There is nothing more likely to evoke waves of nostalgia about the “good old days” than the subject of everyday prices back then.  For older Americans, the prices of yesteryear seem permanently locked into their memory banks.  Back then, life was better and the living easier in part, they declare, because everything cost so much less.  There’s no disputing that; never mind the effects of inflation and the significantly larger paychecks and incomes that folks now receive and the fact that these so-called “cheap prices” were not perceived that way at the time.  And don’t bother bringing in the issues of quality.  They’re not buying such “explanations”.

Let’s just talk about the prices – then and now.  At which point they launch into a parade of prices from the past, beginning inevitably with the penny.  Penny candy.  Remember the candy dots on paper?  Also, the wax syrup bottles and candy cigarettes and pretzel rods.  So much pleasure for so little.  Candy bars five cents.  Same for a Coke and a cigar.  Newspapers moved up from three to five cents.  Movie admissions for kids was 15 cents, and for a few cents more you could put a gallon of gas in your tank or a quart of milk in your refrigerator.  Because of such prices life seemed simpler, more manageable.  Today they are sky high, so something went wrong along the way.

As you grow older, you adjust.  You accept the fact that prices have increased for any number of reasons.  However reluctantly you pay them.  Still, there are people who won’t yield or who will pay what they consider to be “outrageous” prices only under extreme duress.  How can it be that a regular cup of coffee, once available at five cents now costs over two dollars at the local luncheonette?  To spend over $30,000 for a car makes no sense to them, since at one point in the past under a thousand dollars got you one.  They will stay away from movie theaters where eleven dollars (not 30 cents) represents the general price of admission.  Better to stay home and watch TV.  And on and on.

Recently, when I mentioned to a friend, clearly my senior, that I was going for a haircut, he asked what it costs.  When I told him he stared at me in disbelief.  He had grudgingly, I’m sure, accepted over the years increases in haircut prices.  Still, he proudly disclosed that it cost him one quarter the price I was about to pay.  What was left  unsaid, but clearly implied – “Whats this’ new generation coming to?”

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