One of the projects I'm currently working on involves wading through the approximately 13000 letters in the Breithaupt Hewetson Clark collection. Earlier this week, I came across this hard-to-believe letter from Constance Perrin to H. Spencer Clark, in which she discusses her upcoming trip to Europe and the price of long-distance phone calls.
618, Belgium Avenue,
March l0th., 1927.
My dear Spen;-
Perhaps it is my fault that I have no recent news of you, but this is coming to ask you for at least a note, to arrive before we sail on the Olympic for a trip abroad. We leave here on the 23rd. for New York, sail on the 26th., go first to Paris, thence to Brussels and Antwerp, and then to England, returning here about the first ten days of July. As I have never travelled before on a ship as large as the S/S Olympic, I am ever so thrilled, and most anxious to see what she is like. Last year we went over on the Empress of Scotland, which put in to New York on the last lap of one of her round-the-world cruises and we went over to Southampton in her. She is an old fashioned boat, but most comfortable. We had a most congenial crown on board, and a delightful crossing.
It was nice to hear from Sam, that you are at home with Mother and Dad in Toronto, instead of over the Lake in rooms. Am sure you are having a much better time with your own old familiar surroundings-remember well how you loved that upper room where you made the radios for yourself and friends. What strides have been made in the radio since those years. I have not yet saved up enough money to pay for a Long Distance call to England to speak to my people there; three minutes for $75. would only be tantilising [sic], as I cannot imagine saying in three minutes or having any member of my talkative family say half enough to be satisfying to either side. However, it will be much cheaper in a few years time.
Yes, that says "3 minutes for $75". According to the Bank of Canada's inflation calculator, $75 in 1927 was equivalent to $1073.33 now. At least she was correct in her prediction that prices would go down!
Like me, you may be wondering whether she's exaggerating, or perhaps whether she made a typo. Apparently not. Think about that the next time you grouse about your phone bill!
Incidentally, the first successful transatlantic cable wasn't built until the 1950s, so early transatlantic telephone calls were via radio. That certainly helps explain her otherwise-abrupt change of topic from Spencer playing with radios as a boy to saving up to make a call!
Previous post: What I did on your summer vacation
Next post: Ends and new beginnings