Friday, April 16, 2010

A Nickel - What would it buy in 1941?

Hey, Y'all,
Well, we are halfway through the alphabet now, and to the letter "N". I got to thinkin' about the letter N and what could I write about, and all at once it came to me, (with the economy now in the toilet) what we used to could buy for a nickel back in 1941, when the economy was beginning to improve a little. I remember hearing the old song about the fellow who was living on the streets and begging for money. The song I am thinking about came out somewhere around 1930 (I think) and it went something like, "Mister, can you spare a dime?".

The question right now though, is, "What could you buy for a nickel in 1941?". I remember when a loaf of light bread was a nickel. We would walk to Ridley's store in New Town ( a part of Knoxville that we lived in) and buy a loaf for that. We expressed outrage when later it went to seven cents, and later on even nine cents a loaf.

One could also buy a cup of coffee at the Blue Circle for a nickel, along with a ten cent hamburger. Hot dogs, ready to eat, could be bought for a nickel as well. You could stop in at the Walgreen's drug store and buy an ice cream cone for a nickel. (That was when they had a soda fountain, and you could buy a Scarlet Nectar fountain drink for a nickel. Yum! those were really delicious!)

By the way, I turned eight years old in 1941, so I remember well what could be bought for a nickel. I did not get my hands on very many of them, BTW, so memories of what they could buy remain in my old noggin.

You could get a 12 ounce Pepsi Cola for a nickel as well. I remember a lot of radio jingles from way back. One of them went, "Pepsi Cola, hits the spot; twelve full ounces that's a lot, twice as much for a nickel, too; Pepsi Cola is the drink for you; Nickel, nickel, nickel, nickel." The Coca Colas were only 6 ounces for a nickel.

When you went to the grocery store, you could purchase along with your nickel loaf of bread, a hunk of bologna for just a nickel, and a big Baby Ruth candy bar for another nickel.

At the post office for a nickel, you could buy two 2-cent stamps and a penny post card.

Newspapers were three cents a copy, and you would get two cents back that you could buy enough candy to share with a friend. (They had penny candy, you know).

I know this sounds like a fairy tale, or some such thing, but not so. Money was just as difficult to come by back then as it is now.

Back in 1943, my brother, John, and I had done some chores around the house and it was close to Christmas. My mom, who along with my dad, were working regular again, what with the war effort, gave five dollars to John and me for spending money to buy presents from us to everyone in the family. By that time, my oldest brother was in the service, along with my next oldest brother, both serving in the Pacific Theatre of Operations. My oldest brother was married and had at least one child by then. We had another brother, Hugh, and a sister, Margaret. So there were a whole bunch of people that John and I had gifts to buy for, including each other.

John and I walked down to Washington Avenue and went into Schubert's five and dime to buy our gifts. We each had two dollars and fifty cents to spend. You should have seen us, checking the prices on each item we looked at. I know the employees there had a lot of enjoyment watching us (maybe a lot of worrying that we might shoplift something, too, who knows?). Anyhow, it was a neighborhood five and dime, so I am pretty sure they knew us. They went to the same church we did, too. Believe it or not, we found something for everyone in our family and maybe had a little change left over too. It was something for us both to remember for the rest of our lives. Now everyone is gone that would remember that, except maybe for my sister-in-law, Mae, who is Bill's widow. I am the last remaining sibling, and I really miss them. I am now the "keeper" of many memories we all had in common. That is one reason I want to share them with others, my friends and family.

Well, that is about it for today, folks. I look forward to reading your posts and 'catching up' on what I didn't get a chance to read yesterday. Yesterday was our day to go to Knoxville and spend a goodly part of the day with Mae and Imazo, Hugh's widow". This is Blabbin' Grammy signing off for today. Much love to each of you. Bye for now. More later.

P.S. We had an ice box instead of a refrigerator during those days, and the ice truck would come down the street, delivering ice. They supplied a card that the customer would put into the window to indicate how much ice the customer wanted. It had a number on each side of the card. If I remember correctly, it had the numbers like 15, 25, 40, and 50 or some such, and whatever amount you wanted, that was the number that you turned to the top. The fellow driving the truck would see it, and stop the truck, use the huge tongs to break the ice chunks apart and then use them to carry in the ice to put into your ice box. Even after we moved to the country, we had ice delivery, because we had no electricity for the first two years out here. My goodness, isn't it funny how much one can remember when some memories trigger others?

Well, I really am leaving now. Catch you later, you all.



Hi Ruby, another excellent post , it was surprisng what a nickel could do whay back when,
It's the same here, to go to the public toilets on stations cost a fortune..

Have a lovely week-end.

Anonymous said...

I just found your blog the other day through Tossing it Out. I really enjoyed your post today. It is truly amazing what a nickel could buy then! My grandmother used to sing jingles to me when I was a little girl. (She was born in 1920) She actually sang the Pepsi cola one to me, as well as a Dr. Pepper jingle, I remember it going like this:

Ring a ling a ling, bringing joy across the land, Dr. Pepper. And if you want to lead the band, call for it today. In the great exhaust, you'll enjoy life more; remember Dr.Pepper time at 10, and 2, and 4.

Do you remember that one?

I am going to read back on your blog, I love hearing stories about the good old days. :) That is what I miss most of my grandma, her stories!

By the way, I live in Knoxville, my husband is a PhD candidate at UT. We have 4 children. Very nice to "meet" you!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Back when five cents went so much further. I think when I was real little, postcard stamps were still only five cents. Maybe it was ten? Sorry, my memory is not as good as yours!

Shannon said...

I was back in the 40's there for awhile, you have such great memories to share, so glad I met you friend!

Linda said...

I love your stories. My mother would have been about 28 or 29 in 1941. She told many stories about growing up in Texas during in the 1920's and 30's, practically none of which have been written down. You have inspired me to try to remember what I can and get it in print.

Grammy said...

My pleasure to write something you all enjoy! Many of my memories bring on other memories to me when I write them down> You all are my inspiration!

Beth said...

What a wonderful N post and amazing memories. I remember finding a penny on the sidewalk when I was a child and rushing to spend it at the candy counter of the corner store. So many things have changed since I was a child.

Calfkeeper said...

My mom used ot sing the Pepsi jingle to me when I was younger, so I remember it too, just not first hand.

How much did gas cost in the 40s? Lots cheaper than now I would assume.

Another great blog post!

Anonymous said...

I remember when the ice man came to our house and we bought a big block of ice for fifteen cents and it lasted for days in the ice box. I remember nickel cokes, too, and the soda fountain at Walgreens. Everyone went to the counter and ate back then. There are still a few drugstores with counters around here today! Have a great weekend. TN said...

Hi Ruby, enjoyed reading about the nickel. I remember when cokes were a nickel. when they went up to six cents, we thought it was terrible. It was hard to get that other penny. My daddy always owned a store when we were small. But we had to "pay" for everything we got/ We used to sell him eggs (from his chicken house) He would give us a nickel a piece for them. Then we would buy a candy bar or bubble gum. Some days we would go to the chicken house many times to gather eggs. Good memories.

Marjorie said...

I just love reading about how things used to be. It gives a little perspective in these times. I just loved this post. Keep on Blabbin'!

Ellie said...

You have a wonderful memory and wove this so well! My Mom tells me what is was like and what they could buy.
She was born in 1940. Amazing!!!
I love hearing about those days!

Lisa said...

Take me back to those days! I would love to have lived back then when things were much simpler AND cheaper!

arlee bird said...

Yes the memories. Mine go back more to the early 60s and even then you could get a good bit for a nickel or dime. I used to get a quarter weekly allowance and it seemed like that would really stretch out.

I never really lacked for anything growing up, but now I look and realize that I have so much more than my parents had. Things may cost more, but there seems to be more money and more stuff in my house-- even in these hard times.

We are indeed a blessed nation.

Tossing It Out

Tori Cooper said...

Wow! Nowadays you can't buy much of anything with a nickle. I guess it's all relative. I want you to know that I find your stories quite fascinating Ruby! Keep em' coming! :-) I love reading about your sweet memories! Looking forward to many more! Love Tori!

Patricia Stoltey said...

You tell the most wonderful stories. Ruby! I was born in '42 so my best memories begin when I started school, a country grade school with only 5 kids in my 8th grade graduation. I still remember those small Coca Cola bottles for a nickel.

Trudy said...

Ruby, you have a wonderful memory to be able to recall all of the things you could purchase for a nickel! It's funny how it all seems like such a steal to us now but it really was quite relative at the time.

A great and informative post!

Ted said...

I love your stories! It's very interesting. It's good to know about the answers of this question you posed: What could you buy for a nickel in 1941? Well, the economic downturn is getting obvious. However, the only way to survive is to keep going and work harder.

I can relate this post to nickel alloys that are used to make coins or magnets. It's the best object that can be associated with money and fun. I can't help thinking about lots of coins and magnet toys for my little nephews and nieces this coming holidays! Thanks for sharing!

patrickb said...

My 11 year old just asked me what 15cents could buy in 1941 (date of Pearl Harbor) and we found your blog. Great story. Did you ever read the children's book by William Steig "When everybody wore a hat" your story reminds me of that. Keep the up the work!- Marcia

Anonymous said...

I know this comment is coming at a really late time after your initial posting, but this is super handy for the novel I'm writing. :)

Johnnygo73 said...

Grammy, I just stumbled in to your blog. What a treat for me. I will be 80 coming Nov. 18. I have allot of the same memories. Fun looking backwards. I wish you well.

Patricia Reed said...

Wow, I just found a nickel from 1941 in my change purse and it got me thinking. I knew it was during ww2 and it got me thinking, what would this little coin have bought for someone back then. I remember grandma telling me how she used to give my uncle a nickel for every math exam he brought home that was a solid B or better, so he would pay attention in school.

I think I will save this coin and give it to my little brother because he loves history. Thanks for the trip down your memory lane! Hope you are well!

Johnnygo73 said...

I enjoy all the stories and comments. I will post a few later. I am well and still working my trade at 79+ but I will start prostate cancer treatment this coming Thursday. Not full blown. I hope you all are well. Place me on your prayer lists.