The value of a dollar in 1947 would be $11.66 today.
With a few of today's dollars in our pocket, let's take a step back in time and go shopping in downtown Somerset three quarters of a century ago. Maybe, just maybe, merchants of that simple time will accept our almost worthless bills at the value of that day.
Also, those were the days before self-service shopping. A customers enters the store and is greeted by a clerk. A good clerk is a good salesperson, following the customer through the store, showing the merchandise and giving a sales pitch. The customer seldom if ever touches the merchandise until after it was rung up at the cash register.
Using a device that measures the customer's right foot from heel to toe, the manager or clerk in the shoe department shows the customer shoes, one pair at a time. until the right style and fit are found.
Store managers were under constant pressure to sell. They pressured store clerks to move merchandise.
"That person came into this store because she needs something … you sell her something before she leaves this store!" the manager would demand. Store managers have been known to follow an empty-handed customer outside and bring her back in.
OK, we promised to go shopping, going back three-quarters of a century when retail businesses were centered around Fountain Square, extending east along East Mt. Vernon Street, west to Vortex Corner and north and south along Main Street.
If romance is in your heart, you can buy a diamond ring set at The Jewel Box, 210 East Mt. Vernon Street. Prices range from $39.75 to $500. One would have to been as rich as Donald Trump to buy your darling the upper scale ring set. The $500 set in the 1940s would set you back $5,850 in today's money.
Ladies are heading across the street to J.J. Newberry Company 5, 10, 25 cent store. Newberry's has ladies' skirts priced from $1.98 to $5. By the way, that $5 skirt during the 1940s in today's money would be tagged at $58.30. That is without sales tax.
The large downtown Newberry's store was announcing the opening of a donut shop and its lunch counter gave the store a big-city feel.
Newberry's lunch counter was gathering place for Somerset's merchants -- coffee time at least two or three times a day.
At this newspaper, at midmorning and at midafternoon, the entire newsroom staff would take a coffee break, all at the same time. "Jop" (George Joplin III), our publisher, encouraged the break. "That's where you meet people and get news tips," he would say.
Our most infamous break was years later when our friend David Martin opened Famous Recipe (fried chicken) on U.S. 27. The entire news staff got into a habit of going for Wednesday's lunch special.
It was Wednesday at noon when bank robbers held up a downtown bank. Nobody was in the newsroom; our fingers were greasy with plates full of fried chicken.
Our sports editor, on a story, came back and walked out to see what was going on. Police thought he looked like a bank robber and put him in the back seat of a police car.
New rule in the newsroom: No more entire staff luncheons.
Hey! We are almost diverted from our shopping trip. We stop a moment at Carter Brothers on North Main Street to see the new Kaiser and Frazer automobiles, a style trend for the industry. We didn't buy, just looked.
Kaiser Motors (formerly Kaiser-Frazer) Corporation made automobiles at Willow Run, Michigan from 1945 to 1953. In 1953, Kaiser merged with Willys-Overland to form Willys Motors Incorporated, moving its production operations to the Willys plant at Toledo, Ohio. The company changed its name to Kaiser Jeep Corporation in 1963.
Our shopping trip continues as we walk south on South Main Street. Two Sisters from Boston, starring Kathryn Grayson and June Allyson, is playing at Kentucky Theater. The Matinee is about to start but we continue shopping.
The Fair Store has winter suits, coats, dresses and furs on sale at half price, bargains we couldn't resist.
Up the street at the Western Auto Associate Store, a big 6-tube push button Truetone radio sold for $38.95. Quite a bargain! At today's dollar value, that little music box would have cost $454.
For our car, we noticed American Tire Treading Company, Vortex Corner, has tires priced from $13.83 to $16.19. First line tubes were from $2.98 to $3.60. Inner tubes in those days were made of pure rubber. A discarded inner tube was a treasure for a boy making a sling shot.
Suddenly we felt hungry. We stopped at Hamm's Restaurant, 912 South Main Street, and treated ourselves to a juicy steak, a piece of pie and cup of coffee.
Our dream shopping trip is over. After splurging for lunch, we only have a couple of dollars left.
This is 2020. Our two bucks is now worth a pittance, but it's all we got.