It doesn’t take much prompting for people to tell you what life was like when they were young. “Prod an old-timer,” someone once said “and you’ll discover a potpourri of nostalgia, yearning for the ‘good old days’ and a tendency to compare things now with what they were in their generation.”
I haven’t prompted or prodded many old-timers, but I enjoy hearing them reminisce about life when they were young men and women. There’s something about the lifestyle of past generations that fascinates people. Run an old photograph in this paper, for example, and reader interest will be high. People like to see old pictures and they literally eat up old-time tales.
Understanding or explaining this interest is impossible. Like most people I like to look at old photos and artifacts and I enjoy old-time accounts. I can’t tell you why. I’ve never been able to fathom why these things are fascinating, so there’s no way I can explain why others have the same interest.
On the whole, people may believe life was simpler, less stressful, and definitely less costly in the old days; thus the widespread interest in earlier times may simply be the result of a desire to have lived in them. Obviously it’s difficult for people today to truly prove life was simpler and better in earlier times. An 18th century citizen of the Annapolis Valley may have had problems and pressures that would seem trivial today. There is little doubt, however, that the cost of living seemed to be lower a generation or two ago. As a matter of fact, prices of food and clothing were extremely low no more than five or six decades ago. For proof let’s turn to an issue of this newspaper for November, 1934, and a look at prices.
First of all, many popular brand name food products on grocery shelves today were available 60 years ago. But what a huge difference in prices then and now. Brunswick sardines, for example, were six tins for 25 cents. Heinz tomato catsup was 21 cents a bottle. Heinz tomato soup and spaghetti sold two tins for 27 cents. A half pound tin of Fry’s cocoa was 21 cents. Ivory soap sold at three cakes for 13 cents.
It looks like the dollar had more buying power in 1934. The above items were found in grocery ads for two Kentville stores, which also offered unbelievably low meat prices. Bacon for 35 cents a pound. Smoked picnics 21 cents a pound. Spareribs 15 cents a pound. Kippered herring three for 20 cents. Canned lobster 22 cents a tin.
In 1934 gents could purchase good quality overcoats from L.W. Phinney’s store for $15. A. G. Hiltz Dry Goods was offering wool dresses under 10 dollars. Lockharts had men’s nightgowns and pyjamas for $1.50 a pair and lined gloves for $1.
While The Advertiser issue I’m quoting from was printed over half a century ago, some things haven’t changed. As they do today, church and community groups were fundraising with seasonal suppers. An annual church chicken supper was advertised. The community of Scott’s Bay was hosting a harvest supper. And the forerunner of our popular flea markets, the rummage sale, was very much in evidence.