While the average San Diegan does without his new car or his new stereo, or cuts his entertainment budget down to buying popcorn for television movies, it may be comforting to know that inflation is tugging at the purse strings of even the most “prominent” San Diegans.
Inflation fighting couple
Mayor Pete Wilson sent his wife back to work after he was elected, and says now, “Well, as usual, on my $12,000 a year salary — I'm broke!”
Maureen O’Connor, Councilwoman for the 2nd District, ponders the question for a while before responding, “Now, with higher prices, I have to consult my imagination a little more, and my pocketbook a little less.”
“My life style hasn’t changed too much, but I’ve gone in the stores and looked at the price of meat and decided to have hamburgers!’’ exclaims Councilman Henry Landt, who even had some trouble with his recent victory dinner. (He won the September 18 primary.) “‘Ah nuts,’ I said, ‘I’m not going to pay six or seven dollars for a steak dinner,’ so last night after watching the election returns, we ended up at a pizza house.” Landt claims he’s been buying meat in Mexico for years. “Filet mignon is good wherever you get it — even if the cows have been eating cactus!”
The three-figure price tag on beef products has turned Craig Noel, producer-director of the Old Globe Theatre into a vegetarian. “I’m eating less and dieting more,” says Noel. He decided he can live without meat at the current prices. “I’m getting ready to leave for Europe soon and I'm sure I'll be alarmed at how little my dollars will be worth over there.” Since he wasn’t buying meat, Noel thought he could afford to remodel his home. “My friends said I couldn't afford any remodeling, but all I wanted was a new entry hall,”’ He called for a few estimates, and his friends were correct he couldn't afford the new hall. “I hoped to add a bedroom and bath too, but it's impossible!”
While Noel's house remains as it was, Adrian Boult, music director of KPRI-FM, remains without the instruments he needs to complete his collection. “I'm doing without an RMI Electric Piano, a 1929 Steinway piano and a mellotron,” he says sadly. “I also quit eating meat, and I buy groceries in larger quantities because the prices are going crazy!”
The crazy food prices, which rose faster in August than in any other month in history since 1947, according to a study recently released by the Labor Department, have made relatively small dents in some lives.
“I've been trying to implement but not too successfully — a decision to not use my charge accounts,” says Gloria Self, one of the publishers and editors of San Diego Magazine.
“Our lifestyle hasn't changed too much, but overall we just haven't purchased as many things. We've adopted a ‘wait-and-see' attitude towards buying.”
The prohibitive cost of a new car has kept newsman Harold Greene of KCST-Channel 39, still saving for his Mercedes Benz 250. “I've put off my vacation this year, too.” Greene has also avoided the meat counter, as well as many other luxuries. “We newsmen are so poor to start with anyway, and then the government continues to raise the prices...” “I've been buying a lot of patches instead of new clothes.” The cost of clothing is brought up by another important man: “I'm wearing my clothes longer and I'm not as liberal with my clothing allowance,” says Lou Conde, Supervisor of the 3rd District. Conde also notes the cost of meat has affected his personal life. “I'm not eating expensive cuts of meat — that’s for darn sure.” He also says he is dining out less and not entertaining much lately.
The putative boycott of expensive beef by those interviewed would have been unanimous, if not for Mrs. Peter Bavasi. “My wife came home last night with a box of New York steaks she paid $51 for, and I almost killed her!” Peter Bavasi laughs. Bavasi, vice-president and general manager of the San Diego Padres, doubts he could be called a “prominent San Diegan.” “Just working for the Padres is enough to fight inflation in my life!”
Surprisingly enough, there is a handful of well-known San Diegans whose lives have seemingly remained completely unchanged by high prices. Through ingenuity or whatever, this tiny minority has bobbed above the tidal wave of inflation.
Harold Keen, the popular newsman for KFMB-TV, stringer for the Los Angeles Times, and San Diego Magazine writer, says his life hasn't changed lately because he lives a “simple existence.” “We still drive the same Chevelle and have lived in the same house in a middle-class neighborhood for thirty-three years.” Keen, who describes himself as a “work-a-holic” because he can never sit still, says he and his family always buy on a “cash-paid basis. “This idea comes from the days of the Depression, when buying on credit was a poor idea,” explains Keen.
Another man who says he believes in living modestly is Lee Taylor, the newly elected Supervisor of the 5th District. “I live conservatively because you must live on less than you earn to gather a good surplus,” says Taylor. “My family has eaten hamburgers because we like it better than steak. We also eat a lot of casseroles and have no desire for expensive things.” Taylor waxes philosophical as he discusses inflation. “We have to reduce affluence in this country, and find a happy medium a compromise between steak and hamburger...”
He was in the construction business before becoming a County Supervisor, and says he understands the famer’s plight of not earning enough because he once was a farmer too. “The rich people are going to disappear in this nation...”
Another man’s life fairly unaffected by the economy is Councilman Floyd Morrow. He is an attorney as well as representative of the 5th District. “I’ve been buying fresh beef in Mexico lately, if that’s considered fighting inflation. My kids got hot one weekend and we cleared the back yard for a garden, but so far we haven't got anything planted yet!”
One woman is far ahead of Councilman Morrow with her garden. Charlotte Hoover, president of the San Diego Teachers Association, not only grows her own fruits and vegetables but cans them. Mrs. Hoover outshines anyone interviewed with her personal plan to combat the high cost of living.
“I use compact cars and share rides whenever I can,” she begins. “I have a larger freezer to store food, we make all our own wine, do our own upholstering and drapery making, start new plants from clippings instead of buying them from high-priced nurseries, and we even built our own home!”
We should all receive encouragement from Mrs. Hoover's ingenuity but some people, like L. Thomas Halverstadt, president of the San Diego Symphony Association seems to have given up. “When you find out how to beat the high cost of living let me know.”
After all is said and done, it is refreshing to learn that one prominent San Diegan views inflation in a purely humorous light. Dr. Leonard Bloom, owner of the San Diego Conquistadors, replies with a one-liner to my question about inflation “All basketballs should definitely have some.”