Making ends meet

Sunday columnist Peter Leith has seen a lot of the world, a lot of Australia and a lot of life.  Aged 90, he makes the time to observe the world around him, agitate for change and reflect on times gone by. Today he continues his Vanishing Australia series.


In 1948 Adelaide, there were still some tiny, single-fronted ‘workman’s cottages’ in the little lanes that intersected the bigger east-west-running streets in the square mile that is the centre of the city.

One such cottage was occupied by a middle-aged widow. To supplement her meagre pension, she had turned the front room, which opened onto the street, into a little dining room with four small wooden tables, each with two wooden kitchen chairs and red-and-white checked tablecloths.

She served lunch only, just five days a week. Each day had its own fixed two-course menu. You could either have soup, the main course and a cup of tea, or the main course, ‘pudding’ and a cup of tea. She did all the cooking and serving herself.

I did not lunch there often, because one shilling and six pence was three per cent of my total weekly salary of one pound thirteen shillings and six pence, for working a 40-hour week.

In today’s money, one shilling and sixpence would be 15 cents. Things have changed.

Do you remember when the prices of everyday items were just a fraction of their cost today? What sticks in your mind?

Do you have an idea for Peter’s series on Vanishing Australia or Aspects of Ageing? Send it to [email protected] and put ‘Sunday’ in the subject line and we will forward it to him.

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