Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Look Back At the Years 1911-1912

What a hundred years hath wrought

One hundred years ago America was a vastly different world than the one we have today. Let’s take a glancing look over our shoulder and wonder at the extreme changes wrought (borrowing a well-used Bible word) since 1910-1911.

One thing is for sure: the good old days were different. It was a world unknown to most of us living in the 21st century.

In 1910 Texas had a population of 3.8 million. Today we are well over the 25 million mark. Old Glory had only 44 stars and Las Vegas Nevada’s population was all of 30.

When checking out the differences it will boggle your mind. It was the childhood days of my mother, then six years old, and my dad, going into his teens.

For starters we are reminded that in 1911, the average life expectancy for men was 47 years. The average U.S. blue collar worker averaged 22 cents an hour. The average worker made between $200 and $400 per year.

One hundred years ago a dentist could expect to earn $2,500 a year. Now a dentist can make five times that amount in a week or two. (That figure is from personal experience.)

Jimmy Carter was the first president to be born in a hospital. He was born a dozen years after 1911 but in 1911 more than 95 percent of all births took place at home.

Ninety percent of all medical doctors had not been to college. Sub-standard medical schools were the norm.

In 1911 automobiles were still an oddity but not exactly a new invention. Numerous railroad car manufacturing companies began making autos in the 1880s, such as Ensign of Huntington, West Virginia and Gilbert Car Company of Troy, New York.

By 1910-11 only 8,000 automobiles were on American roads (only 144 miles of them paved). In cities that had automobiles the maximum speed limit was 10 mph.

Though bathtubs were known in antiquity, only 14 percent of American homes had a bathtub. I tried, but failed, to find what the percentage of West Texans with bathtubs was back then. Lots of men could bath in the back of the barbershop or saloon. I guess most folks washed off in a number ten washtub in the kitchen on Saturday night. My wife’s family used one, but she lived in northeast Texas, a more advanced people than here on the desert-plains.

Eating out places, other than the boarding house near the train station, were few and far between. Home cooking was what most people enjoyed. Sugar cost four cents a pound; eggs were fourteen cents a dozen. coffee was fifteen cents a pound. Iced tea had yet to be invented as well as canned beer.

Not counting courthouses, drug stores were favorite meeting places and not just because you could purchase marijuana, heroin and morphine over the counter without a prescription.

Pharmacists were known to say things like “heroin clears the complexion, give buoyancy to the mind, regulates the bowels and is a perfect guardian of health.”

Two out of every 10 adults couldn't read or write and only 6 percent of all Americans had graduated from high school. But what would be impossible for today’s youth to believe: ONLY 8 PERCENT OF HOMES HAD A TELEPHONE.

Amid all this, little Miss Christine French, six years old, was entering R. J. Looney Elementary School (joke of the times: looney kids) and teenager Britt Edward Towery was a marble carver apprentice. It was truly “a ‘nuther world.”

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