On 12/14/1974, I photographed this young Christmas shopper on Wilson near Sheridan. It was a cold day and she lived many blocks away at 1935 West Grace, yet she was patient enough to pose for several shots. Christmas shopping must have been difficult for her that year; she doesn’t look very happy. The OPEC oil embargo in October of 1973 had plunged the nation into a deep recession that was also characterized by high unemployment AND high inflation. Inflation rates had soared from 3.65% at the start of 1973 to 12.34% when I took this picture the following year. Oil prices had quadrupled which may have been why this woman had walked all the way to Wilson. Holidays like Christmas could be a bittersweet experience for people in Uptown during that era. They brought economic woes into sharp relief.
The most recent recession was characterized by a collapse in housing values. The hardest hit were property owners. But those hardest hit by the inflation in the 1970s were those who did not yet own property or those who were on fixed incomes. They saw the purchasing power of their paychecks drain away and the dream of home ownership become ever more remote. Ten percent inflation is like taking a ten percent pay cut.