Last October, staff writer Art Pine visited six cities across the country and talked with people about the economy and how they were coping with the problems it created for them.
Last month Pine revisited the same cities and interviewed many of the same people. The results of his trip are being outlined in a series which began on Aug. 3 and will end on Aug. 10. Today Pine continues his profiles of individuals and couples and the changes the recession has made in their lives since October.
Eva Jimmerson is doing a bit better financially this year -- but it's thanks entirely to Uncle Sam.
Last October, the 78-year-old retired nurse was seriously hurting from the impact of inflation and scared mightily about the future.
Already cut back to buying "absolute necessities" -- and far behind where she'd hope for retirement -- Jimmerson was facing soaring utility costs and a sharp jump in rent costs.
"If I don't get some help soon," she told a visitor then, "I'll be flat on the street."
This year, Eva Jimmerson concedes she has some breathing room but only because of more aid from the government.
A 14.3 percent rise in Social Security benefits last July brought Jimmerson's monthly pension and Supplemental Security Income checks to $440 a month, compared with $376 a month last October.
And a grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development provided her with a subsidy that effectively reduced her rent to $75 a month, beginning in May. Her monthly housing costs had been $145 before.
There's no question the sprightly Californian is better off now than in 1979. "With what I was getting and what I was paying out, I was ending up with zero by the 31st," she says. "Now I can take a deeper breath."
Nevertheless, Eva Jimmerson still feels strapped financially by everyday living costs. Food now runs $100 a month, up from $90 last year and $75 in 1978. "You never know how much money to take to the grocery store," she says.
Telephone charges are higher, and the local utility just raised its rates last year. "I keep the lights off except briefly at night, and I try to stay on a vegetarian diet," Jimmerson says. "But even then, it's tough to keep up."
Jimmerson's lament is that for all her pain and effort, retirement hasn't lived up to the expectations of increased leisure and time to attend concerts to which she looked forward during her career.
The cheapest cut-rate concert ticket in San Jose is $6 a seat, Jimmerson says. "When I can, I look up something that's free for entertainment, but the opportunities there are narrowing all the time."
And she has little left over to spend on clothes. The only new "wardrobe" she's bought recently has been to "replace a few things I lost in a fire. I haven't bought shoes in years or a dress since 1974."
But it's not the lack of amenities that has saddened Jimmerson, she says. It's "what inflation does to us as individuals."
Until her retirement in 1974, Jimmerson says, "I was a self-supporting citizen" -- a status she enjoyed proudly. "Now," Eva Jimmerson laments, "I am a dependent. It's not pleasant."