Remembering when pay was 75 cents an hour, and workers weren’t just numbers

Tuesday! Oh,Tuesday!

The Hill this time had an ice, sleet (in some cases) and snow storm all at the same time on last Monday night into Tuesday morning. Off the Hill, in many places, it was just wet. In some areas on the Hill, the ice was ¼- to ½-inch thick, and branches were down all over the place.

Late Tuesday morning into the afternoon, it was possible to hear the branches snapping — one right after another. Once off the Hill, it was definitely a ride to Pop’s Place in Preston Hollow over the flats.

The Albany Times Union had pictures of what it was like just a short distance from this scribe’s home and the homes of a few of the OMOTM. However, from the direction listed by the photos, it would be hard to spot these spots.

These places are not in Altamont! The shots that were shown are in the town of Knox. Barbers Corners is at the junction of the Knox Cave road (County Route 252) and Pleasant Valley Road (County Route 254) and Pleasant Valley Equisetum (Gallery) is just a few hundred feet south down Pleasant Valley Road from this corner.

The unfortunate part of this is that the town of Knox does not have a post office. It is serviced by Altamont, East Berne, and Berne — and they are all miles away from Knox.

None of these post-office mailing addresses are anywhere near Barbers Corners, or the Pleasant Valley Exquisitum. However, regardless of the address, the ice found us, and so does the rest of the weather.

OMOTM Hilltown local geography lesson for today supplied to keep visitors from getting lost and wandering all over these hills trying to find this or that.

Living wages

When the OFs who were not on the farm started working, the average hourly wage was 75 cents per hour; in 1956, it went up to a buck an hour.

One OF mentioned he made 88 dollars every two weeks, and everything was taken out of that, and the OF purchased a nice home on that money and at one time even owned a Jaguar. Pensions were based on figures like that.

After working 30 or 40 years, this brings the OFs into the 1990s with the hourly wage somewhere in the range of $6 to $7 per hour. The OFs had worked their way into better positions by then, but the pension programs still did not offer that much, nor did they have to based on projections.

At that time, no one dreamed gas would be $2.50 a gallon and a pound of coffee would be about an hour’s wage.

Schools in the 1940s and early ’50s did not teach much about money, only saving a portion of what the OFs made in a savings plan at the bank. What a difference it is today when there are even classes on just money and investing.

Yet many of the OFs did well and it was basically on hard work and catching on to personally investing in one project or another.

Another advantage, or disadvantage in some cases, was the time when the OFs first started working. Then companies were in the game for the long haul.

One OF mentioned, when working in our area, we had our choice of what company we would work for.  There was the railroad, American Locomotive, General Electric, the state, or a number of large companies we could choose from.

Working for these companies was for the duration of how long anyone was going to work. It was a career more or less. Then along came World War II and everything changed. Now companies come and go, loyalty of company to employee or employee to company is long gone.

One OF blamed it on Harvard, and the numbers guys who turned employees into numbers themselves. No longer did employers consider employees as people, but as numbers.

Today, one OF said his son told him the number employee/employer relationship has a formula that goes something along the line of skill required and years. If someone is a new hire, four years in a skilled position is reasonable by the employee.

This gives them a year or so to learn the job, and two to three years to pay back to the company. From then on, the employee owes the company nothing. It is hard for the OFs to understand this.

Some OFs say they are glad they are out of the work pool now.

Another OF said, “Hey, let alone the work pool, I am glad I don’t have to go to school. Everyone kept telling me I had 10 fingers and I kept telling them I had 11. They kept telling me I was wrong, so I would count them. I counted my left hand, I would go with their system, pinky, 10; ring, 9; index, 8; pointer, 7; thumb, 6, and the five on my right hand and tell them 5 plus 6 is 11. So I am really glad I am not back in school.”

We bet the teachers are glad this wise guy doesn’t have to go back to school now either.

To those Old Men of the Mountain who were low enough in elevation to miss all the ice and made it to Pop’s Place in Preston Hollow, we say congratulations, and they were: Harold Guest, Wally Guest, Rick LaGrange, Joe Rack, Russ Pokorny, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Elwood Vanderbilt, Rich Vanderbilt, Fred Crounse, Harold Grippen, and not me.