The Best of Andy Rooney

I've read a lot of newspaper articles recently about inflation and deflation in this country and around the world. Then, for some reason, I woke up in the middle of the night and started thinking about how much things cost and all the numbers in my life that were so meaningful at one time.

When I was young, I lived in a house with the street number 204, and nine years later I moved to one a mile away at street number 7. I went to School Four until I was 12, at which time I started in the First Form at The Academy.

In college, I was in the class of 1942 and attended until my junior year, when I was drafted and assigned to the 17th Field Artillery Regiment of the 13th Field Artillery Brigade. I was shipped to England and applied to the Army newspaper, The Stars and Stripes. I got the job and covered the Eighth Air Force, which regularly bombed targets in France and Germany. I went on two raids with the 306th Bomb Group after attending gunnery school. I shot at several enemy planes, but I don't think I ever hit an ME 109 or an FW 190. ("ME" stood for Messerschmitt and "FW" was the maker of the German fighter plane "Focke Wulf." The names are like "Boeing" or "Lockheed." We hated them.)

A lot of memorable numbers in my life have to do with money. After the war, I sold a book to MGM for an incredible $55,000. We lived at an address on Malibu Beach for a year. In deference to the people in the house now, I wouldn't give the Malibu street number even if I could remember it. I won't say what I did with the $55,000, either, because I forget. Easy come, easy go.

Every morning, I drove about 17 miles from Malibu to MGM in Hollywood. As I recall, gas was about 18 cents a gallon.

At the time, I didn't want to buy a new car so I bought a second-hand Chrysler for $800. Lunch in the cafeteria at MGM cost less than a dollar. We occasionally splurged and ate dinner at The Brown Derby in Hollywood or at the Beverly Hills Hotel. It cost about $5 per person. I remember thinking at the time that for me, money was no object. I bought an expensive new suit while I was there for $15.

The newspaper was a nickel, milk cost less than a quart and they charged me $1 to park my car for a week at the MGM garage. I remember cars didn't look that much different from one another then, and I remember my Chrysler looked like a friend's Hupmobile that he paid $800 for, the same amount I paid for my second-hand car.

My father made the huge amount of $17,000 a year in 1946 and he bought a Packard, which my mother drove because he traveled most of the time. It was a great car -- in my memory anyway. Uncle Bill owned a Reo that cost $1,100. I don't know why Packard, Hupmobile and Reo went out of business and Ford and Chevrolet didn't.

One of my dreams that will never be realized is to have one of those old cars brand new now. I'd love to own a 1939 Packard that had never been driven. I'd like to own a new Ford from around 1945.

I've written 16 books in my lifetime. If a typical book has around 250 pages, with 300 words per page, that would mean that each book contains around 75,000 words. So, I've calculated that my 16 books have approximately 1,200,000 words.

Now, that's a nice large number to think about in the middle of the night.

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