Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick


Probably all of us have grown up around older people who constantly related stories of how times once were better, when they paid much less for items of purchase. Some of us remember nostalgically of times when we seemed to have more money in our pockets to spend. But realistically, this thinking in the past does little to solve current problems.

During recent years, the increased cost of gasoline and heating fuel has annoyed and worried almost everyone. It has people driving less and trading in gas guzzlers for economic, fuel-efficient, smaller cars. Believe it or not, gasoline prices are still a bargain in this country. And, times right now are as good as they have ever been.

When my wife and I were in Belize in 2002, gas prices there were over $4.00/gallon in our currency, while at home we paid $1.25! The average worker there made about $2.50/hour. If you multiply that out to the current national minimum wage of $5.15/hour, this obviously equates to over $8/gallon that those poor people were paying. While our price has climbed 67% in 4 years, other countries have seen greater price hikes.

To show you another way that gasoline prices are moderate, the average price of gasoline in Keosauqua in 1959 was 32.9 cents/gallon. In 1970, the average price for a gallon of gasoline in Los Angeles was 60 cents/gallon. Currently, the average price for a gallon of gasoline is $2.17/gallon nationwide.

In 2004 the average production worker in the U.S. Made a whopping $15.67/hour (2006 World Almanac and Book of Facts, page 135.) This was up from $3.40/hour in 1970.

In terms of the wage of $3.40 in 1970 and the 60-cent gasoline price, the worker making $15.67/hour should have to pay $2.76/gallon for gasoline for times to be equal. To equate to the $1/hour in 1959, gasoline would cost $5/gallon!

Hold on a moment, you say, not everyone makes $15/hour! Thatís true, but also many people make double and triple that amount, and more. This has always been true. The minimum wage in 1959 was $1/hour, yet some people made millions, while some waitresses made only a quarter an hour--less than the cost of a gallon of gas!

What I am pointing out is, "high" gasoline prices are still somewhat of a bargain. Back in the Ď50s it was just as difficult to put together the quarters to buy a couple of gallons of gas as it is now to find a fiver to buy two gallonsÖ..but working a second job or employing another source of income often solved problems and allowed us to buy some extras. While jobs are currently so plentiful, perhaps "some hay should be made in the sunshine."

Itís fun to look back at the past and compare, but we canít reverse the present and go back to the past. Besides, who would want to? We had just as many problems, perhaps of a different nature. We tend to forget those aspects. When you compare all of the economic data, these are good times for all of us in America. We need to make the most of it, because it might not last!

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Contributed to the Van Buren Co. IAGenWeb Project by Andy Reddick