I was attempting to comment on a post recently. But when I pushed post, an outline of red popped around the comment, indicating it hadn’t gone through. I tried a couple more times, nothing. Checked my router and settings but was unable to find a reason why I couldn’t post anything. The comment I was trying to post was about baby formula and nursing. I know, not something I’m very familiar with since well, 1980 (last kid was born in the fall of ’79).

Since I couldn’t relay my important point of view on this matter, (or anything else pertaining to Facebook that day) it got me thinking-specifically about 1971. I’ve talked about our early years of wedded bliss before. Two dumb kids, after dating a long time, but had no business getting hitched. I was still a teen. We did it anyway. And here we are, 49 years later, still hitched to each other. No one thought it would last. We did.

Worthington Iowa, 1976. Shannon 5, took our picture as we played with Joshua…

My comment was to a mom of 3 years old twin girls. One of her twins is still on baby formula because of a medical issue. Mom was complaining about the cost of formula these days. Shannon was born in December of 1970, so most of her babyhood was during 1971, thus my title. First, never during my pregnancy, labor or birth experience was I ever encouraged to try nursing. I don’t think it was very popular back then. Right after she was born, I was given a painful shot in my hip/butt to dry up my milk.

Something like this was used without sterilization to open a can of formula. Luckily she was ok…

Though Similac was the popular formula of that era, it’s not the product Shannon’s doctor recommended. Dr. Stauch was pitching a formula called SMA. It came in liquid or powder. The liquid cans held 13 ounces of concentrate. You mixed it with 13 ounces of water and divided it up in several bottles. We used an electric bottle sterilizer, because we were drilled over & over, bad things happened when anything near your baby wasn’t sterilized. (Once, poor first time daddy was trying to help when he inadvertently used one of those triangular shaped can openers (he stills calls it a church key. What’s up with that?) to open the can of SMA as I walked in the kitchen! “Ack! Shannon’s gonna die, that hasn’t been sterilized.” Dang he felt bad, but ‘cleanliness next to Godliness’ had been pounded into this 20 year old mom. I insisted we throw the whole can away. Oh my word). Twenty six ounces was what Shannon was supposed to drink in 24 hours. When she was newborn, we started with 4 ounces in a bottle. As she got older we used less bottles but with more formula in each one.

Hubs about 25 (Elly right next to him) 1973…

I can’t swear on a Bible that these were the prices back in the day, but pretty sure I’m relatively close. We were debt ridden, broke, behind, bills up the wazoo, yet I don’t remember buying Shannon’s formula as being a big deal. (Ok, the mom was complaining her 3 year old’s formula costs as much as their house payment. She didn’t specify it’s something other than normal baby formula-I didn’t get to ask because Facebook wouldn’t let me. Or maybe she has a super low house payment). Anyway, I started doing the math on some of our costs as I remember back in 1971.

Hubs was working in Sioux City at Channel 4 as a program director. Loved his job, (running the newscasts, making commercials for dorky local companies). He just couldn’t make any money doing that job in such a small Midwest city. He was bringing home a little over a hundred bucks a week. We were making $80 car payments on a 1967 Mustang lemon. (Absolutely hated that cute car) By the time we had Shannon we’d already sold John’s 1965 Impala. Too expensive having 2 cars, which he couldn’t even drive because of too many tickets/accidents/racing the damn thing. Our rent was 60 bucks for a 3 room house that shook when the train went through town right across the street from our front yard.

John working at Channel 4 in Sioux City, 1971…

John acquired some debt before we eloped, maybe $450. (I know it sounds like a pittance, trust me, this was the equivalent to 8 or 10 grand now) on a credit card from a trip through the Black Hills, Yellowstone and Canada with his buddy, Rod. Plus he bought a 13 inch COLOR TV on payments. All for ‘Star Trek.’ Egads man. Phone bill, utilities, insurance, gas, groceries. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that hundred bucks wasn’t gonna last nearly long enough. Good times.

A can of SMA was 29 cents, so formula cost us about 2 dollars a week. Even with our dire budget constraints, certainly not enough to make me hyperventilate that we couldn’t afford to feed our beautiful baby. (I must tell you though, 4-1/2 years later when Joshua was a born, I was shocked when a can of formula had doubled in price since Shannon). In ’71 a jar of Gerber baby food was a dime, and had some the most clever names. Blueberry Buckle, Cherry Cobbler. Positive all were packed with sugar and starch, they tasted great. But it wouldn’t be long before Gerber and other companies realized all those additives were not healthy for babies. (Dr. Stauch, the best pediatrician in the city had us start Shannon on cereal when she was 4 weeks old). We used cloth diapers but when Pampers were on sale, we splurged and bought a 30 pack for a dollar (normally they ran $1.30). Pampers were only used when we went away for the weekend, or she had a bad case of non-stop poops.

Metal diaper pins with little animal shaped plastic clasps. So much fun to keep white…

As far as some food staples, Startkist Tuna cost 29 cents but was on sale every couple weeks 4 for a buck. We ate a lot of tuna. A lot. Whole chickens were 25 cents a pound. We could eat chicken dinner for about a dollar. Doesn’t sound like much until you had seven dollars to spend for groceries and payday was another week away. (Hubs cut the chicken into pieces, if I did it the parts weren’t recognizable, nor was I very handy/safe with a sharp knife). I think hamburger was 59 cents a pound. (Except when this bargain shopper spotted an ad at a shady area meat market advertising hamburger for 39 cents a pound. That burger had so much fat in it I almost burned the house down. Hubs didn’t have eyebrows or any hair on his arms for months after dousing those flames. Yikes).

Shannon had to wear corrective shoes even though she was months away from walking. They were open toed white high tops and fit in the palm of my hand. When you looked at her, you’d say they were on the wrong foot but that was the purpose. It was the way I carried her when I was pregnant, her feet turned in, so the shoes turned her feet out. The price of those itty-bitty shoes, which only fit her a couple fleeting months was $30. Nearly broke us. She wore corrective shoes until she was about 4.

Shannon’s Christmas in 1971 wearing her white high top corrective shoes…

Health insurance was paid for by John’s employers, but there was always a 90 day waiting period. For this young couple that meant when he started a new job-I could not get pregnant (or have the pregnancy covered) before those first 3 months were up. No prescriptions were covered and if Shannon needed an antibiotic, the money for this week’s groceries were in jeopardy. My birth control pills cost $1.25 a month.

We were not in a position to eat out very often as the numbers clearly indicate. We’d get McDonald’s every other Friday when John cashed his check. What a treat that was for us. Every couple months we’d spring for a pizza. Shannon was possessed with Pizza Hut which was a fairly new franchise. I can’t remember the road in Sioux City where one was located on a big lazy curve. We literally had to distract her or cover her eyes when we drove past. If she saw it, she’d squeal, over and over, “Pita Hut, Pita Hut, Pita Hut.”

While we lived in Hinton there was a very small diner on Highway 75 called J & D Cafe, easily still remembered by me because it’s the same initials as John & Denise. They made a wicked good Hot Beef Sandwich for $1.25. When we got our federal tax refund, or Dad slipped us an extra 10 spot, that’s what we’d spring for. They also made real homemade pies. I’d get a piece of Coconut, Lemon, or Banana Cream pie for 60 cents. Think of it, a meal for under 2 bucks. Yet we couldn’t afford it even once a month. The more you make, the more stuff costs, the more you spend. And we made close to nothing.

Mommy & Shannon 1, pointing to a picture of her and my Dad, 1972…

Most of those first years truthfully, were quite painful. Even reminiscing about them makes my mouth go dry. But the lean years shaped us into who we are today. I wish we’d had it easier during the first 5 years, but then I’d have a lot less to write about…

6 thoughts on “1971…

  1. 1971 was quite significant for us…..we both graduated from college in June, got married in July and immediately traveled to Yakima, Washington where we were both assigned to teach at Grace Lutheran School. We were better off than you and John since our housing was provided and together we brought in a whopping $9,000 a year.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That was a busy summer for you guys wasn’t it? The school district provided you with housing, that’s huge! If we hadn’t paid rent it would have been a huge boost in our family finances. You don’t think 60 bucks a month as very much but it sure was back then. Thanks for giving me a glimpse of Kathy & Tom-the early years…


  2. We taught at a Lutheran school and at that time it was common for congregations to provide housing. Even now our teachers receive a housing allowance.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can see starting off with new jobs, fresh out of college, what a savings rent free housing was. Although we didn’t spend much on rent, it was still was a huge chunk of change considering what Hubs was taking home…


  3. Denise,
    Strong people make it through tough times and the two of you did just that!

    BTW: my wife lived on South Avenue in one of CT’s best cities – thought you’d like to know that.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul, I’ve said I wouldn’t give you a plug nickel for our first few years of marriage. But instead of throwing in the towel, we stuck to our commitment to each other. I think too often these days it’s just easier/less messy to give up and go their separate ways. I’m glad we never gave up. Geez, I’d never attempt to break in another one. Thanks for commenting friend…dvb


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