Author Topic: Old Days of Phone Collecting  (Read 6269 times)

Offline Dave F

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Re: Old Days of Phone Collecting
« Reply #15 on: August 26, 2010, 01:15:29 PM »
Back in the 1960s we weren't officially permitted to use any phones other than those we were forced to rent from the phone company.  There were additional monthly charges for colored phones, extension phones, long cords, amplified handsets, auxiliary ringers, answering machines, automatic dialers, etc, etc.  When Touch Tone service was introduced in the mid 1960s, of course there was an extra monthly charge for that too.  Owning and using our own equipment was a major no-no.  Anybody found with unauthorized CPE (Customer Provided Equipment) connected to the phone system had some serious explaining to do.  Pacific Telephone had an entire department of Special Agents devoted to, among other gleeful tasks, catching and bringing to justice any and all CPE scofflaws.  We had to disconnect the ringers on our bootleg extensions so the Test Board at the C.O. (Central Office) could not detect them, and we lived in constant fear of discovery and punishment.  Bonnie and Clyde must surely have been rolling over in their respective graves with laughter.  How my parents ever put up with such depravity I can only imagine!  Additionally, it was really difficult to put together a serious phone collection, as there were no phone clubs or phone shows, no internet, no eBay, no phone forums, etc, etc.  To an inquisitive kid interested in phones and technology it was like the Dark Ages before the Renaissance.  Today, that all might sound silly and ridiculous; back then it was anything but.

In 1963 a huge and ambitious construction project, Century City, was underway just west of Beverly Hills, CA, on what had been a portion of the back lot of 20th Century Fox Studios.  I would ride my bicycle down there and pester the phone guys who were installing 1A1 key systems in the recently completed 14-story Gateway West office building.  One of them gave me a "spare" 565HK keyset to take home, and that really got the phone-collecting ball rolling for me.  They let me look through their BSPs (Bell System Practices) while I watched them working, and I learned a whole lot in a short time.  I even spent some quality time helping out by running jumper wires as the installers watched and smiled.  About that same time, Sonny Alexander's flower shop, at the corner of Pico and Beverly, was gutted by a fire.  I found an undamaged 16A rack stuffed with 1A1 KTUs while poking around in the rubble.  Very conveniently, now I had what it took to hook up that 565.  I bet ours was the only house in the neighborhood with a working key system and a dial intercom.

In 1966 Pac Tel opened the first #5 ESS (Electronic Switching System) C.O. on the West Coast in Century City.  It was a multi-use facility; the C.O. was in the front, and behind it was the service garage for the phone trucks that worked in the Beverly Hills area.  At the back of the long driveway, just outside the garage, was the dumpster.   The phone company had very poor inventory control, and many of the installers stopped by the dumpster at the end of each workday to clean out their trucks before heading on into the garage.  That dumpster became one of my favorite playgrounds.  I was there almost every day and became a regular fixture around the C.O.  Some of my BSPs still bear the coffee stains they acquired rattling around in that dumpster more than 40 years ago.

One winter day in about 1968, a Pac Tel phone truck in Beverly Hills skidded out of control in the rain and rolled over.  They parked the bashed-up truck (still locked) next to the dumpster.  It sat there for several weeks, and looking in through the windows I could see all the goodies inside that had become a jumbled pile in the crash.  Then one day the truck was gone.  As I began my daily dumpster-diving I discovered that, before hauling away the truck, they had emptied all the stuff from the back into the dumpster.  With my heart pounding I ran and got my car, which had been parked next door in the Auto Club parking lot, and backed it up the C.O. driveway.  I opened the trunk, jumped into the dumpster, and proceeded to shovel as much stuff into my car as quickly as I could, all the while praying that nobody would catch me.  Phones, tools, BSPs ...I got it all!  The Phone Gods were certainly smiling on me that day!  The C.O. on Century Park East is still there today; however, now there is a chain-link gate across the driveway, and anybody caught trespassing back to the dumpster would quickly be in a heap of trouble.  Things were a lot different back then.

Sometimes, when I think about the many things that happened when I was a kid, I can't help but wonder if it isn't all just a fantasy, and that everything I remember about my childhood is somehow nothing more than an elaborate creation of my own mind.  It was, after all, a very long time ago.  Yet, whenever I find myself driving through Century City and I look over at the phone company building, it feels like it happened only yesterday.  And once in a while, when I am looking through my BSPs and run across one of those coffee stains, I know for sure that all the memories are real.
« Last Edit: April 17, 2014, 10:48:11 PM by Dave F »

Offline KeithB

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Re: Old Days of Phone Collecting
« Reply #16 on: August 26, 2010, 04:33:32 PM »
In college, my buddies and I lived on campus in the dorms, and we'd dumpster-dive behind the computer building.  We learned more about the Multics operating system from reading those dumps and logs than any of the other Computer Science guys learned in their classes.  ;D

Offline Dennis Markham

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Re: Old Days of Phone Collecting
« Reply #17 on: August 26, 2010, 05:51:46 PM »
Dave, great story and described very well.  I could envision the things you were describing and enjoyed reading it very much.

I have an older brother than in his youth drove truck for a disposal service.  He drove one that hauled away dumpster junk.  This would have been in the early 1970's.  One of his stops was at the Phone Co.....General Telephone in that area.  He said he used to get out to hook up the dumpster and look inside.  He remembered lots of telephones and even phone booths crammed into the dumpster.  He said it all went to the landfill.  Of course he was recalling these events after I had been bitten by the phone bug as he knew I'd be interested in hearing about the stuff that got away.  If we'd have only known. 

Offline McHeath

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Re: Old Days of Phone Collecting
« Reply #18 on: August 27, 2010, 12:32:22 AM »
Gee Dave that's quite the tale! 

I knew nothing really about phones back in the day, my collecting did not start until two summers ago.  (though I did buy a WE 500 new in 86')  I remember seeing phones in junk stores and such but never paid them much mind, alas who knows what I walked by. :P

The internet certainly has made many hobbies a lot more enjoyable for people.  My son model railroads and he's part of a couple of forums, able to interact with guys with a lot of experience and they are nice and helpful for him to consult on. 

Offline paul-f

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Re: Old Days of Phone Collecting
« Reply #19 on: August 27, 2010, 01:49:51 PM »
Back in the 1960s, we weren't even supposed to have any phones that the phone company didn't provide.  I remember how difficult it was to find any phone stuff or related information.  <snip>


That brings back memories, Dave.  My first foray into old phones was looking for parts to build an amateur radio phone patch.  Even parts were almost nonexistent.  I finally found a dial and network form a fellow at a hamfest.  The parts weren't on display.  When I asked, he produced them in a plain box from under the table.  It felt like we were engaging in a clandestine operation.
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Offline Dave F

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Re: Old Days of Phone Collecting
« Reply #20 on: August 27, 2010, 02:01:20 PM »
Hi Paul,

It seems that you and I have a lot in common.  For my senior year engineering project at UCLA, I built a 2-meter phone patch repeater.  It was 1970, and I needed a 247B KTU to use as tone controller for the system.  Locating a phone installer who could provide me with one was no easy task.  Thinking about it now, obtaining touch tone phones and dials for the car wasn't so easy either.  The ultimate breakup of the Bell System had many bad results, but the availability of great old W.E. equipment was not one of them!

Dave

Offline paul-f

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Re: Old Days of Phone Collecting
« Reply #21 on: August 27, 2010, 02:23:32 PM »
I was in high school when I started hacking into the phone system.  The dial I bought was rotary.  However, a few years later when I went to college it opened up a whole new world.  Students were always coming and going from apartments and usually abandoned their phones.  I had quite a few rotary and touch tone sets to tinker with by sophomore year.   ;D

We had one of the few 2-bedroom apartments in town with about 8 phones connected. (Only one ringer, of course!)

I wasn't really into collecting then, so only saved one of them -- the beige 2500D that was new when the phone company installed it.  They got back an old rotary set at the end of the year.
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Offline Dave F

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Re: Old Days of Phone Collecting
« Reply #22 on: August 27, 2010, 02:34:43 PM »
Paul,

For some unknown reason that remains crazy to me to this day, Los Angeles was one of the last major cities to get touch tone service.  Until the ESS office opened in Century City in 1966, it was all rotary-dial.  Even after that, touch tone was only available to the Beverly Hills area for the next couple of years.  One nice day, I cornered a Beverly Hills installer at a coffee shop in West L.A. and complained that I still hadn't been able to obtain a touch tone phone to play with.   He bet me $7 that I could find one in the next 10 minutes.  Well, that seemed like a no-lose situation, and the result was that I went home with a brand new White 1500 set - still in the box!  Love that inventory control!!

Dave
 
« Last Edit: August 27, 2010, 02:57:32 PM by Dave F »

Offline paul-f

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Re: Old Days of Phone Collecting
« Reply #23 on: August 27, 2010, 02:41:33 PM »
It was those darned trucks they had then.  Things were always "falling off" them.
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Offline Dave F

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Re: Old Days of Phone Collecting
« Reply #24 on: August 27, 2010, 02:46:11 PM »
Yeah, one of my friends once saw a 233 payphone fall off a phone truck on its way back to the garage.  Luckily for him, it landed intact -- right in front of his house.

Offline Just4Phones

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Re: Old Days of Phone Collecting
« Reply #25 on: August 27, 2010, 07:08:49 PM »
He bet me $7 that I could find one in the next 10 minutes.  Well, that seemed like a no-lose situation, and the result was that I went home with a brand new White 1500 set - still in the box!  Love that inventory control!!

Ah If we only knew then.  You would be like 7 bucks hmmmmm.....I'll take 100  ;D

Do you still have it?

Joel

Offline Dave F

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Re: Old Days of Phone Collecting
« Reply #26 on: August 27, 2010, 09:37:50 PM »
He bet me $7 that I could find one in the next 10 minutes.  Well, that seemed like a no-lose situation, and the result was that I went home with a brand new White 1500 set - still in the box!  Love that inventory control!!

Ah If we only knew then.  You would be like 7 bucks hmmmmm.....I'll take 100  ;D

Do you still have it?

Joel

Hi Joel,

No, but I constantly wish I did.  In the late 1970s, I lost interest and gave away most (but not all) of my stuff.  Didn't get back into it until years later.  I have never stopped kicking myself for giving away so much of the stuff I loved as a kid growing up.  I do know who got that 1500.  Heck, maybe one day I'll try to contact him and see if he still has it.

Dave

Offline Dave F

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Re: Old Days of Phone Collecting
« Reply #27 on: November 25, 2021, 08:08:13 PM »
Earlier in this topic, way back in 2010, I made reference to Pacific Telephone’s Special Agents who were involved in many aspects of the company’s security, including catching people who had extra (translation: unauthorized) phones installed in their homes. Over the years, I have been asked many times by readers of my story if those people really existed, or if they were just artifacts of my over-active imagination.  Well, there really were (and probably still are) such people, and here is the proof.

The first picture is the cover of a 1958 Pacific Telephone Los Angeles Area Official Telephone Directory.  The second picture is of page 41 of that directory.  If you were, in the old days, ever hounded by the office of the Chief Special Agent, these folks listed here were probably involved.  Yup, they were real!

DF

Offline Key2871

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Re: Old Days of Phone Collecting
« Reply #28 on: November 25, 2021, 09:46:43 PM »
Wow, how I enjoy reading all the fun you guys got to have back in the day. That must have been the ultimate rush, to find a dumpster full of phones and parts.

When I was in my late teens eirliy twentys, I was out riding around with a buddy, nature called so I said pull in here, I had no idea it was the local phone garage.
So after I took care of business, I started snooping, found a small wood shed far from the dumpster that had some phone parts, mostly trimline bases later I figured out the ringers didn't work, bad caps stopped them from ringing.
Then I decided to go to the dumpster, installers manuals, batteries for test equipment, even found a catalog that they used to order anything telephone related, from complete sets to parts, payphone parts, booths etc. The whole nine yards.

Well all those goodies came home with me I was elated to find any thing phone.
I liked messing around with phones for years.
When in my younger days, I was about 7, my dad while looking at property to buy, found an old house on a back road that had a 500D in black.
Well he removed it, and it sat in the garage for years.
I found it and started tinkering with it.

One day he asked me if I knew where it was, I said yea, in my room.
He said brunt it to me, I was scared thinking I was in trouble, but he wanted to use it as an extension.
Well I had pulled everything out, and just stuffed it all back in and put the housing on.
It didn't work, but my dad said can you see if you can get it working.. I said yea, I'll try.

So I used the ITT set in the upstairs hall as a model and rote down all the information I needed to maybe get that old black set working.

Sure enough, I got it working. Then I was bit by the bug.

So years later when I stumbled into the lot of the local phone garage, it rekindled my hopes and dreams of being a phone guy.
I never worked for the company, but loved phones.
I brought home any thing phone from that dumpster, even boxes. I had trimline bases, I fixed up the non working bases, used the box I found in the dumpster and then found a big box that said Western Electric on it and started putting those boxes that were now full of parts in boxes, into that big box.

I had a bunch of manuals by then, and was even getting into fixing phones for friends and their family's.

A few years after I was at a friend's apartment, who had 565s in each apartment in a huge old farm house the owner converted to apartments.
The guy who owned the place used to live in NYC, where evidently a lot of key system equipment had fallen off the trucks. The guy didn't want a lot if it, and said up over the garage is some junk, help yourself.

I'm tired of looking at it. Three huge boxes of phones all key stuff, some NOS 565HK sets in beige were in there boxed up and brand new.
So I loaded the trunk of my car and went home smiling like I had won the lottery.
That's when I got into the 1A2 stuff, I asked if he had any cable to spare, he did, even had a full spool of 100 pair in his back yard.

I couldn't move that thing it weighed a ton.
But I got about 40 feet of 25 pair.

So I went about trying to figure out what all those screw terminals were and how those phones worked.
Me sitting for hours with my VOM checking each terminal trying to figure out how it all worked.

Ahhh the old days. Such fun waiding though the dumpster for parts tools, what ever I could find.

That garage went out in the divestiture, but at the CO in town was a dumpster, where wire tools, CO circuit packs etc could be had. Then they changed from a 5 xbar, to an ESS and all the old stuff from the cross bar days was in the dumpster. Relays brand new, tools, cords test cords, you name it.
Sadly that all went away after the company's kept changing hands. And the dumpster went away and that was the end of free finds.
But the fun is still a great memory.
KEN

Offline MMikeJBenN27

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Re: Old Days of Phone Collecting
« Reply #29 on: November 25, 2021, 10:01:46 PM »
Yup, it was hard to get any parts at all before, in no small part because until the early 80s, phones were not for sale, and were property of the telephone company, so, no phone parts.  E-Bay has made it way easier to find parts for cars as well.

Mike