One of my neighbors decided he wanted six post holes dug and I was offered the magnificent sum of 50 cents an hour to dig them. I say “magnificent” since I was 15 at the time and the $1.50 I earned went a long ways. With this money I took in an afternoon movie, bought a box of popcorn, a chocolate bar and a large Pepsi – and I still had change left over.
This was in the 1940s and a dollar went a lot farther in those days. I don’t know much about inflation but today’s dollar has less buying power than a 1940s dollar. This is blatantly obvious when, for example, you can compare restaurant fare prices in the 1940s to restaurant prices today.
I had the opportunity recently to do this, to see what meal prices were in 1940s restaurants, thanks to a friend who found a yellowed, partly deteriorated bill of fare dated 1941-42. This was for a restaurant on the Kings, Hants County border that also sold groceries. While the name of the restaurant was obliterated, the date and address on it were visible.
So, let’s look at the menu from the 1940: T-bone steak dinners were 75cents and you were guaranteed a half pound of meat. Hamburg steak dinners were 45 cents. If you wanted a salmon or cod steak supper, they were priced at 75 cents.
The most expensive meal on the menu was a bacon, liver and onions supper for 80 cents. Fish and chips were only 15 cents, and scallops 50 cents per plate with veggies included.
If someone went to the restaurant for breakfast in the early 1940s, for a serving of bacon, eggs, toast and coffee, you had to lay out 40 cents. A large order of French Fries was 10 cents, hots dogs five cents, and a hamburger 10 cents.
If you took tea or coffee with your meal, it was 10 cents per cup. Add dessert to any meal, say pie for example, the cost was10 cents per slice; if you opted for a glass of milk, it was five cents.
As well as offering “meals at all hours,” that unknown county border restaurant also sold groceries. Butter was 30 cents a pound, sugar five pounds for 25 cents, flour per 100 pounds was four dollars, coffee thirty-seven cents a pound and doughnuts 25 cents per dozen.
These were wartime restaurant prices remember, and the restaurant served free coffee and doughnuts for “Army, Navy and Air Force servicemen.” There was a reminder, however, that even if you were a servicemen, “government orders” said no meat could be served to you or anyone else on Fridays.
It was a good thing that food prices weren’t high in the 1940s since staff in restaurants were only paid a dollar a day. That’s according to a notice in the menu notifying the public that the restaurant was hiring. Again according to the advertisement in the menu, the job description said waitresses were expected to be on duty at 6:30 in the morning and work until closing time, which was “about two hours after the midnight bus.”