It’s hard to believe that someone could buy a “Modern Home” out of a catalog in 1934 for $1,092.00 as indicated in this week’s “Scrapbook” on pages 4 and 5 of the print edition.
Of course, that was for the materials to build the home, so, unless the homeowner could do all of the work, putting all the pieces together to finish the two story home would have cost more than the initial price listed.
However, it is still hard to fathom that, 89 years ago, a person could buy all of the materials needed to build a two story home for a little over one thousand dollars! Of course, workers’ paychecks were a lot less back then than they are now which made the $1,092.00 price seem a whole lot bigger back then that it does today.
I wasn’t around 89 years ago but home prices even 60 years ago, when I was around, were still fairly low — along with wages that were paid. A person could rent a pretty decent house for $50 to $65 per month in the early 1960s. While that seems really inexpensive, a lot of people were working for $1.00 per hour which was considered a good wage. Caterpillar in Decatur was one of the highest paying entry level companies in the area with sweepers starting at $1.95 per hour.
As a teenager I worked for several farmers in the Central Illinois area and was paid anywhere from 50 cents to $1.00 per hour. I felt I had it a lot better than my dad did during the Great Depression when he worked all week on the farm for 25 cents!!! That’s hard to imagine.
• WHEN I bought my first house in Hammond (20 miles east of Decatur) in 1964, it was a 3-bedroom ranch for $6,500! Payments, including interest, were $51.00 per month on $5,000! My uncle, who was a contractor and built the house, let me pay him in monthly payments for the rest of the loan of $1,500. Back then, you could buy a nice ranch house in Decatur for $12,000.
When my wife and I moved to Decatur in 1969, we bought a house in The Elms, a great neighborhood between Water St and MLK (then Broadway) just north of Garfield. Our house payments increased to $100 per month and I hoped the payments wouldn’t be too burdensome. I drove through The Elms the other day on my way north and the homes on Central Drive look about the same as they did when we lived there until we moved in the early 1970s. That’s a special neighborhood and I like the style of the homes there. I haven’t checked but I’m sure the homes are a lot more expensive today than when we lived there.
We moved from The Elms to a home we purchased on the northside of the city — and several years later moved to the southside of Decatur. Every move resulted in paying a higher price for our house — and the real estate taxes also increased.
Sometimes, when we talk about the price of everything in the “good old days” it is well to remember that wages were ridiculously low by today’s standards and, even though the prices were low, the percentage of worker’s income that was spent on housing, cars and food was not too different than today’s percentages.
• BOW WOW! I was heading to the downtown parking lot where I had left my car on one of those hot mornings last week when a woman was in the lot with her dog. When the dog saw me, he positioned himself between me and my car and moved towards me barking and showing his teeth! The woman seemed unconcerned by the dog’s menacing actions towards me (snarling, showing his teeth and preparing to take a bite out of me) when the woman said, “Oh, he won’t hurt you. He’s very tame. He doesn’t bite!”
The last time a person told me her dog didn’t bite — he bit me! I’m not sure the dog understood that he didn’t bite people. I also thought that he may have read something in the Tribune that he didn’t like and was going to give me a “biting” opinion of his own! I decided that I would walk the few blocks to where I was going — even though the “feel like” temp was over 100 degrees.
I’m finding more and more dog owners do not have their animals on a leash which is a city ordinance. A leash not only keeps a dog from biting people and getting the dog owner sued, but it protects the dog from getting hurt by traffic in the downtown area and some other harmful situations. Observe the leash law. Thank you.
• CROSSWALK — As I have written in this column so often, the streets and roads seem to be filled with drivers who don’t pay any attention to traffic signals, speed limit signs, or anything else relating to safe driving. I’m not sure why, but I’ve noticed an increasing number of motorists pulling their vehicles up to an intersection and, while they are waiting for the traffic signal to turn green, stop their vehicle directly over, or even past, the designated pedestrian walkway! Sometimes, they are so far into some intersections that cars making a turn in front of them have difficulty getting through. Even before the traffic light turns green, some of these drivers are moving their cars slowly forward! Some of the heavily-traveled intersections where I’ve seen this happening is at South Main and Wood Street (in front of the county office building), South Franklin and Wood Street and the second stoplight south of the Route 51 Lake Decatur bridge. (That’s also known as the Korean War Veterans Bridge having been dedicated as such years ago.) I guess “driver impatience” is a reflection of what the whole nation seems to be afflicted with these days. Our “politics” and “wild drivers” have lot in common.
• I WON’T JOIN Brian Byers on WSOY’s Byers & Co. this Thursday morning at 7:00 because Brian and the crew are broadcasting from the Farm Progress Show in Decatur. I will be back next Thursday at 7:00 for our regular weekly discussion on the people and issues impacting our community. By the way, thanks for all of the cards, emails and letters of support following the printing of the vicious anonymous letter about my weekly appearance on the show and what we discuss. Linda Hutton’s “letter to the editor” (Page 2 of print edition) is especially interesting because she makes the point that the anonymous letter, designed to throw some hate at me, actually caused more people (including her) to tune in to my Thursday appearance on WSOY’s Byers & Co. program for the first time. Thanks to the anonymous letter writer who hated me, Brian Byers and my part on Thursday’s program, for increasing even more the high number of listeners the station has tuning in to its programming!
• COOLER — I’m sure the folks at the Farm Progress Show are breathing a lot easier this week because the weather is cooler. Last week, with its 118 feels like degrees on Thursday, would have been a challenge for those participating and those attending the event. As I’m finishing this column, the weather forecast for this week’s 3-day run of the event (Tuesday-Thursday) could not be better — with highs in the 70s and 80s. For the end of August in Central Illinois that’s about as ideal as it can get weather-wise.
• A VERY HAPPY Labor Day to all of you. It doesn’t seem possible that we are heading into September. The years seem to fly by so quickly.