive-thru, but was somewhat shocked when seeing $0.75 for the medium cup of ice water.

And just when I am thinking there is no hope, no sensitivity to the inflation pressure felt by the consumer, a CEO shows up at my door with bakery items after receiving my letter of concern saying: “We can do better; we must.” And I am convinced this company is earnestly trying to help clients.

Mom's gutter came off of her country home. I put a tall ladder up thinking I could fix it but realized such a job would be a mistake on my part when looking at the gutter problem and the ground many feet below. We contacted a small, local gutter company who came to our assistance. They took care of it and stated: “There is no charge. Neighbors should help neighbors.”

Our refrigerator had a minor leak in the water line. I called a former student who took time out of his busy schedule to come over and quickly take care of the issue. Afterward, he said: “I can't charge you for that job Mr. Webster.” I knew what he would say because of hearing those words before and was prepared as I handed him a restaurant gift certificate.

Yes, there is hope, and I witness it all the time in Hope, Indiana where neighbors help neighbors! And I hope to hear more often the words: “We can do better; we must.”