Everyday Life and Cost of Living
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This page contains glimpses of life in 1940-41 for those who have forgotten and for
those too young to remember. The information here is not directly tied to the Tokyo
Rose saga, but I believe it will help readers become oriented to a very different time in
American history. Mainly I think you will find it fun.
Let's start with scientific progress. Which of these inventions do you think stood the
test of time?
You may be excused for wondering why women would wear such fashions when their
flight from Chicago to LA took 12 1/2 hours. The answer was that travelers viewed
flying as an elegant affair, much like attending the opera, in part because it was so
expensive. Here again I understand your confusion. It only cost $105, which sounds
like a small amount. In fact $105 in 1940 is equivalent to about $1600 today. Compare
for example the more popular form of travel of that era, the train.
Union Pacific's Challenger required 39 1/2 hours to run westbound from Chicago to
Los Angeles. (For those of us who love trains, I regret to report that 70 years later the
modern Amtrak requires 43 hours for this same trip, although it charges much less --
$230 today versus the equivalent of $629 in 1940.) On the train you will notice you can
purchase three meals for 90 cents (= $13.62 today). But you have to sit in coach for the
entire trip. The sleeping car, then as now, is extra.
OR, you could drive in your new Hudson! How?
"If you ever plan to motor west,
Travel my way, take the highway that's the best.
Get your kicks on Route 66.
It winds from Chicago to LA,
More than two thousand miles all the way.
Get your kicks on Route 66."
The Hudson's $670 cost puts
that $105 one-way plane fare
in perspective, doesn't it.
Speaking of time: In 1941 life moved at a more leisurely pace and travel to a distant
city required a major investment of time. The airplane offered the fastest mode of
travel, but tickets were expensive and you were expected to dress.
Housing costs differed as well. Here's an ad for a mansion, complete with rooms and
bath for servants, in Scarsdale, New York, one of the richest areas in America. See the
2014 Revised TR/AP, p. 253, n. 15.
Also available was the latest in electronic entertainment, which would uniquely define
Tokyo Rose as the medium's eternal and most famous seductress. Just remember
that the $29.95 table radio would cost $453 in today's money.
In conclusion, let's review some prices for everyday items that we all recognize. Both
articles come from Life. They lament the high cost of inflation. Notice that the cost of
medical care increased at an annual rate of .4% between 1939 and 1941. (From the late
1960s to the present, medical costs have risen steadily at a 4-6% annual rate.) Other
items of note: The quart of milk for 14 cents included the cost of delivering it to your
door. No aeresol cans appear -- notice the shaving cream tube; the valve on which
modern cans depend was not invented until 1949. If you ever wonder why Titanic
grossed more than Gone With The Wind, check out the price of a movie ticket in 1939,
the year of GWTW's release.
Here is a somewhat facetious list of the important yet obscure people who died in
1940. The interest lies in the inventions and the actions of the individuals, which are
listed on the right hand side.
END OF PRE-WAR SECTION
Hope you enjoyed the memories, good and bad
"Route 66," composed by Bobby Troup, 1946
Tokyo Rose /
A Dual Biography