Did Phone Calls Ever Cost Only 2 Cents?

Discussion in 'The Golden Era' started by Fading Fast, Jan 22, 2014.

  1. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

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    There is a debate on another forum as to whether or not penny loafers had pennies in them so that drunk college kids (who first popularized the penny loafer) could make a call to a friend when out drunk and stranded. Where phone calls ever only 2 cents? If not, does any know the true origin of putting pennies in penny loafers. Once again, my money is on LizzieMaine knocking this one out of the park.
     
  2. vitanola

    vitanola I'll Lock Up

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    No. Even the earliest Gray Pay Stations back in the Gay 'Nineties took only nickles, dimes and quarters.
     
  3. Tomasso

    Tomasso Incurably Addicted

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    According to Brooks Brothers:


    http://blog.brooksbrothers.com/the-clothes/a-penny-for-your-thoughts/


    A Penny for your Thoughts
    Penny Wise - A Primer on our Favorite Loafer

    Some things just go together, Astaire and Rogers, peanut butter and jelly, popped collars and preppies and, of course, the penny and the loafer. Like all of the above, the penny loafer is a classic. It’s every boy’s first dress shoe (no laces), looks perfect beaten-up and broken down through your college days, and later is spiffy enough for the office. It’s a lifelong wardrobe staple and all and all just about the most versatile shoe you will ever slip-on. But, what’s with the penny?

    Loafing Around the Farm

    The loafer itself was invented in the early 1930s; inspired by an Esquire Magazine photo series featuring Norwegian dairy farmers and their distinctive slip-on shoes. The Spaulding family of New Hampshire, purveyors of leather and lumber, began producing a leather slip-on they called a “loafer”; named after the area on a dairy farm cows “loaf” around in prior to milking.
    In 1936 G.H. Bass Shoe Company began producing its famous Weejun, a name meant to give the flavor of the shoe’s NorWEGIAN roots. Mr. Bass’s wife, who sent her husband off each morning with a kiss on the cheek, inspired the distinctive strap detail. Shaped like a pair of lips or the perfect lipstick stain, the new design left just enough room to squeeze in something round and flat.

    Your Two Cents Worth

    Two cents won’t get you much these days. There was a time, before the debit card and ATM, when cash payment required the correct dollars and cents. That time is now long gone and the copper penny (now 97.5% zinc), literally, costs more than it’s worth. Back in the 1930s the recently popularized outdoor payphone or “phone booth” cost a paltry two cents. The new loafer design allowed just enough space for a penny in each shoe, equaling the cost of an emergency phone call, thus the penny and the loafer were united, never to be torn asunder.

    Everything Old Is New Again

    The penny loafer had its heyday in the late nineteen fifties and early sixties. The shoe became a pervasive trend on Ivy League campuses. With socks, without socks, sometimes even with white tube socks and shorts, the penny loafer became a centerpiece of the newly solidifying post-war “Ivy Look”. By this time a phone call cost ten cents, some fiscally responsible young gentleman made the switch from pennies to dimes. But, as is often the case with the preppy set, some held onto the traditional penny, or maybe they never even noticed the change in price. The penny loafer resurgence of the 1980s happened to coincide with another rise in payphone pricing. The twenty-cent call kept the loafer’s less sartorial purpose viable for a new generation.

    What Now

    The social zeitgeist surrounding the payphone and the penny loafer has sadly come to its technological end. The smart phone has all but eradicated the phone booth, but the shoe abides, it’s back and stronger than ever. The pennies are now only worth the nostalgia they call forth, or maybe a bit of luck, but the loafer itself has become a timeless American classic, and in our humble opinion, worth every penny.
     
  4. We wore penny loafers in the late fifties/early sixties with lucky pennies just as a fad in school. If I remember correctly pay phones were then 10 cents.
    HD
     
  5. Stanley Doble

    Stanley Doble Call Me a Cab

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    Pay phones were never 2 cents. Local calls cost a nickel when the first coin box phones were installed in the 1890s. This price held until the early fifties when it went up to 10 cents although some areas had nickel phone booths as late as 1970.

    Long distance calls were very expensive. A phone call from New York to San Francisco could cost a dollar a minute or more, at a time when $20 was a week's pay.
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2014
  6. Stearmen

    Stearmen I'll Lock Up

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    They were still 5 cents into the 70s here. Funny, it's hard to look up 2 cent phones on the internet, because of all the modern, 2 cents a minute phone contracts!
     
  7. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

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    Thank you everyone for your responses. Here and on the other forum, the general consensus seems to be that phone calls never cost 2 cents and that the Brooks Brothers story is just that: a story the company tells because it sounds good. Nothing definitive, but again, almost everyone seems to say no to the 2 cent call. I'm still waiting for LizzieMaine to weigh in.
     
  8. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    As Vitanola pointed out, there has never been a pay phone manufactured for use in the United States that accepted pennies.

    However, the in the UK, a payphone call cost twopence -- two pennies -- thruout the Era. There is no way a British penny from the Era could fit in a pair of loafers, but perhaps the Brooks Brothers folks were indulging in a bit of Anglophilia when they came up with that story.

    While you couldn't fit a pre-decimalization British penny -- about the size of a fifty-cent piece -- into a pair of loafers, the British farthing is almost exactly the same size as an American cent. But it would take eight of those to equal tuppence, and British pay station coin acceptors only took pennies anyway. So there you go.
     
  9. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

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    You are impressive. Thank you.
     
  10. Nobert

    Nobert Practically Family

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    Nice to know that drunk college kids aren't always in the vanguard of trend setting.
     
  11. vitanola

    vitanola I'll Lock Up

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    The "recently popularized outdoor payphone or 'phone booth'" had been "recently" introduced forty years earlier. No pay telephone ever installed by the Bell System ever accepted pennies. Neither do I know of any instrument which was installed in any number by any of the Independent companies. The Brroks Brothers puff piece is ahistoric, and simply untrue.
     
  12. vitanola

    vitanola I'll Lock Up

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    According to the exchange rates prevalent in February of 1935, Tuppence was equal to 4.8 cents U. S.
     
  13. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    Things a drunken college boy *could* have gotten for two cents in the 1930s --

    * A copy of the Daily News, the Daily Mirror, or if he was an intellectual, the Evening Graphic.

    *Two pieces of Fleer's Dubble Bubble.

    *Until July 6, 1932, a first class postage stamp.

    *A two-cent numbers bet.

    *Half a pound of fresh peas, in season.

    *Four ounces of suet.

    *His best friend's thoughts, twice.

    *One shoelace.

    *A copy of "Woman's Day."
     
  14. Tomasso

    Tomasso Incurably Addicted

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    Affordable suet; another reason to pine for the good old days......:)
     
  15. Completely unrelated, but I was making chili the other day, and asked the butcher for some suet. He had no idea what it was.
     
  16. Nobert

    Nobert Practically Family

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    Say, Brother, can you spare the price of a couple of shoelaces, half a pound of peas, four ounces of suet and a copy of Woman's Day?
     
  17. Tomasso

    Tomasso Incurably Addicted

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    Go ask old man Rockefeller, he gives away dimes.;)
     
  18. According to Grandpa Simpson, he gave away silver dollars:

    "I leave these: a box of mint-condition 1918 liberty-head silver dollars. You see, back in those days, rich men would ride around in Zeppelins, dropping coins on people, and one day I seen J. D. Rockefeller flying by. So I run out of the house with a big washtub...Anyway, about my washtub. I just used it that morning to wash my turkey, which in those days was known as a walking bird. We'd always have walking bird on Thanksgiving with all the trimmings: cranberries, injun eyes, and yams stuffed with gunpowder."
     
  19. Nobert

    Nobert Practically Family

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    "Here you go, Joe, get yourself some suet and a coupla sticks of Fleer's Dubble Bubble."

    covarrubiasmiradas6.jpg

    Come to think of it, was Woman's Day the only magazine available at that price? Maybe an attempt to corner the drunk college-boy market. "Hah! I bet those starched lemonade sippers at The Ladies' Home Journal never thought of this!"
     
  20. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    "Woman's Day" was originally the house organ for the A&P Stores -- it was essentially a sales flyer for Sunnyfield Corn Flakes, Eight O'Clock Coffee, and Our Famous Jane Parker Bread, with a few generic articles wrapped around it. You could only buy it at your local A&P, and the two-cent price was a gimmick to make it seem like you were getting a real bargain.

    There was actually a lawsuit filed by one Frank Folsom, who claimed that A&P stole his idea of selling a "ten cent magazine for two cents," a case which made it all the way to the New York State Supreme Court, but eventually the case was dismissed, and presumably Folsom died an embittered man over all those pennies that would never be his.
     

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