Pubdate: Mon, 11 Mar 2002
Source: Times-Herald (GA)
Copyright: 2002 The Times-Herald
Author: Kathy Bohannon


I'm one of those folks who love to talk to the elderly. I make notes. I pay 
attention. I want to hear the stories of hard times, before the comforts of 
today. I like to know how it was "way back when."

I suppose that is what made an e-mail I received recently so interesting. 
It arrived without credit to the author, but further investigation revealed 
that the text is credited to a book called "When My Grandmother Was a 
Child" by Leigh W. Rutledge. It makes me think twice about taking things 
for granted such as standing by a fax machine talking on my cell phone, 
while CNN e-mails me late-breaking news. Several of the lines make me 
realize that the term "hard times" may need to be redefined.

The e-mail went something like this:

It begins, "In the summer of 1900, when my grandmother was a child..."

The average life expectancy in the United States was 47.

Only 14 percent of the homes in the United States had a bathtub.

Only 8 percent of the homes had a telephone. A three-minute call from 
Denver to New York City cost $11.

There were only 8,000 cars in the U.S. and only 144 miles of paved roads. 
The maximum speed limit in most cities was 10 mph.

Alabama, Mississippi, Iowa and Tennessee were each more heavily populated 
than California. With a mere 1.4 million residents, California was only the 
21st most populous state in the Union.

The tallest structure in the world was the Eiffel Towel.

The average wage in the U.S. was 22 cents an hour. The average U.S. worker 
made between $200 and $400 per year. A competent accountant could expect to 
earn $2,000 per year, a dentist $2,500 per year, a veterinarian between 
$1,500 and $4,000 per year, and a mechanical engineer about $5,000 per year.

More than 95 percent of all births in the United States took place at home.

About 90 percent of all U.S. physicians had no college education. Instead, 
they attended medical schools, many of which were condemned in the press 
and by the government as "substandard."

Sugar cost 4 cents a pound. Eggs were 14 cents a dozen. Coffee cost 15 
cents a pound.

Most women only washed their hair once a month and used borax or egg yolks 
for shampoo.

Canada passed a law prohibiting poor people from entering the country for 
any reason, either as travelers or immigrants.

The five leading causes of death in the US were: 1. Pneumonia and 
influenza, 2. Tuberculosis, 3. Diarrhea, 4. Heart disease, 5. Stroke.

The American flag had 45 stars. Arizona, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Hawaii and 
Alaska hadn't been admitted to the Union yet.

Drive-by shootings -- in which teenage boys galloped down the street on 
horses and started randomly shooting at houses, carriages or anything else 
that caught their fancy -- were an ongoing problem in Denver and other 
cities in the West.

The population of Las Vegas, Nev., was 30. The remote desert community was 
inhabited by only a handful of ranchers and their families.

Plutonium, insulin and antibiotics hadn't been discovered yet. Scotch tape, 
crossword puzzles, canned beer and iced tea hadn't been invented.

There was no Mother's Day or Father's Day.

One in 10 U.S. adults couldn't read or write. Only 6 percent of all 
Americans had graduated from high school.

Marijuana, heroin and morphine were all available over the counter at 
corner drugstores. According to one pharmacist, "Heroin clears the 
complexion, gives buoyancy to the mind, regulates the stomach and the 
bowels, and is, in fact, a perfect guardian of health."

Coca-Cola contained cocaine instead of caffeine.

Punch-card data processing had recently been developed, and early 
predecessors of the modern computer were used for the first time by the 
government to help compile the 1900 census.

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