19-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today:
Saturday, August 22, 1914: A cousin came on the train this afternoon. Am recovering from the effects of my trip through the worst one is a thinner pocketbook. It will take it quite awhile to get it fattened up, so as not to look quite so hollow.
Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:
Grandma arrived home from her trip to Niagara Falls, Toronto, Buffalo, and Watkins Glen the previous evening. In that diary entry, she wrote:
. . . I don’t believe I spent more than $20, coming out better than I expected. . .
Vacations can be hard on pocketbooks—though the previous day she seemed pleased how little she spent during the trip; but apparently it was enough to continue to worry her.
According to an online inflation calculator, a dollar in 1914 would be worth about $23.81 today. So in today’s dollars Grandma spent about $475—which doesn’t seem too bad for a 5-day trip, but maybe was a lot for a 19-year-old.
I wonder how Grandma planned to replenish her pocketbook. In the past, she earned money by picking strawberries. For example, on July 1, 1912 she wrote:
Stopped picking strawberries today. All my earnings, about $4.00 in all, I still have and expect to keep until I spend them.
It would take a lot of strawberry picking to “fatten” her pocketbook—and, of course, strawberry season was over for the year.
. . . Or maybe she hoped that her cow Mollie would have another bull calf she could sell. For example, on December 27, 1912 she wrote:
Sold Mollie’s calf today. It wasn’t a very big one and I rather feared my fortune would be pretty small, but after all it weighed one hundred and forty-four lbs. Received a neat sum of $11.56.
Cows typically have calves about once a year, so maybe the pocketbook will be partially replenished before too long.
Hmm. . . on second thought, given Grandma’s situation on the farm, $20 was a lot to spend on a vacation.