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A View From The Attic

Week of 03 August 2009

Fremont County Historical Society

by Evelyn Birkby


 Food costs at the time I began teaching school were brought back to me when I discovered an old letter I wrote to my parents in 1938. I started out saying, "Honestly, I don’t know what I’m going to do if my appetite doesn't calm down. I'm afraid I won’t be able to feed myself. Yesterday, for instance, my food cost me 90 cents! Just think how that would count up if I ate 90 cents worth each day! This was what I had: Breakfast, orange juice lO˘, 1 egg 5˘, 2 sweet rolls 5˘, coffee 5˘. making the total for breakfast, 25 cents. Lunch included bean soup, salad, rolls, peach short cake and milk to total 25 cents. For supper I had ham and eggs 20˘, pea salad lO˘, milk 5˘, bread and butter, 5˘, grand total 40 cents.” 


I do not list these prices for any of you who lived through the same period, for you would have better stories than this one, but I do mention them for the sake of those who do not remember the days when teacher’s salaries started at $65.00 a month, and everything else was priced accordingly. 


One reason this amount for a day’s meal seemed so big to me was the fact that I had cooked for myself through college days for only $1.00 per week. This entailed many economies, like the time I purchased a large quantity of dented cans full of red beets at 3 cents a can. The cheapest brand of coffee was 17 cents per pound and I perked it over and over until every ounce of strength was removed. The little notebook mother sent along with me held recipes for such things as Spanish rice, fried mush, rice cakes, cornbread and macaroni and cheese. 


A newspaper reported the other day that the cooperative apartments which many colleges used during the depression are no longer open because the girls don’t want to do their own work any more. The report was a bit critical of the high cost of dormitory living and suggested that college students now want the luxuries along with their education. That is undoubtedly more true than it was during the days when we depression children struggled with our education costs, but I would guess that if we scratched below the shiny surface we would find many a girl who is still doing baby sitting, washing dishes, waiting tables, doing housework and preparing her own meals to help earn her way through the halls of learning. 

While I was doing all those things during my own college days, I was never once resentful or demanded that things be any easier, I was just so glad to be in college at all.