Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Telephones BEFORE Rotary Phones

Chana and I have been commenting back and forth with each other today about rotary phones and party lines, so I thought I'd ask my 101 year old Daddy about a vague memory I have of my Grandmother's house in Chicago.

I seem to remember her calling on the phone by connecting to an operator and giving a phone number, rather than dialing it herself. He says I'm remembering back before rotary phones, when you did talk to an operator. I did a little research, and Illinois Bell employed over 12,000 female operators in 1928 in Chicago alone.

But then he really dropped a bombshell on me. He started telling me about his memory of the phone they had on the wall in the dining room that had a slot that you put a nickel in to connect to the operator. He said they came around once a month to collect all the nickels that had accumulated in the cash box!

They were called Nickel-in-the-Slot Phones!! These phones are credited with getting average people accustomed to the idea of using a telephone as part of their normal everyday lives.

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10 comments:

Mama Mouse said...

Oh my. I can remember the old crank phone in my uncle's house. I was just a little kid ... less than 10 ... maybe less than 5. In the late 40's and early 50's. They lived in a small farming town and you had to crank the phone to get the operator who then connected you to Sam or Bill or Mary. No numbers needed and sometimes not even a last name. Of course, at MY house, we had a rotary phone and so I thought my uncle's phone was REALLY neat!

Dirty Butter said...

Now, I don't remember crank phones, Mama Mouse, other than from movies and TV shows, so you have one on me on that. Talk about a close knit community, that last names weren't needed - a real Mayberry, USA.

Chana said...

i don't think i have ever seen a crank phone before...not even in the museums (i love old town's museums)...

i love that you have your dad to tell stories...poor guy i have him busy as i love stories...he probably go nuts with my pleads of another one...lol....(i get my grandma, who unfortunately lives in Miami, so far away from me, to tape stories of family, towns, anything-i also get her to sing to me....i played them for me and the kids in the car...i love it)

i never heard of slot phones either..they sound neat but i just thought of the cost...a nickel back then was a loooot of money wasn't it? i think it's adorable the community feeling to have just someone come in and collect...now if a water/gas company has to come, it's with appt and bonds and teamed up for safety...oh how things changed!

Dirty Butter said...

Crank phones were for out in rural areas that didn't have electricity, Chana.

As for bugging Daddy, it's actually easier to get him to talk about a long time ago than to try to carry on a conversation about current events. He's just not interested in what's going on now, but his memories of childhood are vivid. I wish I could say my memory was that good, but it's not.

And you're right, I hadn't stopped to think about it, but a nickel in the Depression years WAS a lot of money!

Chana said...

thank you for teaching me something new again...

i just realize that you have added my blog to you links. that's such a compliment, oh so many thank you.....
Of course i have you in my favs...

:)

Dirty Butter said...

Always glad to oblige, Chana ;)

As far as the idea of having all kinds of delivery people in and out of your house and it being safe, that was normal back then. There were people delivering ice, coal, groceries, medicines, milk, newspapers, fuel oil, laundresses, doctors who came to the house, and no telling how many more that I can't think of right now.

Mama Mouse said...

My uncle had electricity in his house but still had a crank phone ... not sure why. He lived in town, but it was definitely Mayberry-like.

When I was little we had all kinds of delivery men around and I can remember getting ice delivered for our ice box in a horse pulled cart! That, I think, is one of my favorite memories. We used to run after it as the horse pulled it down the street hoping to get ice chips in the summertime!

Dirty Butter said...

I don't remember the ice man, but I do remember going to the ice house to buy ice for making homemade ice cream in the summer. Now that's one of my favorite memories!

The Artist said...

Just discovered your site and what a wonderful concept to look at the treasures of yesterday this way, best wishes, The Artist

Dirty Butter said...

Why thank you, Artist, for the compliment. I hope you come back and see us some time soon. I looked at your artwork, and thoroughly enjoyed it, too.