Back Then part One


blog post
The headline reads, “Thousands of military families struggle with food insecurity
Back then we called it, “Payday to payday.”


The only assurance in 1959 was that there would be a paycheck. Well, that was mostly true. Transferring to a new base sometimes put that assurance at risk. Most of us knew to ‘put a little aside’ in case payroll records didn’t travel as fast as we might. But if we were on leave in transition it seldom happened.

Shortly after Shirley and I were married in 1959, I had a transfer.1There is more to it, but the reason isn’t in this focus. My new station was only 120 miles away, so travel pay was the cost of a single bus ticket, $12 as I remember.

Departure from Monterey was near the end of the month payday, so using our cash balance and travel pay would have left us with about $5 to last until we got to our next station near Petaluma, CA. But we had two weeks leave before reporting at Two Rock Station. We decided to save the cash and hitchhike to Seattle. After several ‘dicey’ rides we were exhausted and got a hotel room.

Our option to buy tickets from Redding to Seattle was nullified by having a safe place to sleep and eat. But the next ride was with a family from Canada, and we were dropped off north of Seattle’s Arora Bridge. We knew the route to Shirley’s home quite well. We’d walked it many times but never at four in the morning.

I got partial pay at Ft. Lawton, spent $50 on a 1932 Ford pickup, and we drove back to Petaluma.

We had enough to rent a CHEEP basement apartment. Several times the evening before payday, we’d walk to a drug store and spend a dime for two ice cream cones and there was a quarter for a gallon of gas to get to base in the morning. Then, like most of our kind at our station, we’d go to the Hamilton Air Base commissary the first chance we had.

Things did get better, but many times we were in a similar economic cycle.

So, what has changed?