Remember When: Telephones

The Bell System Telephone Story Poster was displayed at beatriceco.com courtesy of Todd Bernstein. The poster was distributed for free in 1976 to Bell System customers who responded to ads placed in consumer magazines. The color scheme and stars at top are symbolic of the United States’ 200th year anniversary and the telephone’s 100th year anniversary.

SELMA – We still say “dial” when we mean press, punch or tap. I think Alexander Graham Bell would be amazed to see how far his idea has traveled.

A long time ago, when telephones were new, you could just lift the receiver, and the operator would connect you to the telephone number you wanted.

“Number, please!”

Then someone invented electronic switches that accepted dialed numbers. Telephone wires were strung from a phone to a cable of wires to a “frame” in the switch room of a Telephone building. The frame held every telephone number in the area.

Western Electric Co. made the equipment for the telephone company. Each style of phone had a number.

My great-aunt had a 100 set. It had a round base with the dial on it, and a tube-like stem. At the top of the stem was the mouthpiece. The receiver hung on a lever. When the receiver was picked up, the lever moved up and gave the caller dial tone. Then a number could be dialed.

We had a wall phone at our house, and later a desk set - probably a 300 set.

During the Depression years, not many people could afford phones. At least five neighbors used our phone regularly - for jobs, calling far-away relatives, ordering medicine at the drug store, etc.

Our next-door neighbor was on our party line. If she was using her phone, we had to wait until she was through before we could make a call. Sometimes there were three or four phones on one party line.

That was the beginning of telephones. Now, we carry our phones with us, and they are more than phones only.

My brother Bob set up a tin can telephone system with a couple of boys in our block. That was a different kind of phone - no operator, no dial. To call out, you rattled a pencil or stick in the can. If Donny’s phone was number three, you rattled the stick three times, and he would pick up his tin can and say, “Hello!”

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Share your memories of growing up in previous decades by emailing memories and photos to: editor@selmaenterprise.com

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