In ‘66, $1K bought a lot of furniture

Published 1:02 am Saturday, April 29, 2017

When my husband was a month or so away from military retirement and a new job, we bought our very first house. Since we had made what we realized was a mistake by purchasing a mobile home several years before, we had nothing to carry over to furnish our new home. We needed everything. After shopping around at furniture stores, we wound up making our major purchase at a railroad salvage store. We bought beds, mattresses, box springs, a kitchen table and chairs, dining room furniture, a chair, a refrigerator and a washer. The master bedroom suite was not exactly what we wanted, but we told ourselves we would replace it when we could afford it. Maybe discarding the old and replacing furniture after a few years is a routine with some people, but not our family.

Thirty years later, I convinced my husband we needed a new bedroom suite. Actually, even after all that time, there was nothing wrong with the original bedroom suite. I was just tired of it and wanted a new one. It was a recognized national brand. The quality of some of the new ones I looked at did not measure up to it by a long shot. I felt a little sentimental about it when I contemplated getting rid of it and decided I could use the chest and dresser in another part of the house.

In preparing to place the new furniture in the bedroom, I sorted through some files and personal records kept in the chest. I ran across an invoice dated Dec. 26, 1966. It was an itemized statement from Railroad Salvage Company in Cookeville, Tenn. It listed everything we purchased. The three-piece bedroom suite was $189.95. How times have changed.

The highest-priced item on the statement was the refrigerator at $200. The next was a washing machine for $155. Following it on the list was a maple dining room suite for $125. It was a pretty set, but the ladder back chairs that came with it were uncomfortable. We replaced it with a set with more comfortable chairs sometime through the years and gave it to our daughter. She recently replaced it and stored it for a while until she gave it away.

Other items on the list were a canopy bed for our daughter at $37.50 and our son’s bed at $24.50. Our dinette set cost $50. If memory serves me well, the salesman reduced the price of a chair to $40 because we bought that much furniture and appliances at one time. The bill, including tax, came to $1,003.02. I would say it was quite a chunk of appliances, furniture and bedding for that amount of money. Certainly, you could hardly buy a combination of two or three of those things new for that total today.

Yes, I still love the “new” bedroom suite. Considering we bought it in 1996, I would say it is well on its way to lasting as long as the previous one did.


Nina Keenam is retired from the newspaper business. Her column appears on Saturdays.