Were They Really The Good Old Days

Probably more frequently then I realize, I find myself complaining, or at least grumbling about something of other because it doesn’t work exactly as I would have wished it to.  Often, it is something that I normally take for granted, like the car or the computer or the phone.  I never give any thought to what life would be like without them.  So, the other day, when I came across an article that described what it was like to live in 1910, I started to feel a little spoiled as well as surprised.  Here’s some of what I found.

There were only 8000 cars in the U.S. and only 144 miles of paved road.  If you were fortunate enough to own one, if fortunate is the right word, you went down to the local drugstore to buy your gas.  Hopefully, it wasn’t a very long drive as the maximum speed limit in most cities was 10 miles per hour.

The average wage was $.22 cents per hour and a normal annual income was between $200 and $400.  However, an accountant might earn as much as $2000 (a guess it paid to be the guy that kept the books) and a dentist could pull down around $2500.  And here is a scary thought.  Ninety percent of the doctors did not have a college education.  Probably had something to do with why the life expectancy back then was only 47 years.  The leading causes of death were Pneumonia or Influenza, Tuberculosis, Diarrhea, Heart Disease, and Stroke.  And forget about maternity wards.  Ninety five percent of the children were born at home.

If you have purchased groceries lately, here are are some prices that should get your attention.  Sugar cost $.04 per pound, coffee was $.15 per pound, and eggs were $.14 per dozen, and heaven forbid, canned beer and iced tea hadn’t even been invented yet.  You didn’t waste much time in the personal care aisle either as there was no toothpaste or deodorant back then.  In fact, only fourteen percent of homes even had a bathtub.

Today, we place a lot of importance on education as well we should.  But it has not always been a given that everyone had a chance to go to school. In 1910, two out of every ten adults couldn’t read or write.  Not a lot of people made it to high school and only six percent graduated.  Starts to make those doctors look a little better doesn’t it?

How far we have come in 100 years.  I’m sure if we transported back to that time, we would have somewhat of a problem coping.  I know I would.  What must it have been like to not be able to pick up the phone and order a pizza.  Not just because there was no such thing as pizza  But also because only eight percent of homes even had a phone.  Nope, on second thought, I’ll stay right here, thank you very much.  Make mine with extra cheese.

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About oldmainer

I am retired and live in southern Maine with my wife and two dogs. I started Oldmainer .wordpress.com as an outlet for my occasional opinions and random observations, with some poetry thrown in. I welcome anyone that wants to kick back and join me here on the porch, exploring all the gifts we have been given and the memories collected. Thanks for stopping by.
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13 Responses to Were They Really The Good Old Days

  1. quiall says:

    Back then they had the time but not the stuff. Now we have the stuff but not the time. Makes you wonder.

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  2. bgbowers says:

    Interesting read and food for thought. I’m in your boat on this, I’m grateful that we live in the 21st century vs 1910.
    Having said that, I don’t think that people (generally speaking) realise how dependent we are on electricity and supermarkets and everyday creature comforts, and i wonder how well we would cope if there was a global crisis of some sort. How many of us have lost touch with our basic survival nest incurs and skills?
    Good post, it’s got me thinking 🙂

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    • oldmainer says:

      I believe today’s society has already sacrificed many of it’s values and lives behind a thin veil of civility. Remove the veil and I think we could see the rapid growth of anarchy. We are not prepared to provide for ourselves without all the manufactured assistance we enjoy today.

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  3. I’m extremely happy to be living now Bob. It’s great to look back through rose coloured glasses, yet there are still parts of this ole world where people live in conditions similar to then. That makes me wonder.
    Laurie.

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  4. sknicholls says:

    My grandparents lived on a farm in rural GA and did not have a refrigerator or indoor plumbing until the 1960s. It was an icebox that the peddler delivered ice for. We took our baths in a #3 washtub on Saturday nights in the back yard. Grandmother was the best cook in three counties and it was all home grown. Her work was hard, but she slept well. She wrote letters every evening. Man what she could have done with a microwave and a computer. I could live that was, I just would not want to do it for long.

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  5. splitspeak says:

    I believe everyone is born in the right place at the right time. If I lived in that time, I may not have known what I am “missing”…perhaps? And also what would I be missing out on if I was born, say today…

    Love, Mehak

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    • oldmainer says:

      That is the key I think. If you never had it, you don’t miss it. I grew up in a household without a car or a phone and no bath facilities save a toilet. I never felt like something was missing because we never had them.

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  6. Theresa says:

    Wow! I’ll take the 21st century, thank you very much. We take so much for granted that the rest of the world doesn’t have even now.

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