The Days of the Loosey Cigarette, Slinky and Mailing a Letter



Photo from the files of the Carleton Place Canadian –Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum-originally came from the Shane Edwards family.

Back in the 1950s my Father could go to any store and buy a single cigarette for a penny or three. It was specifically aimed (at that time) at low earners and children, and my Father who realized he shouldn’t be smoking so much. Some of the local Carleton Place grocers used to break a pack of cigarettes and retail them to the local lads. This was a break as a penny was real money in those days.

But it might interest you to know that in that same year you could have purchased a gallon of gasoline for 20 cents.

And if you thought that the price of fuel was worth writing about, you could have sent the information along in a letter for 3 cents in 1950.

By 1951 the price of postage and gas hadn’t changed, but most everything else had.

And if inflation got you down, you could kill yourself affordably by overeating. A 14 ounce can of Hershey’s Syrup was 17 cents, sliced bacon went for 69 cents a pound, and bread was only 16 cents.

If you survived your eating binge in 1951 but were still distraught, there was still no need to pinch pennies while planning your demise.


Photo from the files of the Carleton Place Canadian –Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum-originally came from the Shane Edwards family.

You could buy a 10-pack of Gillette Blue Blades for 49 cents

For the less stressed and clearer thinking individuals of the 50’s there were bargains aplenty.

In 1953 a typical house went for around $17,400. You could even brag about your new home to all of your friends via mail without breaking your budget. Postage was still 3 cents.

T-bone steak was 95 cents a pound in 1954. Journalists of the day reported excited carnivores corresponding with one another in unprecedented numbers due to the fact that letters still cost only 3 cents to mail.

The big economic news of 1955 was that a stamp cost only 3 cents. And since most people wrote with only one hand at a time, many busied their other digits with a Slinky they purchased for 88 cents.

Others stepped away from their desks long enough to ogle the girl next door, looking resplendent her nylon hose ($1.00) as she went off to work toting her Mickey Mouse Lunchbox (88 cents).

By 1956 the average American was making around $2.14 an hour (enough to buy 71 stamps with change to spare).

And if they needed transportation to the post office they could choose from a variety of Ford automobiles that cost under $1,800.

Bread was 19 cents a loaf in 1957. And milk was going for about $1.00 a gallon.

“But how much was postage?” you may ask.

Well, my friends, in 1957, it was a mere 3 cents to drop a letter in the slot.

Then came darkness for purveyors of penmanship in 1958 when he price of postage soared to an astounding 4 cents per standard letter, prompting millions to say, “Who cares?” as they munched on 4 cents a pound celery and looked toward the future.


Photo from the files of the Carleton Place Canadian –Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum-originally came from the Shane Edwards family.

We’re going to jump ahead a few years to 1954 and go to go to the store for some Kellogg’s Corn Flakes. This delicious breakfast cereal was invented by the Kellogg brothers in 1894 and an 8-ounce box cost 25 cents in the ’50s. You could have bought four boxes for a dollar.

If you wanted some steak and eggs or fruit to go with your cereal in the ’50s, here’s an estimate of what your dollar would have purchased:

  • One pound Porterhouse steak = 95 cents

  • Two dozen eggs = 98 cents

  • Twenty-four grapefruit = $1.00

  • Three pounds coffee = $1.11

    Those were the days my friend!


About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

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