Butch Got Married in 1966 When Living Was Still Cheap!

With prices the way they are right now, I often think back to 1966…the year I graduated from good ol’ Darlington High School. My wife and I had been dating for some time, so I thought, “What the heck…we might as well get married!” We were both 17 years old when I gave her the engagement ring, and we were married on October 29, 1966…two days after I had turned 18. We purchased a nice 3-bedroom house, located on a double lot, in Clarks Hill…the price $5,500…monthly payment $46. Our folks gave us some of their furniture, so we only had to purchase a few odds and ends. I had always wanted a nice car, and since we had to drive to Lafayette every day, we bought a used 1965 Chevy Impala Super Sport from Bill DeFouw Chevrolet for $2200…with a payment of $63 a month.

Our wedding was a small affair at the Clarks Hill Christian Church, with only the minister, our parents, and the best man and maid of honor attending. After the ceremony, we celebrated with a wedding cake and a meal for everyone at Miller’s Fish House in Colfax. Counting the $25 we paid the minister for his services, the total cost of everything was $50! So where did we go for our honeymoon? Well, we headed off to the Payless grocery in Lafayette to stock up on the first week’s food…and after it was all said and done, I looked at our checking account. The remaining balance was $1.74.

My wife took a job as a typist and secretary, and her weekly take-home pay for 40 hours was $48, while I started full-time as a student at Purdue. However, I worked about 30 hours a week helping her Dad on his farm at the rate of $1.50 an hour. During my second year of college, I was able to get a job at National Homes, and it paid $2.10 an hour. During the four years I attended Purdue, we never borrowed any other money and never went below zero in our checking account. You have to remember that food was much cheaper in those days. A loaf of bread was 22 cents, and a gallon of milk was a 99 cents. We bought TV dinners on sale at five for $1.00. We ate a lot of chicken noodle soup and blueberry muffins, Kraft spaghetti, and pancakes and sausage. We did eat out quite often at fast food joints, but at that time a McDonalds hamburger was 17 cents, fries 15 cents, and a shake 22 cents. Super deluxe coneys at the A&W root beer stand were 40 cents. On one occasion, we splurged and ordered catfish from Millers in Colfax. They asked me on the phone how many pounds of fish I wanted, and since I had no idea, I ordered four pounds, with a double side order of onion rings. When I picked the order up, I was shocked to learn the total was $11.00. I had ordered eighteen fried catfish! I was too embarrassed to admit my mistake, and since I was taught from an early age not to waste any food and always “eat everything on my plate,” I ate fourteen fried catfish, and my wife managed to get down the remaining four. We also consumed the onion rings! Suffice it say, we didn’t have any desire for catfish and onion rings for a few months after that!

For entertainment, we went to movies at the two theaters located in downtown Lafayette. Tickets were $1.25, and buttered popcorn was 50 cents. Now you might think driving back and forth to Lafayette each day was expensive, but gas in those days was only 32 cents a gallon. And how did I manage to attend Purdue without borrowing any money? When I started college, the tuition per semester for a full-time student was $175, and by the time I was a senior, it had only gone up to $225 a semester. All of my books for each semester averaged approximately $30-35 total, and I could trade these back in when done. The tuition at Purdue today is $10,000 a semester, and some books today cost more than the tuition did in 1966! No student today can work their way through college like I did.

We had no children during those four years, but after I graduated, our first child came along in 1971. My wife had a difficult time, and she was in labor over 32 hours before our son finally arrived with the help of a specialist who our doctor had summoned. My wife was at Home Hospital for three days, and the total hospital bill was $515. Our doctor charged us $50 for the delivery. Three years later, our daughter was born…the total bill was $715. When I began teaching school, I was making $8800 a year, so I decided to trade the Impala in on a new Chevy Nova Super Sport….the price was $3150. And in 1975, we puchased a house in the country, located on five acres…at a price of $24,000. We put $5000 down, so our monthly payment was $163. We were living the high life!

Well, that’s the way it was….that’s why us baby boomers call it “the good ol’ days!”

– John “Butch” Dale is a retired teacher and County Sheriff. He has also been the librarian at Darlington the past 32 years, and is a well-known artist and author of local history.