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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

I was a Sputdnut Man

Remember when you were a kid and you marked your age by half years or even quarter years? I just turned 69 and now I mark my age by decades.

The good side of growing older is the wisdom that comes with it. My life experiences help me gauge 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. My sister was born in 1930 and my brother in 1935. My parents raised two kids in the Great Depression. My mom never got over the Depression. I was raised as a child of the Depression even though I was born in 1947 at the very start of the Baby Boom.
Even as a kid I had several odd jobs to make spending money. I got an allowance, but not enough to meet my needs. Back then my needs consisted of candy and model cars and airplanes. I used to build a lot of models. In 1957 a friend and I talked the owner of the Spudnut Shop in the nearby Lakeside Mall into letting us go door to door to sell fresh Spudnuts.  (I found the photo of a very similar Spudnut shop online. It is eerily similar to what I remember.) Spudnuts were donuts made with potato flour. My friend and I 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 or soon after my Spudnut days I learned a valuable lesson about the value of my time and my work. We had a horrible snow storm. On a cold and snowy Sunday I went outside with my snow shovel and set out to shovel sidewalks. I think I charged 25 cents. The lesson came when I shoveled a particularly large sidewalk. It must have been a corner property. I remember being exhausted. When I was done I went to the house to collect my money. The man asked "How much?"  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 plus a couple scholarships. I had to pinch pennies to get by. My college dorm did not serve a Sunday evening meal. I often made soup in my popcorn popper at a cost of ten cents.  I went to the University of Denver College of Law where the tuition was very expensive. I worked at the courthouse in Golden, Colorado during the daytime and attended law school at night. I got a part time job as an assistant to Professor Jamison which helped pay part of my tuition. I managed to have all my college loans repaid within a year or so after graduating. 
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 was in the 5th grade.  I went on my first day with Karen S. (my "steady") which lasted one week. We double-dated with another couple and saw a movie at the Oriental Theater located on 44th and Tennyson Street. 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 date was $.45 each. Today the Regal Cinema in Key West charges $10.09 for a matinee ticket. Popcorn and drink would be another $6 or so.

I had to buy a new car just as I started law school. I chose a 1970 VW which cost me $2000. A 2016 Beetle starts at $19,588. My first studio apartment cost $125 per month. A comparable studio apartment in Key West would cost over $1500.
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 have had to pay $3 for a Coke in restaurants.  I remember we used to have Crestridge Dairy deliver two gallons of milk twice a week to our house. Milk cost $.45 a gallon 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 $4.29.

The summer before I started college I had a job at the Jefferson County Airport where I refueled small airplanes. I was paid minimum wage - $1 per hour. A fellow employee who just got out of the Air Force made $1.10. He was a man, and I was still a boy. The minimum wage in Florida today is $8.05. (That's pre-tax earnings.)

Can you imagine getting out of the military and earning minimum wage and having to pay $4.29 for a loaf of bread or $4.50 for a gallon of milk? Or paying some ridiculous amount for rent?  If you lived in Key West your motivation factor would be pretty low. Mine would. In fact I would be pretty angry - like when I felt the man short-changed me on the hard work I put in to shovel his sidewalks while he stayed inside his warm home.

None of this has a thing to do with buying or selling a home in Key West or elsewhere. I do think that my life experiences have given me a genuine appreciation for the value of money and how much time and often times how much hard work it takes to earn money. This in turn helps me be a better Realtor.

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


Mary Ann said...

Hi Gary,

I always enjoy your looks back to your youth.

Our kids are building a new house in your old neighborhood. We went to see it the other day and then joined them for breakfast at Lou's. Somewhere along the way, we passed the old Oriental Theater. Its still there but it is a small concert venue now instead of a movie theater (same with The Paramount, the Ogden, The Fillmore and The Bluebird).

Oh, and Royal Crest Dairy still delivers milk to neighborhood doorsteps.

Thanks for your blog.

Mary Ann

Gary Thomas said...

Hi Mary Ann,
Thank you for your kind comments.

When I was in Denver last summer I drove by many of the neighborhoods of my youth. Most have changed. Some no longer exist like the Lakeside Mall. I seem to remember it opened in 1956. Now it is mostly a huge piece of vacant ground. I bought a steady ring for my one-week-fling with Karen S. at the FW Woolworth at Lakeside. I think it cost 10 cents or something like that.

I drove down Tennyson Street and saw the old Oriental and remembered my double date with Karen. My brother found out about my date and told my dad. They both made fun of me dating a girl. I wonder if that had any influence on my later life. You never know how little things become big things.

I drove out West Colfax Avenue as well. Most of Westland Mall which was built new in 1959 or 1960 has been torn down and replaced with a couple of large stores that sit further back off Colfax. I lived near there as a teen. Many of the places I hung out are gone. It's eerie to see places that I used go to no longer exist. Much of Colfax Avenue looks really "seedy". When I was in school I was part of a privileged class that lived in that area that now is home to immigrants.

I drove up and down streets of Capitol Hill where I lived all the time I was going to law school until I moved to Key West in 1993. Most of Capitol Hill has been upgraded. New money has helped upgrade most of the old homes in that area. They don't have a HARC. Instead the proximity to the business district and the quality construction of the original houses has prompted new owners to invest new money into preserving and upgrading the old homes. I went over to Cheesman Park on Saturday afternoon to walk thru an art fair. Same old left over hippies that were there when I was young except most are much younger than me. They are just like the hippies from old Boulder. I loved it.



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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.