MARY BRASWELL: Looking back at life in 1914, 1939, 1964 and 1989.

HISTORY COLUMN: Take a trip back 25, 50, 75 and 100 years ago.

Mary Braswell

Mary Braswell

As 2014 comes knocking, here is a look back at life 100, 75, 50 and 25 years ago.


— The Ford Motor Co. increased wages from $2.40 for a 9-hour day to $5 for an 8-hour day. Ford went on to sell 248,000 cars the same year.

— The first everyday items made from stainless steel were available to the public. The first items of the new ‘rustless steel’ were most cutlery.

Traffic cones were invented by Charles P. Rudabaker.

— In Washington, DC, the first stone of the Lincoln Memorial was put into place.

“Tarzan of the Apes” by Edgar Rice Burroughs was first published.

— The Great War (WWI) started. President Woodrow Wilson declared the United States as neutral.

— The Harrison Narcotics Act, regulating and taxing the production, importation, and distribution of opiates, was signed into law.

— Zippers were relatively new and used mostly in boots and tobacco pouches.

Charlie Chaplin made his film debut and Babe Ruth made his Major League Baseball debut.

— Mary Phelps Jacobs patented the brassiere.

— The Greyhound Bus Co. began its first passenger trips.

— Beginning the first of June, the use of alcohol was prohibited in the U.S. Navy. Welch’s Grape Juice was the recommended substitute.

— The average annual income was $577. The average cost of a new car was $500 while a new house averaged $3,500. A gallon of milk (mostly sold by the quart) carried a 32 -cent price tag while a gallon of gas was 12 cents. A loaf of bread cost six cents.

Life expectancy for males was 52 years and females, 56.8 years.


— Adolph Hitler called for the extermination of European Jews. Later in the year, Hitler ordered the extermination of the mentally ill.

— President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked for (and received) a defense budget hike.

Nylon stockings went on sale for the first time.

— The Baseball Hall of Fame opened in Cooperstown, New York.

— Among those born this year: George Hamilton (Memphis, TN), Neil Sedaka (Brooklyn, NY), Lee Majors (Wyandotte, Michigan), Tina Turner (Nutbush, TN) and Lee Harvey Oswald ( New Orleans, LA).

— “The Wizard of Oz” and “Gone with the Wind” made giant slashes in the film world.

Albert Einstein alerted President FDR to an A-bomb opportunity, which led to the creation of the Manhattan Project. Einstein fled Nazi Germany in 1933.

— New for readers was the daily comic strip “Superman” as well as Glamour magazine. John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath” was also published.

— Chicago was the site of the exhibition of the first air-conditioned automobile…it was a Packard.

— Billboard Magazine introduced the hillbilly (aka country and western) music chart.

— The average annual income was $1,368. The average cost of a new car was $750 while a new house averaged $4,000. A gallon of milk cost about 23 cents while a gallon of gas was down to 10 cents. Bread averaged nine cents per loaf.


The Beatles landed in America. The group’s first North American hit song was “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”

— Diet Pepsi and Tab were introduced .

— President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a War on Poverty campaign. At the time, the national poverty rate was about 19 percent. Now, 50 years later, the rate has dropped only slightly to 15 percent.

— Sidney Poitier became the first African American to win an Oscar for best actor. The film was “Lilies of the Field.”

— “Bewitched”, starring Elizabeth Montgomery premiered on ABC. The show ran until March 1972.

— Sony introduced the first video cassette recorder (VCR) to the public. Including a carrying case, the price was $995 in most markets.

— Popular with the kids: Easy Bake Oven, G.I. Joe, plastic Mr. Potato Head, Frisbee, Mighty Tonka Dump Trucks and Password.

— The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed into law by President Johnson.

— Elizabeth Taylor married Richard Burton for the first time.

— Marlboro Country ads were first seen in print and on television. Sales for the cigarettes jumped almost immediately by 10 percent. At the time, 60 percent of the American population smoked.

— A one-year (51 issues) of LIFE magazine cost $5.

— Chevrolet introduced the Chevelle at a basic price of about $2,500.

— This year marked the end of the post-war Baby Boom which saw over 77 million births in just 18 years. Stores such as J.C. Penney and Sears began spreading to the suburbs as the need for products increased. At one time in the 1960s, one in nearly every 200 working Americans received a paycheck from Sears.

— The average annual income was about $4,600. The average new car cost $3,500 while a new home averaged $20,000. A gallon of milk was 49 cents while a gallon of gas was 30 cents. A loaf of bread cost 22 cents.

Life expectancy for males was 66.9 years and females, 73.7 years.


— George Herbert Walker Bush was inaugurated as the 41st president of the United States.

“Driving Miss Daisy” would prove to be the year’s best film.

— The ruptured tanker Exxon Valdez sent 11 million gallons of crude oil into Alaska’s Prince William Sound.

— Serial killer Ted Bundy was executed in Florida’s electric chair.

— The United States Supreme Court ruled that flag burning as a form of political protest is an act of protected speech under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Army General Colin Powell was elevated to the position of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, becoming the first African American to be nominated to that post.

— Apple introduced a new portable computer. At 14 pounds, the retail price was $5,800.

— The first of 24 satellites of the Global Positioning System (GPS) were placed into orbit.

— The Energizer Bunny was introduced as a replacement for gymnast Mary Lou Retton as the company’s spokesperson.

— DNA genetic fingerprinting evidence was first allowed as admissible evidence in court.

— The average annual income was $21,000. The average cost of a new car was $12,000 while a new house topped the $100,000 mark. A gallon of milk carried a $2.30 price tag while a gallon of gas was $1.12. A loaf of bread cost 61 cents.

Life expectancy for males was 71.7 years and females, 78.5 years.