What Would a Dollar Buy in…

May 18, 2016 9:14 pm Published by

By Ann Koppy, BHSoc HistorianThrifty Market on Broadway St (1910s).jpg

Modern day “dollar stores” opened in the mid-1980s but the concept was pioneered decades earlier. The “five & dime” variety emporiums that originated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries sold a little of everything for nearly everyone. Among them were Newberry’s, Sprouse Reitz, and Woolworth’s.

Many long time residents may remember Highbe’s Five, Ten and Twenty Five Cent Store located on Farmington Road from 1941-1960. It was a favorite among local residents until increased competition from larger discount stores eventually led many of these smaller retailers to close.
Let’s take a look at what Beaverton residents could get for about $1.00 over the years (the amount in parentheses indicates what $1 in that year is worth now1).

In 1905 ($1 = $26.32 today)
In 1905, Fred Willis Cady had recently opened the Cady-Anderson Company, MP Cady Building on Broadway (1910s).jpglocated on the north side of Broadway Street. “The Satisfaction Store” as they called it, stocked staples such as flour, coffee, fruits, and vegetables. It also housed the the city’s post office for a while. Here, customers with a sweet tooth could buy 20 candy bars for a dollar. Or, if you were a commercial laundry business, you could have bought 12 Little Daisy Zinc Washboards. Do a lot of shipping? Well, one dollar could buy you 50 first class postage stamps.
On June 1st of 1905, many Beaverton residents traveled over the hill to the The Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition in northwest Portland. This world’s fair had a variety of attractions in addition to exhibits, concerts, towering buildings, Sunken Gardens, carnival rides and much more. Admission to the fair was $1 for two adults and another dollar for four children.

In 1924 ($1 = $13.33 today) Premium Pictures Productions Film Scene (1920s).jpg
During the 1920’s, Premium Picture Productions was making silent films in their Beaverton studio and premiering them at the Pacific Theatre in town. In August 1924, about 300 moviegoers attended the opening of Trail of Vengeance. $1 purchased one child and two adult admissions with five cents left over. After the matinee, shoppers might have gone to Beaverton Market and Grocery and filled their baskets with a half pound of butter, a half gallon of milk, 6 eggs and 2 loaves of bread for just about $1.00.

Can you envision the proud new owner of a Willys-Knight Touring car purchased from the Daly & Marsh dealership? He or she could pay their $1,195 for the car and then fill it up at the Beaverton Loop Service Station with 5 gallons of gas for $1.00 (that’s 20¢ per gallon). Now, while these prices appear to be cheap, keep in mind that the average weekly wage in manufacturing was $25 and farm wages, without room and board, were about $48 a month.

In 1963 ($1 = $7.52 today)
In August of 1963, Community Circus, Inc. came to town and set up in a field on the corner of Lombard Ave. and Farmington Rd. (near the location of present-day Buffalo Wild Wings). The Beaverton Boosters merchants’ association saw the opportunity for a city-wide Circus Days Sale and promotional event. Coupled with vouchers from participating businesses, $1 paid for 10 rides on the Tilt-A- Whirl, Octopus, or other attractions. Consumers found abundant bargains at Beaverton Pharmacy: after shave, men’s cream hair tonic, and transistor radio batteries were two for $1 and Mercurochrome was a good deal at four bottles for $1.

Rodger’s general merchandise stores in Beaverton sold a 20 pound bag of barbeque briquettes for $1.28 and a pair of seamless nylon hosiery for one dollar. Dairyland, a restaurant and malt shop across the street from Beaverton Bakery, enticed hungry crowds with their diner special: a hamburger patty, mashed potatoes and gravy, salad, and milk for only 75 cents.

The federal minimum wage had risen to $1.25 per hour by then and the median family income was about $6,000 a year. And in four decades, that gallon of 20¢ gas in 1924 had increased to just 30¢. A dollar just isn’t what is used to be. Or is it?

1 Data taken from the University of Oregon inflation calculator.


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This post was written by Michael Wong