In 1969, most homes did not have bathrooms inside, the idea of getting on a plane was only for the rich and fool-hardy and a loaf of bread was 23 cents.

By Ian Horswill


Posted on July 19, 2019

Astronaut Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon on July 20 at 10.56pm EDT, at 3.56am on July 21 in London, at 10.56pm on July 21 in Singapore and 12.56pm on July 21, 1969, in Sydney in Australia.

Millions of people gathered before small screened black and white screen television sets with cathode ray tubes and people massed before larger screens in parks. Even in the early hours on the morning, hundreds gathered in Trafalgar Square, London, to watch it.

Apollo 11 crew
From left: Commander Neil A. Armstrong, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins, and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin “Buzz” E. Aldrin, Jr.

But life was very different to today and the feat of Apollo 11 and its astronauts beyond the belief of many.

The CEO Magazine: 12 items we would not have without Apollo 11 and space travel

In the UK, the BBC and ITV screened the event live throughout the previous evening.The BBC had never broadcast beyond midnight before and TV bosses had to be woken as Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin delayed their walk.

“The reply came back, ‘All right. We will stay up all night — and if they don’t get out you are all fired’. So we went back on the air and we went off the air next day. It was the most momentous journey man had made since we walked out of Africa 100,000 years ago,” Patrick Burke who was a commentator on the BBC broadcast, told The Sun.

“I remember at the time a lot of people couldn’t credit that it was happening. They just couldn’t believe we were actually going to go to that light up in the sky.

“You have to remember, back then we still had soot-blackened cities and steam trains.

“Many homes didn’t have an inside toilet or a bathroom, most families didn’t have a car. Yet here we were going to the Moon.

“The astronauts, with all their gleaming technology, were like people from a different planet. Watching them was like leaping into the future for a few hours.”

New York Times Apollo 11 Moon Landing
How the New York Times looked after Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon.

Life was so different back then.

The average house price in London in 1969 was £4,145 (with inflation £65,077) and the average salary £962 (£15,109). In May this year, the Office for National Statistics said the average cost of a house in London was £457,000 and average full-time salary is £36,611.

In July 1969, the median price for new homes sold in the US was US$26,800 (with inflation US$220,268 if the property was in San Francisco) with the average annual income US$8,550 (US$59,674). In May 2019, the median price for a new house in the US is US$308,000, with the average price US$377,200. According to the Census ACS survey, the median household income for the US was US$60,336 in 2017.

In Australia in 1970, the medium price for a home in Melbourne was $12,800 ($153,465), in Sydney $18,700 ($224,202) and Perth was $17,500 ($209,815) and the average weekly wage was $77.80 ($883). In 2019, the median price for a house in Sydney is $830,000, in Melbourne $660,000 and in Perth $470,000 and the average weekly wage was $1,604.90 in November last year, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

If those changes shock you, then let’s take a look at everyday groceries.

In 1969 in the UK, a loaf of bread cost 8p (£1.26), 1kg of sugar 8p (£1.27), a pint of milk 18p (£2.76), 250g of butter 11p, and 1.5kg of flour 11p. Today 0.25 litres of regular milk is £0.24, a 125g loaf of fresh white bread £0.27, a dozen regular eggs (regular) £2.40 and 0.2kg of potato is £0.22.

The Range Rover, which was launched in the UK in 1970, could have been yours for £1,998. In 2018, the Range Rover Vogue is priced from £79,595. The Mini, which celebrated its 11th birthday in 1970, cost around £600. Its redesigned descendants The Mini Clubman starts at £21,950. A trip for two to the cinema cost less than 90p in 1969, compared with at least £8 today.

In the US, a gallon of milk that cost US$1.10 now sets you back US$3.50, whereas a dozen eggs that were 62 cents in 1969, now sell for US$2. A pound of sugar in 1969 was 12 cents and in 2019 it has dropped to 11 cents. A loaf of bread was 23 cents but now sets you back $2.50.

In Australia in 1970 a loaf of bread cost 21 cents ($2.52), a quart of milk cost 19 cents ($2.28), a pound of butter cost 53 cents ($6.35) and a pound of potatoes 45 cents ($5.40). Today, a litre of milk costs on average $1.47, 500g of butter $5.50, and a kilo of potatoes $3.23.

Nashville Tennessean July 21 1969
How the Nashville Tennessean covered the Apollo 11 moon walk.

The Apollo 11 moon landing also started the computer age that remains with us.

The Apollo Guidance Computer, one on board the core spacecraft, and one on the lunar module, was a triumph of engineering. Computers had been the size of rooms and filled with vacuum tubes, and if the Apollo computer, at 70 pounds, was not exactly miniature yet, it began “the transition between people bragging about how big their computers are – and bragging about how small their computers are,” the MIT aerospace and computing historian David Mindell once joked in a lecture.

Michio Kaku, the physicist and author, said: “Today, your cell phone has more computer power than all of NASA back in 1969, when it placed two astronauts on the moon.”

As NASA reported the math Invented for the Apollo 11 moon landing helps your flight arrive on time.

A recollection of the day.

“July 20, 1969, was also my birthday. My husband and I, with our 1-year old daughter, Lisa, traveled to an Ashtabula, Ohio, restaurant to meet our college friends. The occasion created a “surreal” contradiction that, in this quaint setting, we would witness the “out of this world” reality of a televised Apollo 11 moon landing.

I recall the wide expanse of the room’s wooden floor, echoing footsteps of busy activity but then, there on the TV screen, an image captured the eerie silence as astronaut, Neil Armstrong, descended down the ladder to the dusty floor of the moon – leaving his footprint to forever commemorate, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

We were transfixed. It was such a hypnotic moment in time. My focus was only interrupted by my daughter impatiently kicking her wooden highchair and now, as I reflect on the legacy of Apollo 11 50 years later, the challenge continues to dedicate our future generations “to dream the impossible dream” and “to reach for the stars” for our universe is ours to explore.

Donna Finnucan, Camp Hill