flips and gasmeters

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Thu Mar 8 22:21:46 UTC 2001

>... in the 1930s a man would work 12 hours of hard labor for a dollar
>("and be glad to get it, too,"...).

>  In 1940 you could eat lunch on a dime. ...

I'm reminded of a song by a favorite singer, Al Yankovic: "When I Was Your

"Worked in the coal mine twenty-two hours a day for just half a cent ...

"We were hungry, broke and miserable and we liked it fine that way ...."



for full lyrics (with a few typos).]

I think it's possible to exaggerate the effects of inflation. No doubt one
could eat lunch for a dime in 1940, just as one can for a dollar now. But
one might have expected to pay more like 50 cents for a middle-class
restaurant lunch then (compared with perhaps roughly ten-twenty times that
much now)  -- as in this menu from Buffalo, 1940:


The prices look different from modern ones by a factor of about 10-15 ...
maybe 20 if this was a fancier place. OK, even taking factor twenty ...
assuming a "flip" is a dime would give an offer in the song equivalent to
$4.00 now: the price of a good McLunch perhaps. Even in a poor neighborhood
would this offer between two gambling buddies be described as "killer" or
"great"? I think it's marginal or borderline at most. Assuming "flip" =
"nickel" or "penny" would give a current equivalent of no more than about
$2.00 or $0.40 respectively -- certainly outside the realm of "killer"

By the way, the minimum hourly wage in 1940 was $0.30 ... compared with
$5.15 now, I think: a factor of 17, probably a little less after tax effects.

-- Doug Wilson

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