1973, January 4: Letter from Peter to G&H
Handwritten on lined but not 3-hole punched paper.
Content warning for this letter and the next couple of letters for discussion of being in quite a lot of debt.
4 Jan. 1972
Another crisis weathered——we borrowed $50 from Marcy’s mother for a week. Here’s $5 of it——the rest went for food, gas, & overdue bills.
We’ll send $5 a month from now on, until we catch up and can send more.
We still owe $100 on a VW-engine I bought & installed after ours threw a rod; we still owe $75 car insurance (liability); we still owe $2000 on my dental and periodontal bills; we still owe $300 on our new stereo; we still owe $100 to Shell oil for vacation gas two years ago; we still owe $100 on a lady’s car I crashed into a year ago; we still owe $1000 on a finance company loan we took out; we still owe $1000 on a credit-union loan we took out; we still owe $160 for this month’s rent; we still owe last month’s utilities and phone bill; we still owe $2000 on NDEA loans; we still owe $2000 to Marcy’s mother, advanced for the car and moving expenses; we still owe $1200 to Kohlbergs, from seven years ago; to say nothing of $20 to my boss, $15 to our friend Laurel, assorted gas credit-card charges, etc., etc., etc.——in all, close to $10,000 (ten big ones!).
So you see, we have not forgotten our obligation to you, but they’ve turned off the water and, and, and…
warmest wishes for a peaceful, fulfilling, and prosperous NEW YEAR!
Peter, Marcy, Jed & Joaquin
…I’m really not sure what kind of tone to read this in—even after reading the next two letters, which provide further context and discussion. In particular, I’m not sure whether Peter meant this as a general complaint about how badly financial stuff was going, or whether he was hoping that George and Helen would offer help, or whether it was primarily meant as an excuse for why they weren’t paying back a loan faster, or something else.
But continue on to the next two letters for more on this topic.
- “threw a rod” and “dental and periodontal bills”
- See other recent letters.
- “a lady’s car I crashed into”
- I feel like both Peter and Marcy were surprisingly blasé in these letters about having had car accidents that damaged other people’s cars, and having no car insurance. (This was years before California’s mandatory-car-insurance law.) I dunno, maybe they were just very minor accidents; I’ve certainly (for example) accidentally bumped the fender of a parked car a couple of times. But still, it surprises me.
- Peter’s ex-wife Gail’s parents. (Their last name was really spelled Kalberg.)
- The mysterious Laurel appears again! I still know nothing at all about this person beyond the minimal glimpses/mentions in the letters and postcards.
- An online inflation calculator suggests that $1 in 1973 is roughly equivalent to $6.50 in 2022, so that would make this about the equivalent of being $65,000 in debt today.