John Grindrod: Remembering 1960s food costs thanks to wonderful world of microfilm


By John Grindrod - Guest Columnist



When I score a human interest or sports feature with my editors, and sometimes even for my weekly columns, it’s not unusual for me to head to the library and to the northwest corner, where the microfilm monitor awaits, as an aid to gather information and do some fact-checking from the events of yesteryear.

Generally, the monitor that sits on a table is available. Just to the left is the large wooden cabinet with the trays containing boxes of film, film that contains history, both Lima’s and the world’s, in the issues of The Lima News. If I’m unlucky when I arrive, I’ll see someone back there, someone, I’m guessing, interested in genealogy and looking at obituaries, but on my visits I’ve been pretty lucky to find a seat at history’s table.

Whenever I engage in my microfilm moments, I have to be ever vigilant not to succumb to temptation and lose sight of my original purpose. The temptation is great to be sidetracked by all the items that roll across the screen as I use the mouse to advance each film’s frame, often from the 1960s, since I love dong nostalgia-laced prose about my coming-of-age decade.

For me, it’s difficult to avoid the lure of headlines of events so important at that time and now recorded in history books. And, on a local level, it’s also difficult not to be waylaid by a marriage or obituary notice of someone I once knew.

Even the ads in the old editions sidetrack me, especially when I notice the pricing and when I stop to think about what is now such a small amount and what it could buy once upon a time. While I know those of us who’ve spent a large portion of our adult lives pushing our rocks up our laborious hills have seen our take-home pay increase over time, it’s still hard for me to believe much of what I see in the ads, especially when it comes to food pricing.

A few months ago, while prepping to write a column on those red Mustangs that the Ford Motor Company gave free two-week leases to the mothers of the Shawnee basketball players back in 1965, which, of course, meant the cars were driven all over town by not the moms but the players themselves, several ads from local grocers and area restaurants resonated with me.

As I rolled the film a page or so after I saw an ad from Timmerman Ford that a brand-new ‘65 Ford Fairlane, one that, I’m sure Merri Hanjora would probably love to feature in her “Real Wheels” weekly series, could be had for a couple of sawbucks more than two grand, I saw that round steak at Kroger was 19 cents a pound, and a buck would get you six loaves of bread. The latter was probably about what was needed weekly at the Gallagher or Garlock house, where there were double-digit mouths to feed.

Oh, and don’t forget shoppers could grab an extra fifty Top Value Stamps by buying two pounds of Kroger ground beef back in the golden age of Top Value and S & H Green stamps, stamps that so many moms licked and stuck in those little booklets for eventual redemption rewards for, say, a new set of dishes.

At competing markets, and there were several, there were deals to be had too. At Shafer’s over on Miller Avenue, ground beef was 49 cents a pound, and a gallon of milk could be had for 58 cents.

What intrigued me even more than the grocery ads were the restaurant ones. With Lent well under way in March of ’65, as I searched for any story that may have been written about those red Mustangs, I came upon an ad for the Dog ‘N Suds on South Pierce, just down from the main entry of a Lima Senior that exists now only in many people’s memory banks. It was an ad that enticed readers to spend a buck for FIVE fish sandwiches that could be trundled home for the fam!

Just when I was impressed by that, I came upon an ad for the restaurant in The Holiday Inn for an all-you-could-eat Friday fish fry for, drum roll please, 99 cents!

Dinner specials at the Thunderbird Restaurant on Cable across from St. Charles were a penny less than two bucks, and that included the beverage, while DePalma’s on North Main just down from Northland advertised its Wednesday special, all-you-could-eat spaghetti for 99 cents.

The Susie Q Drive Inn’s Wednesday special was beef and noodles, a carnivore’s cool weather go-to stick-to-your-ribs meal, including salad and coffee or tea, for one single dollar.

And, how about those specials at Jack’s Cafeteria on West High, where the meat loaf and Spanish sauce was 30 cents; the frankfurter and potato salad 29 cents; and, for those interested in a fiber infusion, that plate of barbequed Lima beans for 26 cents?

So there you have it, folks, back to my 14th year, in far different times, when a buck or two could go a very, very long way when it came to filling your anatomical tank. Think about that the next time you pay your tab during your next sit-down restaurant occasion.

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By John Grindrod

Guest Columnist

John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at grinder@wcoil.com.

John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at grinder@wcoil.com.

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