$39.39 – that was his mortgage payment in 1950. At 97 this gentleman has experienced many price increases but the cost of his mortgage payment really struck me. I marvel at the thought of a $39 mortgage payment. That's just slightly more than it takes to fill my gas tank! It is so different from the reality I face every month when that big bill is due. Yet, there are those who did indeed pay this and have witnessed immense change over the course of their lifetimes.
This is one reason I love talking with seniors. I enjoy hearing their firsthand accounts of the passing of time. Yesterday, during Reminisce Roundtable (I group I host at a senior care facility), we got into a discussion about first homes. There’s such excitement and sweet memories of buying your first home. The gentleman with the $39 mortgage payment paid a total price of $6,500 for a brand new home – three bedrooms and one bath. A tract home. One of many built during the bustling period following the end of WWII. Veterans had come home, people had a little more money in their pockets, and the housing boom (and baby boom) were underway! One other female participant gushed that these tract homes came fully stocked with the latest of appliances. You had the choice of “white” or “white” as the color.
Once purchased, these homes were the places where families were raised and neighbors connected. Most everyone in the group praised the value of neighbors. They knew their neighbors, they pitched in to help one another, and they helped raise each other's kids.
Do we do enough of this today? Do we truly know our neighbors? I suspect this is another bit of wisdom we can learn from our elders. One participant mentioned that most families only had one car back then. If you were going to the store, you might pick up something for your neighbor or ask them to go with you. There wasn’t the fierce independence of having your own car, own phone, own toys. Yes, another lady volunteered that they shared their phone with their neighbors because not everyone had one. My how times have changed! Nowadays nearly everyone has their own personal cell phone in their pocket but back then they shared one home phone among multiple families.
These perspectives and firsthand accounts are fascinating. For those of you who think your story “isn’t all that interesting,” I beg to differ! Just living life, witnessing the passing of time, and adapting to new eras and new technology makes you, and your life...interesting. Your experience is different than my experience. Your experience is different from anyone else in your family. And your experience is unimaginably different than your grandchildren or great-grandchildren’s experience will be.
Take note of those differences. Save them and share them. As always, if you’d like resources to get you started or if you’d like to engage my services as a personal historian, I’m more than happy to help.
What is one significant way the world has change since you were a child?