Just Call 1088 & Ask for Emmett

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According to my research, Emmett lived at the San Carlos Hotel, on and off between 1913 and 1918, although he gave his permanent address as the J. Walter Kehoe home. Because he spent so much time there, I’ve always been curious about what his room might have looked like. (The San Carlos was demolished in 1993; there’s a video of the demolition here.)

Here’s what I have:

The $1-a-day hotel room in the San Carlos, circa 1913. Source: Pensacola Historical Society

The $1-a-day hotel room in the San Carlos, circa 1913-18. Source: Pensacola Historical Society

This was considered the basic hotel room at the San Carlos, which would cost $1 a day. Larger rooms and suites went for $3 a day and up ($1 in 1913 is equal to about $23 today). While Emmett probably stayed in a suite when he was a U.S. congressman, he likely stayed in the basic room (like the one photographed above) when his congressional days were over.

What I thought was interesting was that every room in the San Carlos had its own telephone in 1913!

You might think, well, so what?

Between 1913-1918, not every home had a telephone. If you were lucky enough to have (or afford) a telephone, you shared a party line, unless you were rich enough to have your own line strung to your home or office. (Party lines were common in Florida until around 1948, and into the mid-1950s elsewhere.) What I’ve always thought interesting was that Emmett never had his own telephone, even though he was a hotshot, socially prominent lawyer in Pensacola. Wouldn’t a single man want his own line, separate from the family? He was making enough money at the time to afford it.

He’s listed in the telephone directories, but that phone number actually belongs to the Kehoe family.

Emmett's 'home address' is actually the Kehoe's address. Also, that's the Kehoe's phone number. Emmett didn't have his own, separate line. Source: Ancestry.com

Emmett’s ‘home address’ is actually the Kehoe’s address. Also, that’s the Kehoe’s phone number. Emmett never had his own separate line or number. Source: Ancestry.com

I digress.

Getting back to telephones and the San Carlos:

In 1913 telephone lines were still not strung directly from Pensacola to Jacksonville. Calls across Florida had to be routed up to Atlanta or Charleston and then back down to Florida — all of this with the help of operators. You had to think about it before you made phone call; no one does that anymore.

I mention the logistics of making a call to illustrate that if you wanted to call someone in 1913, it was expensive, even if the call was local. Some businesses in Pensacola that had phones were charging $5 for three minutes (or, $60 in today’s money) if the call was long distance. Local calls could set you back about $1 for three minutes (or, about $23 in today’s money). The San Carlos charged premium rates for phone calls; you could spend a fortune in phone charges alone if you wanted to call Washington, DC (which Emmett did while living there as a congressman).

Anyway. The fact the San Carlos Hotel had phones in every single room in 1913 was a super high-tech innovation for the time.

Still can’t see the phone?

It’s in the mirror reflection.

See it? No rotary dial. You had to speak to an operator. Source: Pensacola Historical Society

See it? No rotary dial. You had to speak to an operator. No texting capabilities, either.

I looked around to see if I could find some color photos. Here’s what I turned up:

Notice the bell on top of this one. I can't see a bell on the one in the PHS image, but it may be located lower on the box. Source: Pinterest.

Notice the bell on top of this one. I can’t see a bell on the one in the PHS image, but it may be located lower on the box. Source: Pinterest.

This one may be closer to what the San Carlos had in the rooms. Notice the bells are more flat on the top of the phone box.  This comes from a great phone information source page, by the way. Source: www.beatriceco.com

This one may be closer to what the San Carlos had in the rooms. Notice the bells are more flat on the top of the phone box. This comes from a great phone information source page, by the way. Source: www.beatriceco.com

Here’s another view of the same room:

Source: Pensacola Historical Society

The phone is directly above a bed. Too bad it couldn’t be placed on the desk. Source: Pensacola Historical Society

You can see the phone located right over the first bed, and not the desk (or the side table), a more logical placement today.

Here’s one more example of a hotel wall phone for 1913. Because some phones would also function as intercoms, this one may be closer to what’s on the wall in the San Carlos:

By the way, the reflection in the mirror shows the open connecting bathroom door (the white door), which is right next to the door to the hallway, with the transom over it.

I have no idea what the little white square is on the dresser; probably a complimentary night mask to cover your eyes so that you could sleep without having to stare at all the crazy patterns on every single available surface in the room.

Because the window on the left is so dark, and this appears to be a corner room, I can tell that this room was about where you see the oval, below:

Source: Pensacola Historical Society

Source: Pensacola Historical Society

 

It must have been quite a thrill to stay at the San Carlos in 1913. It was cutting-edge in many ways, from amenities to technology. Still, I’d not want to be the one sleeping in the bed with the phone directly over my head.

 

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