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Saturday, February 2, 2008

I was a Spudnut Man

Remember when you were a kid and you marked your age by half years or even quarter years? I just turned 61, and now I mark my age by decades.

But the good side of growing older is all the wisdom that comes with it. My life experiences help me judge the present by things I remember from the past. I grew up in Denver in the 1950s. My mom and dad got married in 1929 and had their first child, my sister, in 1930 and their second, my brother, in 1935. They raised two kids in the Great Depression. My mom never got over the Depression. And I was raised as a child of the Depression even though I was born at the very start of the Baby Boom.

I had odd jobs even as a kid to make money. I got an allowance, but not enough for my needs. Back then my needs consisted of candy and model cars and airplanes. In 1957 a friend and I talked the owner of the Spudnut Shop in the Lakeside Mall into letting us go door to door selling fresh Spudnuts. We made 75 cents each for selling a dozen bags of Spudnuts. One day I rang a doorbell and a woman's voice from the inside rang out "Whose there?" And I answered "The Spudnut Man." I swear this is true: she came to the door in a bra looking for a man and saw only a little ten year old boy. She bought a bag from me. I never saw a woman other than my mother in a bra before. It was amazing.

Sometime either before my Spudnut days or the winter after, I learned a valuable lesson about how to put a value on money and other things of value (like work). We had a horrible snow storm. On a cold and snowy Sunday I went outside with my snow shovel and got busy shoveling sidewalks. I think I charged 25 cents. The lesson came when I shoveled a particularly large sidewalk. It must have been a corner property. When I was done I went to the house to collect my money. The man asked "How much?" And I said something like "However much you think it is worth." The bastard only gave me 50 cents. I had shoveled my little tail off for this guy. And all I got was 50 cents. I wasn't so mad at him as I was mad at myself.

I put myself through college and law school. I paid for everything with money I earned and a few scholarships. I had to pinch pennies to get by. I went to the University of Denver College of Law and tuition was very expensive. But I managed to have all my college loans repaid within a year or so after graduating.

Those days of pinching pennies helps me compare the price of things today against what they cost back in the day. Its funny (no, it really isn't) that we managed to live through the Fabulous Fifties without a mortgage backed securities meltdown (they did not exist) or sky rocketing oil prices that are justified because we were in a war (I guess the Korean War didn't count as a real war).

The following are some of the benchmarks I used to determine if I am paying too much for something today as compared to what it used to cost. Way back in 1957 I had my first date. I was in the 5th grade and my "steady" and I double-dated with another couple and went to the Oriental Theatre at 44th & Tennyson in Denver. The "show" cost 25 cents. We bought a long paper bag of popcorn for a dime at the drugstore next door and Green Rivers in the theatre for another dime. Total cost for a Saturday afternoon $.45 each. Today the Regal Cinema in Key West charges $6.50 for a child to watch a movie. Popcorn and drink would be another $4 or so.

I had to buy a new car just as I started law school. I chose a 1970 VW and it cost me $2000. A 2008 New Beetle SE starts at MSRP $20,440 in Miami. My first studio apartment cost $125 per month. A studio apartment costs an average of $1100 in Key West today.

You could buy a Coke for a nickel when I was a kid. Later Coke came out with a King Size bottle for a dime. Today in Key West a can of Coke costs $1.50. I remember we used to have Crestridge Dairy deliver two gallons of milk twice a week to our house. Milk cost $.45 back then. Today in Key West the price is about $4.50. And nobody delivers milk. Way back in the 50s bread cost $.19. Last week I paid $3.39.

The summer before I started college I had a job at a small airport refueling airplanes. I was paid $1 per hour. I think I was paid minimum wage. A fellow employee who just got out of the Air Force made $1.10. He was a man, and I was still a boy. Today in Colorado the minimum wage is $7.02, but it is only $6.79 in Florida. A lot of illegal workers in Key West make more than that, but some don't make very much more.

Can you imagine working for a living at a minimum wage job and trying to house and feed your family? You couldn't do it in Key West.

I am so tired of MBAs that create justifications for their market manipulations. They are messing with our lives by driving up the cost of gas. Some smart alec MBAs got the idea they could do the same thing with corn futures because corn is being used as a bio-fuel. It worked just as planned. Now corn is gold, and everything related to corn is more expensive than it should be.

None of this has a thing to do with the price of real estate in Key West. But it does have a role in why things cost so much here. I wish we could all use the WAY BACK MACHINE and go back to the 1950s when all we had to do was worry about the Commies and duck under our desks at school in preparation for imminent nuclear attack.

If you want to buy a house in Key West please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642 or e-mail me at

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Key West, Florida, United States
I first read about Key West in a magazine called "After Dark" sometime in the mid 1970's. But it wasn't until March 1984 that I made my first visit to the island that would become my home. I had two weeks for a vacation and reserved a room at Colours Guesthouse (now Marrero's Guest House) for one week. I thought that if I didn't like Key West, I could always go back to Miami or Ft. Lauderdale for the rest of my trip. But after a couple of days in Key West, that was no longer a consideration. But when I wanted to extend my stay for the extra week I found there was no room at the inn. The guesthouse owner did find me a room at LaTeDa, the infamous guesthouse/restaurant. That's a story I'll write another day. But those two weeks in Key West gave me the realization that I had found Paradise. Key West has been my home since 1993 and my only regret is that it took me so long to get here. I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties CRI. Let me help you find your new home or business in Paradise. Living in Paradise is not a slogan, it's a way of life.