Welcome to Now and Then, the blog that compares fashions, technology and prices from 1962 to those of today.

Years ago my wife and I were exploring the old abandoned farm house in Alberta where she grew up. Among other things, we found three old Eaton’s catalogues in excellent condition, all from 1962. Eaton’s was Canada’s major department store until it folded in 1999. We took those catalogues home and now I’ve started scanning them, comparing some of the things for sale then and the equivalents today.

Eaton Spring and Summer 1962
Summer Eaton's Catalogue 1962
Eaton Summer Sale Catalogue 1962
Eaton's Christmas 1962 CatalogueEaton Christmas Catalogue 1962

While a price comparison is interesting, what is even more interesting to me is the change in styles and fashions, as well as the changes in  technology. Back then women wore flouncy dresses and skirts and one piece bathing suits. Men wore undershirts and tighty whiteys. Home videos were shot on 8 millimeter film and projected with a Bell and Howell projector.

Summer - page 7 excerptCasual wear for teen girls from the Summer 1962 Eaton’s catalogue. The equivalent prices in today’s dollars are $70.73, $53.74 and $72.15. (1962 price X 8.07). Comparative prices for similar clothes today? Hard to say as prices vary from vendor to vendor and it is hard to gauge quality. New women’s dresses at The Bay range from $16.80 to hundreds of dollars. At Sears, $8.94 and up. A recent TV ad for fashions from Joe Fresh advertised summer dresses at $29 each. So a direct comparison is impossible.

Some products haven’t changed much other than price. Some have undergone tremendous changes in style. And technology has rendered many products obsolete.

tighty whiteys page 72-SSTighty whiteys including undershirts were popular in 1962. These featured in the Summer Sale Catalogue sold for 87¢, 97¢ and $1.00, tops and briefs sold separately. In today’s dollar, those would be $7.02, $7.82 and $8.07. Today you can usually get three pairs for $9.99. The question for me , though, is why is the guy on the right holding a golf club and what the heck is that gizmo the guy in the middle is holding.

In making my comparisons, I’ll be using current department stores and big box stores for equivalent products. Sears, the Bay, Best Buy, etc. I’ll be using Canadian pricing. And I’ll be using Canadian CPI stats to give the prices adjusted for inflation.

film set SS page 256This is a mid-range film set including camera and projector from Kodak. High end cameras alone went as high as $189.73. That $119.50 price tag in today’s dollars would be $964.37. Today you get a movie camera in your portable telephone. You can buy a movie camera for under $100. It does not need film or expensive processing . You record on a digital memory card and play it back on your computer. You can hook your computer up to your large screen television and play it there if you want.

Navigating the Catalogues

I have posted the front and back covers and the first ten pages of each catalogue already. Click on the Catalogues link above and you get a menu that shows the covers of the three catalogues with links to each. Clicking on a link brings up the front cover of the catalogue as a full page. Underneath you will find a link to go to the next page. So you can start at page one of a catalogue and go through it sequentially.

But since each blog post will reference specific pages, I have also included a page menu that let’s you go to specific pages without having to cycle through the entire catalogue to get there.

Note that while this website is created using WordPress, which uses the php programming language and is database driven, the catalogues themselves are in standard html. I did this because I want the catalogue pages to be self-contained without the header or sidebars that come with the WordPress website. Each catalogue page has two links at the top to get you back to the main website – a Home Button and a Catalogue Button.

Methodology and CPI

For general notes on the methodology for comparing prices then and now, click on the Methodology link above. The CPI link will give you a detailed history of the Consumer Price Indices from Canada, the United States, Australia, Japan and the United Kingdom from 1960 to the present.

We Rock

There is also a link called We Rock. Because the dot com, dot org, and dot net extensions were all taken, I used the new extension of dot rocks to register this website. So I thought I would include a list of the Billboard Music Charts from its inception in 1958 to the present. Just click on the appropriate link to see what songs were on the hit parade for the day you were born, or your children were born, or your parents.

Creating the Online Catalogues

To create the online catalogue pages take a bit of work. Most scanners, including mine, cannot handle the size of a catalogue page so I have to go through a few steps to prepare them. First I scan the upper half of a page, then the lower half. I save these as jpegs.

Then I open each jpeg with Adobe Photoshop and trim off the excess parts as the scanner cover is open during scanning and records a blank section or a part of a facing page with each scan. I also straighten each picture if necessary.

Once they have been trimmed, I use a program called Scan ‘n’ Stitch to join the two pages together into one large page. I also straighten the finished page if necessary.

Finally I open the finished page in Adobe Photoshop and trim away any remaining excess and do some cosmetic fixing of blemishes – usually on the edges.

Please note that the catalogues are thick and bulky and cannot be laid completely flat for scanning, so the inner edges may be curved and partially illegible. I could fix this by taking an X-acto knife and cutting the pages out of the catalogues before scanning them but I do not want to dismember the catalogues in this way.

This Blog

In future blog posts I will post pictures from the catalogue covering one segment of items for sale – e.g. ladies’ dresses, men’s shoes, children’s wear, garden tools, cameras and video equipment, televisions and radios, home appliances, etc. Eaton’s sold just about everything. The Spring and Summer catalogue is a prairie edition and has a couple of dozen pages of seeds for farmers.

Each post will feature pictures, comparison of the price then with what it would cost in today’s dollar, and, if possible, the price of a similar product today, comparison of tech specs when available, and some commentary.

I welcome feedback on what I hope will be a fascinating and entertaining project.