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Your First Old Phone / Museum Pilgrimages

Started by Ampico66, March 30, 2010, 09:18:28 PM

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I'd like to hear about your first antique phone and/or your first exposure to antique phones.  Did your first phone work?  Did you learn how to fix them to make them operational? 

What phone museums or points of interest have you been to? 

My first exposure to an antique phone was to a manual WE candlestick, all original.  It wasn't working, but was at my friend's house.  He had owned it for 30 years, it had been a gift from his friend.  My first antique phone I bought from an ATCA member who had a booth in an antique mall in northern Ohio.  It was working, $200, with original subset.

I've been to a telephone museum in Norway, seen several private collections (including a switcher's basement CO!), been to the telephone museum in Florida, and one in downtown Lansing, MI, which has since closed.  I've attempted several self-guided tours of buildings owned by the telephone company and have been thrown out of two.  One authorized tour was given by a phone company employee of Mackinac Island, Michigan's CO.  It was a tiny building filled with modern clear batteries and computer equipment.  How boring!  It was nice of him to let me in, however. 

Old phone company employees have shared old exchange names with me and neat stories about long-ago destroyed infrastructure.  Both my dad and step dad are named Bill and both worked for the Bell System on the lines while they were in their 20s! 


My first exposure to old phones were my grandma's red, white, and blue round button TT Trimlines. After some time they became my first Bell System Phones as well. My first rotary phone was a nice restored Ivory Stromberg Carlson 1543 I got on my birthday in 2004.

As far as old phone museums I don't know of any around here. The Museum of Science & industry used to have an old phone exhibit but that was long gone before I even had my first phones.

Jim Stettler

My first piece of Telco equitment was a Mountain States traffic cone that I found when I was 8 (summer of '69). I still have it (40 years later).

My first old phone was a 302, bought from a Goodwill "Garage sale" store for $2.00. On of the handset contacts were broken, and the case was cracked. I paid $2.00.  Since I realized that the proper part would be impossible to find, I used a brass Brad and made a new contact.  I taped the crack from the back w/ scotch tape and used elmers glue on the crack.
The phone worked fine. This was Summer of 72.

My second phone was a green 500 set. I bought or traded it from a friend (Summer of '74). His dad had it sitting in the garage. It had a thin mounting cord w/ an amphenol  plug.  I still have that set - the cord. It is an S set. Eventually it will get hooked to my magicall auto dialer.

The 500 was the first phone I ever hooked up. A few years later I got brave and hooked up the 302. When I was a kid I still saw a few 211 sets. Most of the phones I saw were 5302's or 500 sets. I never saw a 202 or candlestick. In the mid 70's my grandparents had a 302 in a small town in CO.

In Kindergarten (66-67) I did use a tele-trainer w a 500 set and a 1500. I have a good story about that teletrainer I will share it later. I never saw another TT phone until 1975. The 2 extra buttons really confused me.
You live, You learn,
You die, you forget it all.


We had 2 beige 500's when I was a kid, but got rid of them when I was young. 

My first phone was a 1958 554 which I pulled out of a store we bought, put it in a box, and forgot about it.  Then I was working with my retro decorating and decided a cordless, Caller ID phone just wouldn't suffice.  I wanted a blue or yellow 500, but settled on a White 1978 ITT.  That was a little yellowed, so I bought a mint 1972 SC and found a good deal on a Black 500 the same day, and said that it would be enough phones to furnish my apartment once I moved out (I was in high school still).  Well, I came here looking for info on my three phones, and about 30 phones later, the rest is history.  Thanks guys!
- Tom

Greg G.

Quote from: Ampico66 on March 30, 2010, 09:18:28 PM
I'd like to hear about your first antique phone and/or your first exposure to antique phones.  Did your first phone work?  Did you learn how to fix them to make them operational?  

My first genuinely antique phone was an NEC (Nippon Electric Company) Type 3 Automatic.  Yes, it works, although the audio quality isn't great, so it's not in use.  It didn't ring at first.  I didn't learn to fix it, Phonesrfun fixed it (bad capacitor).  I know nothing of electronics so I take lots of digital pictures before I start removing wires then ask lots of questions.

My first "exposure" to vintage phones were the 500s I grew up with in the 50s-70s.
The idea that a four-year degree is the only path to worthwhile knowledge is insane.
- Mike Row


Mine was a thermoplastic 302 that my dad bootlegged into one of the upstairs rooms for me and my sister to use back in the 1960's.  I think it may have come from the plant where he worked, an old building that waaaay pre-dated even the 202.  This phone had a #4 dial and a cloth covered handset cord.  Of course it didn't ring, because back in those days Ma Bell could tell how many phones you had if you let more than one of them ring, so my dad disabled the ringers on all but the main phone.

I eventually harvested parts off of that phone, like swapping the #4 dial for my 202, and the cloth cord for an older metal 302 I acquired later on. 


My first phone was a common black 500 from 1957, which I still have.  I found it in an antique store when I was in my early teens.  It worked, but I wasn't allowed to use it, because at that time of course, it was strictly forbidden by the phone company.  I also promptly took it apart and forgot to how to put it back together.  It wasn't until I found this forum that I decided to pull it out and correct the wiring.  It was the first time in probably thirty years that it worked.


Guess I'm resurrecting this post, but anyway . . .

My first rotary phone I only got recently, last year in fact. A 1973 Northern Electric black 500. My wife spotted it in the Antique Mall here in Edmonton and suggested we get it as she thought it looked funky and would fit well in our newly decorated library. A bit of on-line research to find out what I'd purchased, and I was hooked.

Mostly into desk-set phones for their aesthetics, but also sentimental reasons. Having grown up in the UK, I have a red GPO 746 that I remember as a kid from the late '70s and early '80s, and a red touch-tone (but real ringer) British Telecom 9801AR Tribune like the model I recall as a teenager. Living now in Canada though, I've got interested in Northern Electric stuff, pride of place being my NE No.2 wall phone with NU handset and BPO dial.

As for museums, we're lucky to have the Telephone Historical Centre here in Edmonton. Dropped by a couple of times, and they even gave me a tour of their basement stores with a real fantastic collection in. Folks there were really helpful in putting me in contact with local enthusiasts who could fix things for me that are beyond my knowledge at the moment. Still learning a heck of a lot.
Mark Furze - TCI, ATCA

To miss-quote "Bones" McCoy . . .
                     "darn it Jim - I'm a doctor, not a telephone engineer!"


Quote from: AtomicEraTom on March 31, 2010, 04:08:46 AM
We had 2 beige 500's when I was a kid, but got rid of them when I was young. 

When you were a kid?  LOL Tommy at my age your are still a kid  ;)

My introduction to telephones was when I was a kid also.  As I said in my introductory post, I use to go to my friends houses and ask them or their parents  if I could have their phones for trade.  In other words I would offer them a black 500 for example if they would let me take their turquoise trimline.  Many times they didn't care and said if you know how to disconnect (they were still hardwired at the time) it go ahead.  I still have all those phones to this day  ;D


When I was a kid, the town where both of my grandmothers lived still didn't have Touch Tone service. They could dial in-town numbers with just five digits instead of having to use all seven (though it was an option). I remember the ringback tone sounded more like a cat purr than a modern tone, and the dial tone was more of a buzz.

My dad's mother had a beautiful black 500 (presumably WE since this was South Central Bell territory). I'll never forget being fascinated by that phone. They sold the house and I never saw that phone again, but years later I saw an off-white 1970 Stromberg Carlson 500 at a flea market in perfect working order for $4 and had to have it. Aside from the transmitter element, which had gone bad, it's still all-original.

The ringer, which worked when I bought it, later went suspiciously silent for nearly seven years, and despite lots of diagnostic voltage testing, I never could make it work again, but it miraculously started working again about a month ago, so now it's the phone we keep on the table by the bed.

This was my first old phone, and it wasn't until several years later I ever bought another one, but now I have a small collection.