I used to work six days a week for $24.
A family could buy a week's groceries for $8.
I owned one suit of clothes to wear to church.
A vacation was a week in the country.
Retirement pay was a gold watch.
Through the rosy filter of nostalgia, we recall today that life was somehow better in those days. There was no pollution, and we could have a quiet picnic in the park without being deafened by transistor radios all around us, and with less litter on the ground.
But was the quality of life really better then?
True, you could buy a used car for well under $300, and a new one for less than $600. Many of today's new models cost $5,000 and up. But, somehow, more families than ever own two of them. And they use them for more than a picnic in the park.
And wasn't that six-day work week a punishing grind when it was the norm? Come to think of it, that $8 grocery list was pretty heavy on the staples. Though today's groceries cost more, there's infinitely more variety available: even chickens, steaks, and roasts come cut in many ways, along with exotic cheeses, ethnic delicacies, and a host of convenience and gourmet specialties.
The value of money has changed, and will keep changing. But so have life-styles. People live longer, in larger and better-equipped homes; they eat better; they have more time (and money) for a greater variety of leisure pursuits; they are better educated. They have more ways and places to enjoy retirement.
There are exceptions, of course. Some people are still desperately poor, still hungry. And there are still other social problems to be solved. Which only means there's still progress to be made - lots of it.
But for too long, it's been fashionable to view progress with a jaundiced eye, with the fear that it demeans human values.
We dissent, emphatically.
Most Americans have seen their lives improved, where it counts. They have more time to spend with their families, greater opportunities to enrich this shared time through cultural interests, and the technological means for bringing world events, music, art, drama, and even sports into the home - or to seek them abroad.
The truth is that life becomes better than it was for each preceding generation. And, as parents and grandparents, we feel that's the way it should be.