At the time, Edith Hale lived with her sister Dorothy in a small, dormitory-type apartment in Lansing, near Main Street, now somewhere underneath Interstate Highway 496. Edith could walk to work, which was at the REO headquarters on the south side of the Grand River.
Now, we’re not too sure how Edith Hale and John Taylor managed to meet (she was, after all, a Williamston girl), but, meet they did. One thing followed another, as it often does. It was 1935, and soon they became Mr. and Mrs. John Taylor.
He was becoming a wirey, kinnetic man, she a somewhat reserved and quiet lady. When the nation fell off the wagon in 1934, so did John, and the splash he made when he fell was a bit more flamboyant than most. But, somewhere in the fog of new marraige, new job, new constitution, they had a new son. They named him Stuart.
“When you had a baby in those days”, John once told me, “The custom was to give the doctor a $100 gold coin to pay for the whole thing. That paid for the doctor’s fee, the hospital, the bassinet, everything. And don’t forget: back then, your wife stayed in the hospital for a week or ten days, they didn’t just send you home the next day”. I remembered this chat a while later, when John told me about the first refrigerator he bought, which was also in 1937.
By then, of course, John had gone to work for Lansing Ice and Fuel, the venerable Lansing company, owned then by the Ruetter family, and which today clings to a bit of its former glory merchandising fuel oil. “Mr. Ruetter wanted each of us to have our own refrigerator in our houses,” John said, “that way, we could better understand how to sell the frozen food. Now, I paid $120 for that first refrigerator, and let me tell you, it was a big undertaking. It ran on gas, so we had to have gas line put in. But, it was the wonder of the neighborhood.”
Which got me to thinking: Having a baby in 1937 cost $100. Purchasing a new refrigerator in 1937 cost $120. Since that time, the cost of purchasing the refrigerator has gone up about eight times. Having a baby has gone up about seventy-five times. The refrigerator is a much more efficient, and spaciously ergonomic today than the one John Taylor bought in 1937, and you don’t have to put in a gas-line to make it work. Meanwhile, the baby-making process is pretty much unchanged from then to now. What caused this turn of events in the world?