Monday, April 30, 2012

Carnival of Genealogy, #117: 1940!

That mysterious lady of the COG, Jasmine Jasia, the flowery J of the COG,  issued a new assignment: 1940!

I sat at my desk and pondered this assignment. But 1940? What did it mean? What was I to find? I was just a wee girl of five, and what did I know. So, I thought about the Census of 1940. All good COG-gers are thinking about the census of 1940. But what with the internet problems, fax, printer, and scanner on the fritz, I was in a quandary. Phones were ringing, land-line, cell, and J Jasia on the new smartzzzy-J phone. A sign! Yes, I will accept this assignment.

The task: to revisit electronic communication before computer, internet, cell phones, Smart phones, and for goodness sakes, before Face Book, and .... .

A flash of a list of newspaper articles burned in my brain. Where did I put that list? A torrent of paper swirled out of drawers, folders, files, boxes – but success! The searched-for crumpled copy was in my hands. I stared at the words from the June 1, 1940 headline of the Herald & News article (albeit p.10 of the Klamath Notes):

Klamath Falls to “go dial”

1930s hand cranked
telephone, still in  use
in my home of 1940

A phone similar to this photograph hung from the kitchen wall in the stone house where I grew up. I remember my father came through a heavy snow storm to fetch me and the other students and bus driver from a drifted-snow bound school bus. When we arrived safely at home, mother used a phone similar to the one in the photograph to call the neighboring parents and tell them the children were safe and they could pick them up when they could. Being an old fashioned party line, one call alerted all the neighbors. We each had a different set of rings, but on a party line it really didn't make any difference. Everyone picked up the phone when it rang, and “listened-in” on the conversation even if it wasn't meant for them.

Our first dial phone looked like this
"new fangled" phone and sat
on the wicker desk.

With in a few years, even our rural phone lines got the “dial-up” phones. This is the first one that I remember in our house. It sat in a place of honor on a wicker desk located in our dining room. Even though it was a “dial” phone, I remember that my mother still used the old way of giving out our phone number, “The number is TUxedo 4-9545”.  

 Now, isn't it strange that I remember that phone number all these years later.At the time I had no idea why the “TUxedo” preceeded the numbers. I do remember being quite enamored with the wonderful sounding phone numbers, REgency 5-5000, Pennsylvania 6-5000, Butterfield 8, Sycamore 4. So much more romantic, sounds of community, and at the same time far away places.

This  fancy "new phone" was similar
to our first phone with a hand-held
speaker and receiver. 

How boring, when those tonier names were replaced by numbers and Tuxedo 4-9545 became 884-945. Even when I understood that the numbers on the phone also had a little series of letters assigned to each number, I yearned for the image of a phone operator plugging into Tuxedo 4-9545 -- or "get me PEnnsylvania 6-5000"  -- or images of Elizabeth Taylor at BUtterfield 8.
1940s telephone exhange

Oh, No!  My new smartzzzy-J phone self-destructed!  What will I ever tell Jasmine Jasia, the secret woman behind the COG!  I could not complete my assignment because this blinky little piece of black plastic poufed away to nothing..........

~  ~ ~
 © Joan Hill, Roots'n'Leaves Publications


  1. RING RING, is Joan there? It's your smartzzzy-J calling! HELP me! I am lost. JOANNNNNN, you there???

    ROTFLOL, cute post Joan! And, this is Carol calling!

    1. Ahh-ha, you too long for those old days of MI. Glad you enjoyed this little post -- I was a bit desperate, and wasn't sure how it would come off.

  2. I almost wrote a post about our telephones from earlier times. I remember party lines and our phone number from the 1950s. It was OLympic 2-7979. Our family had it for over 50 years. I wonder who has it now.

    Fun post.

    1. Nancy, Thanks for the read and comments. Isn't it strange how we can remember a phone number from so long ago? I was amazed that I knew that number even tho it's been over 60 years since I left that old stone house. Thanks again, OLympic 2-7979.

  3. An innovative way to look at 1940 Joan when at the moment 1940=census. I enjoyed reading about the different phone types over the years and you've really highlighted just how much has changed in our lifetimes. Scary in some ways, exciting in others. We solved the phone problem by not having one. My mother used to ring her friend in Townsville from the public phone and man, can my mother talk. It got really boring sitting waiting for her to finish ;-)

    1. Your story about your mom, reminded me of a story my mom told me about the first phones in Klamath Falls, and that the "pay phone" or public phone (I can't remember which she said) was located on a telephone pole on the main street-- and people would stand at the pole and make the call. Now that I have done some checking on the early phones in KF, I believe this must have been a story that her mother told her, as the year was probably about 1910, nearly 10 years before my mom's birth. The Museum actually has a picture of this first public telephone.

  4. Leave it to you, Joan, to come up with such an interesting look at a piece of technology from 1940! I love it! I still have the old rotary dial phone from the house I grew up in. It's a wall model from the early 1950s. It hangs on the wall in my office where I can gaze at it fondly and remember all the long conversations I had with my friends back in the day. Great article!

  5. Thanks, Jasia. I am so thankful for the online newspaper articles and indexes. When I was reading the list for 1940, it was like an old movie reel playing in my head. Glad you enjoyed the article -- and your 1950s rotary dial phone.

  6. This post brings back memories of the party line we were on when I was a child. It was annoying when we couldn't use the phone because someone else was on it--but then I think that all of the gossip that was gleaned from the party line. Whew, it was entertaining--

  7. What a great post Joan. Brought back so many memories. The wall phone is a slightly older version of the one my friend Margaret had in her home/shop. Their home was rather "exotic" with the shop on the front of the house. The phone hung on the passage wall close to the door between shop & house.
    The the switchboard!!!... Oh, how I loved "relieving" the Switchboard operator for her lunch etc. breaks. Double switchboard, operated by one person, swivel chair and you'd swing between the switchboard, reception for visitors and announcements into the factory via the PA which had a foot switch. Needed to be careful not to accidentally step on the switch and send the office "gossip" flying through the factory. ha ha ha... thanks for a great post, Cheers Catherine

    1. Catherine, thanks for the great comment. This has been a fun post. I have had people email me with their old phone numbers and memories. Yesterday, a cousin called to let me know their old phone #; 2F15 (2nd Farm line, 1 long ring, 5 short rings). Dinna realize how many memories would be generated by these old phones. Good memories.

  8. I don't know how I missed this the first time around but I enjoyed the post and remembered old phone numbers from my past. WAlnut1-6495 was my maternal grandparents number and TOwnsend1-2800 was my paternal grandparents number. If I try hard enough maybe I can remember some of my own. Funny I remember theirs because I don't remember ever calling them.

    1. Kristin, Thanks for the read. This was a fun post -- mostly because of the phone calls, emails and blog responses that I have received. I have loved hearing about all of the old phones and phone numbers that we remember from our past. What fun --- and each of the prefixes brings a new memory to light.