Changes in the early years

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The ’30s and ’40s brought about a lot of changes in our way of living, our nation, and in the family income. The 1930s had given us the depression, but some progression was coming into the way things were in our country as the ’40s came into sight. 

 The depression  brought unemployment to 25 percent of the population. During this time the annual  family income fell some 40 percent, from an average of $2,300 to $1,500. In 1935 the Social Security Act was passed and put into action to ensure an income for the elderly. This grew into such an amount of capital buildup that the interest earned on this account was far more than what was being paid out, so in the early ’50s Congress voted to put the Social Security money  into the national budget. That may have led to our current problems with the income for our elderly from that program.

The 1940s saw some changes as the nation approached the war years and the unemployment percentage began to fall. Things were looking a little better as the decade started; the minimum wage had risen to 43 cents an hour, and yet many people worked for a dollar a day, when they could find work. The national debt had risen to 43 billion and the government was creating jobs for workers with the CCC camps and the WPA. World-wide politics were changing and the small amount of peace we had was being threatened with European nations building for war.

World War II began with Germany’s military moving against several of their neighbors. The United States began to start building its military and many young men joined the armed services to add to the family income. This was a time when an Army private was paid $12 a month, but when the cost of clothing, food and the shelter they were furnished was counted it attracted many. This provided jobs that had been hard to find and gave young men some good training.

Our country was attacked at Pearl Harbor in 1941 and the war years began. Many changes started at a rapid pace and everyone joined the war effort, some in the service, and all doing their part to help. The shortage of men opened many fields of employment for women. When they began to work in the building of war planes, vehicles, or weapons, it became necessary to change their attire and the wearing of trousers by ladies got to be the style.

During the ’40s and later ladies had to wear dresses to attend church. Even in 2000 some churches still held that tradition, but a few brave ladies insisting on the pant suits  slowly began to change the ideas of the few. 

The war effort and the idea that everyone who was able should have a job,  changed the family income, too. It’s hard to believe but by the time of the late forties the average family income had risen to $2,992 and school teachers were making $1,500 or more per year. The starting pay in the old Gaylord Box Factory was over 50 cents per hour, but the local union was working to change that. It wasn’t long before most everyone was earning over $1 an hour, and women were a big part of the workforce. The old bag  plant used a great number of women and they usually did  most of the work, except loading the boxcars with the bundled bags.

It seems like things were extra hard during those times but when you remember a new1939 Chevrolet car sold for under $1,000 and the utility bills, gas, electricity, water, etc. was usually under $30 a month, it wasn’t so bad compared to prices now. Gaylord more or less ran the hospital and all their employees were given health care, and  medicine was a lot cheaper than it is now with  only a few medicines that were available.

We made it through those bad times and with the good Lord’s help we’ll make it through our present times. God bless you all.