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A dime once could buy a Coke, a call or a song
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Krystal, the Chattanooga-based fast-food restaurant famous for its square hamburger, offered burgers recently for a quarter each.

The next statement is going to put me in the old guy category: I remember when they were a dime.

The phrase “Brother, can you spare a dime?” really meant something in those days.

A dime would buy you a phone call on a pay phone. A dime would also buy a song on the jukebox.

David Wills, a country singer who was popular in my early radio days, had a hit with a song that had two of the important elements of a country song: drinking and drowning your sorrows with a song.

“I want a drink and here’s a 20, bring my change in dimes. There’s a song on the jukebox, I want to hear a thousand times. It used to be our love song; I’ve played it here before. So, let’s make sure it’s playing when she walks through that door,” the song says.

Have you ever noticed how many country songs are about country songs? It’s sort of like Broadway musicals about Broadway musicals. I digress.

There are also a fair number of songs about pay phones. There was Jim Croce’s “Operator,” a song about a lovelorn guy’s chat with an operator while attempting to reach a girl. One of the final lines is, “You can keep the dime.”

There was also “Sylvia’s Mother,” by Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show, a song about a guy talking to Sylvia’s mama in hopes that he can patch things up. That was a long-distance call and the operator kept demanding “40 cents more for the next three minutes.”

Bob Luman, a member of the Grand Ole Opry, had a song called “The Pay Phone,” a song about a guy who uses a dime in an airport pay phone to set up a date. Later, from a pay phone in another airport he calls and tells her he’s married and won’t be calling again.

Coca-Cola was a dime when I was a kid. I missed the era of the nickel Coke, although I reference them quite often when speaking of things that are long gone. “That’s gone the way of the nickel Coke,” I’ll often say. It’s not original, but I’ve used it since 25-cent Cokes went the way of the nickel Coke.

According to a calculator of the Consumer Price Index, a dime from 40 years ago is now equivalent to 83 cents. A 1972 dollar equates to about 5.54.

There’s just not the same ring to “Brother, can you spare 83 cents?”

A song on a jukebox can cost you between 50 cents and $2, based on a recent trip to a Waffle House.

Interestingly (and here’s my sad attempt not to appear to be a total old guy), the pop group, Maroon 5, released a song this year called “Payphone,” a lament about a break-up and trying to call home on a pay phone. Where would you find a pay phone and does the crowd that listens to Maroon 5 know what that really means?

Well there you have my 2 cents’ worth, or if adjusted for the Consumer Price Index is a dime and a penny.

A dime will buy you something ... almost.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on

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