While we’re on the nostalgia kick (Remember last week’s column about Thanksgiving dinner for $2 and $2.25 at local restaurants?), let’s review some prices for groceries in 1954 as advertised in The News-Chronicle.
The grocery store advertisements published Nov. 19, 1954, reveal more than what inflation has done over the years. They suggest our way of life in small-town Pennsylvania in the mid-1950s.
A couple of the grocery stores offered “50 lbs. of sauerkraut cabbage” for 79 cents. Obviously, making your own sauerkraut was very popular back then. For a lot of families in our area, it’s still on the annual “must do” list. Preparing 50 pounds of cabbage for kraut seems a daunting task. Probably everyone who joins in on the labor will tell you it’s worth it on Jan. 1 when what used to be cabbage has reached the stage of perfection and, accompanied by pork chops or kielbasa, is simmering in a nice warm cauldron on the stove. The rest of us try to become friends with those folks or rely on Silver Floss.
Either way, we still love our sauerkraut.
Fresh fruit is always a requirement for Thanksgiving and Christmas. We kid ourselves into thinking that having some fruit will negate the overindulgence of starches and sweets. Grapes were listed at 2 pounds for 19 cents. They’re about 19 cents apiece today, aren’t they?? Oranges were 33 cents per dozen, while they’re a dollar each these days. Five pounds of Stayman-Winesap apples would take 45 cents of your grocery budget. You youngsters have never heard of Stayman-Winesap apples, have you? Tangy and great for pies and dumplings.
A 2-lb jar of mincemeat would set you back 49 cents. Does anyone make or eat mincemeat pies in the year 2020? You could acquire two cans of pumpkin for 33 cents, 10 pounds of flour for 67 cents and a pound of butter for 69 cents. All the ingredients needed for making your own pies were readily available, just as they are now. But so are bake-shop pies and frozen “ready to bake” pies.
Some other holiday necessities advertised were fruit cocktail, 37 cents a can; cranberry sauce, two cans of the store brand for 35 cents; 37 cents for two cans of Ocean Spray.
Nuts in the shell were big sellers. Remember when every family’s coffee table held a nut bowl? It had a receptacle in the middle for a nutcracker and some nut picks encircled by a myriad of almonds, walnuts, pecans, Brazil nuts. Haven’t seen such a display in years and years.
Six 10-ounce bottles of Pepsi were on the market for 35 cents plus deposit in 1954. Ham was 39 cents a pound and bread sold for 15 cents. Your Thanksgiving bird, 20 pounds or more, would cost 42 cents per pound.
Each grocery store seemed to have green beans advertised. Interesting point: the green bean casserole recipe, as we know it, was (according to Wikipedia) created in 1955 by a lady named Dorcas Reilly at Campbell Soup Co. We don’t make that casserole at my house.
If baking was among your plans, you’d be interested in knowing that Nestle’s chocolate chips were on sale for 29 cents, Angel Flake coconut was 19 cents, gingerbread mix was two for 49 cents. Fruit cake mix was 77 cents, while a jar of maraschino cherries was 29 cents, dates were 21, and raisins 23 cents.
Looks like a lot of us made our own fruitcakes in the 1950s. I recall that my Mom made fruitcakes for a number of years and when I reached the “legal” age, she made me go to the liquor store (It was on King Street then) to buy brandy (or was it rum?) for the cake because she “couldn’t be seen going into or coming out of the liquor store. What would the church people think?”
“So, it’s OK for them to think that I am purchasing elixir for my own consumption, but not you?”
“Yes,” she said and that’s all there was to it.
Ah, holiday traditions! They make wonderful memories and those are priceless.