There’s been a lot of comparison between our current day crisis and that of the high inflation rates of the 1970s. Not too many people lived through that era so they have no idea what notch on the misery totem pole they will soon find themselves. I was in my 20s when the 1970s rolled around so I was well aware of the financial and political upheavals being felt by almost everyone.

Me, in the 1970s at some psychodelic party held outside in a heated tent.

I’m here to say that despite it all, not everything back in the 1970s was bad or evil. In fact, I would dare to say that the 1970s and early 1980s were probably the best years of my life. Why?

  1. I went to college in the early 1970s and attended an inner city school that consisted of a 90% all-black student body. The curriculum I was enrolled in only had white students (ophthalmics). In the 3 years I attended said college (It was for an A.A.S. degree) I never once experienced a negative day at or on the campus. Everyone got along. And I do mean EVERYONE.
  2. I spent the first 4 years of the 1970s going to every single disco the streets of New York City had to offer. I went to Studio 54 regularly, as well as Regine’s and Max’s Kansas City. In other words, I had fun, fun, fun! The discos had Ladies Night which meant I didn’t have to pay an entrance fee and eventually some nice dude was buying me and my girlfriends, drinks!
  3. I got married mid-1970s and I had my wedding performed on the center altar of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in NYC. It only cost $200 to get married at St. Patricks, the largest and most famous Catholic Church in America.
  4. I bought my first home in the 1970s for $40,000 with 10% down ($4,000). It was 3 bedroom and 1.5 bathroom duplex located in Staten Island, NY. The house came with a water view and a beach on the corner. The Verrazano Bridge connecting Brooklyn to Staten Island had just been completed (toll was .50 fifty cents then. it is $14 fourteen dollars today) and contractors were building row houses like crazy. My mortgage payment was $375 a month. I sold it 2 years later for $56,000, moved to the suburbs and bought a split-ranch for $60,000 with a $700 a month mortgage.
  5. I gave birth to two daughters. One in 1977 and the other in 1980. When I had my first child in 1977, I was the only woman in the pregnancy ward. At that time, women were not having babies. They were more into having a career and getting their husbands to help out with the home work load. I gave birth by cesarean section and was in the hospital, alone, for 7 days.
  6. Six months after I gave birth to my first child, my mother died (at the age of 59) after a short battle with esophageal cancer.
  7. When I went back to work, I took my daughter with me. She grew up, always by my side, in a play pen set up right next to my desk. I was a bookkeeper.
  8. When it was time to wait on line for 10 gallons of gas, I decided to take public transportation. Honda Civics were introduced as the first fuel economical car. They sold for $600. My father bought 4 of them and gave one to each of his 3 children and kept one for himself. Yes, I got one of them. The car looked like a roller skate on wheels.
  9. When it was difficult to get oil to heat our home, my then-husband installed a wood burning stove in our mid-century, multi-level, suburban home. We never felt the pangs of oil or gas deprivation. The then-husband took mass transit to work.
  10. I had my second child right as I turned 30. Another caesarean, only this time the nurses had me up and out of the hospital by the 2nd day. Health insurance refused to pay for anything longer. I shared a ward room with 7 other women.
  11. My then-husband at that time earned $500 a week. Putting food on the table was a challenge and I do remember at times it was difficult to get simple things, such as bread. I cooked a lot of soup and salad meals for dinner, soup and bread meals for lunch. I never used Hamburger Helper but I made a lot of bean dishes and pasta dishes. The biggest news of that era was how the elderly were subsisting on dog food. I’ll never get that image out of my memory. Many of the 70s dishes I cooked back then, I still prepare today.
  12. When President Carter addressed the nation as to the status of the oil embargo, he was always wearing a sweater. Carter’s solution to us all on how to stay warm was to wear a sweater, just like he did. You can start laughing now, because that’s what we used to do. Laugh. And then cry.
  13. Whatever cash I had, I used to deposit in a bank CD earning at least 15%. The longest CD the banks were dishing out at the time were basically only for a year. Each year after 1982, the banks paid less and less and less. But I do recall those 15% years with great fondness!
  14. In 1982 I divorced my then-boring-husband and starting dating a younger man. I bought myself my first car BUT the bank would not approve my loan unless a man signed it. Yes, you read that correctly. I also bought my first home, by myself in 1985, but because I was a woman the bank would only give me a 25 year loan and it was adjusted annually. That meant that every September my mortgage rate would change. The mortgage had a high cap of 15% and a low cap of 6%. The highest it ever went was 12%. It never went as low as 6%. I held onto it for 16 years, made a ton of equity and sold it at the age of 50 and officially retired. I had reached financial freedom despite it all. Oh, and I had to wait 5 years before my younger boyfriend would marry me. His mother thought he was too young to marry an older woman. We both had to wait till he turned 30 in 1987. We married right after the stock market crash in October 1987.
My first wedding day: June 1975, at the center entrance of St. Patrick’s Cathedral with the images of Fifth Avenue in the backdrop.

What’s my point in telling all of you my 1970s-1980s inflationary experiences? I think my main purpose is to stress that despite it all, I seemed to grow up just fine and dandy. So can you! I still managed to enjoy my life, have fun, roll with the punches, get married, have children, build a career and claw my way through to early retirement and financial freedom. I certainly didn’t do it from investing in Wall Street. Nope. I did it the old fashioned way. Real Estate. I found solutions. I made substitutions and kept my eye on the ball. I didn’t pay too much attention to whatever spewed out of a politicians’ mouth nor did I ever feel sorry for myself. I had goals and dreams and no one nor nothing was going to stop me from living my life to its fullest. I felt that way back in the 1970s and I most certainly feel that way today in 2022. I’ll make the cutbacks. I’ll make the sacrifices and substitutions (within reason) but no one, and I mean NO ONE is going to stop me from living my goals and making my dreams come to fruition. I’ve prioritized what is important to me and I won’t be knocked off my life’s journey.

When I was 5 years old and in kindergarten, I remember lining up with my fellow class mates while we waited to get our polio vaccine. It took the scientists five years to develop that vaccine. In those five years while the world waited, millions died or became crippled with polio. When it came time for us to ingest our polio vaccine (it came on a sugar cube) there were no parents screaming in the background demanding their rights, no one chanting about government conspiracies or visions of computer chips being ingested into our bodies so the government would control us. Nope. It was just a simple act of life, death and/or living out the rest of your life either in an iron lung or crippled on crutches. I always thought that FDR (President Franklin Delano Roosevelt) should have gone more public with his disability due to his infection with polio. Perhaps more people could have been reached and/or the vaccine could have been invented much sooner.

Fifty years from now, you’ll look back on what your life was like going through the pandemic and what it was like surviving through high inflation. Hopefully today, you can find some joy through the cracks. Learn to laugh again despite the gloom and doom. Try to simply enjoy whatever slice of heaven you can carve out. Spend whatever time you can with your family and friends. If you can’t dance in a disco, dance in your own living room. Make the cuts and make the sacrifices. Figure out your goal and do whatever it takes to keep yourself on that path. Find the bargains. They’re out there and enjoy each and every one of them. Cherish the good times because in the long run, they will be all that you will remember. The human soul prefers to remember the good thoughts. Not the bad ones. Make it a good day.

me, with my two daughters in the very early 1980s

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