Author Topic: Old telephone numbers  (Read 2873 times)

Offline Under Dog

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Old telephone numbers
« on: October 24, 2014, 12:19:17 PM »
How do I go about finding out what an old telephone number was? 

My mother recalls that my grandfather kept their only phone, a black 302, on the meat counter in the grocery store he owned. They lived over it in a small apartment, and he kept it in the store so that he wouldn't have to answer it after hours and open up the store for people when they called.  She recalls the number was "79", but nothing else.  We are guessing they moved into the apartment in '48 and that the phone was acquired between '50-'53.  I'm hoping to chase down what would have been the original "dial card" (is that the proper term) and put the original phone number on it.  The phone was located in Delano, Minnesota, about 30 miles west of Minneapolis.

Where/how do I start? 

Offline JimH

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Re: Old telephone numbers
« Reply #1 on: October 24, 2014, 12:33:34 PM »
I would start with any old documentation you may have of your grandfather's...I found an old phone number on a photo-finishing envelope that had my parent's first phone number written on it from the 1950s.  Any old sales receipts, mortgage papers, etc.  You could see if the library has any old telephone books...or if you find someone that has one, you could ask them to look it up.  Here's my grandparents actual number card from 1949 they had on their 302.  It is the old style with a separate acetate that has the "new" area code above it.

Jim
Jim H.

Offline poplar1

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Re: Old telephone numbers
« Reply #2 on: October 24, 2014, 12:40:50 PM »
There's a picture of the inside of a grocery store in Delano c. 1935:
http://www.delanomn.com/history#
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Offline Under Dog

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Re: Old telephone numbers
« Reply #3 on: October 24, 2014, 12:56:56 PM »
WHOA!!!!  8)

The corner building (left side) of the first two photos was my grandfather's grocery store!  Up above were apartments, where I remember them living when I was still little (6 or under).  I've got to show those to my mom, who grew up in that building!  I wonder if she'd recognize the picture showing the inside of the store?  If they were still around, I'd bet my grandparents may even know some of the folks in the photos!

You can just make out a doorway on the right side of the store.  That led to an enclosed stairway that went up to the apartments above.  There used to be an old wooden bannister/railing in there.  When it was time to replace, my grandfather turned some of the bannisters into table lamps.  I now have those in my living room!!!

I'm not sure we'll be able to find any of their old paperwork.  My grandfather passed about 18 years ago.  My grandmother about 6...

Offline cihensley@aol.com

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Re: Old telephone numbers
« Reply #4 on: October 24, 2014, 04:28:55 PM »
Try to communicate with the historical site that popular 1 provided the link to. They may answer your question directly or refer you to a source.

Chuck

Offline Brinybay

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Re: Old telephone numbers
« Reply #5 on: October 24, 2014, 07:51:50 PM »
Try to locate an old phone directory would be another way.
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Offline Phonesrfun

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Re: Old telephone numbers
« Reply #6 on: October 24, 2014, 08:17:44 PM »
In the days before rotary dials, and in small towns, there were no exchange names as such, at least not for the public.  Telephone operators between towns did have to keep track of these things, but within a small town with one central office, they were just numbers.  The town I currently live in, Walla Walla, WA had a manual board until 1956.  If you look at any phone directory up until that time, you would see 2,3, and 4 digit numbers.  Some followed by a party line suffix.  79 would have definitely been a valid phone number for a small town.  No exchange name.  When the person placing the call lifted the handset, the operator would answer and ask "Number Please"  The person placing the call would say 79 and that was all there was to it.  In real small towns, everyone knew each other any way.  I think here, there were about 5 or 6 thousand phones at the time they went to dial (automatic) service in 1956.  I have seen pictures.  They had about 10 operator positions on the local side of the board just for the town, and another set of operators on the other side of the room for the toll board.  During the peak of the day, it took several operators to keep things going.
 
The local public library might have copies of old phone directories.  If they don't have  phone directory, there are city directories in most towns and cities.  If you have moved away from the area, then tracking these things down is a lot harder because there is not a lot of stuff recorded on the internet.  However, if you can find a way to get old newspapers, the ads for businesses will be helpful too.
 
By the late 1950's most reasonable sized towns had all converted to dial service and by the mid 1960's they had mostly gone to 7 digit numbers throughout the US in anticipation of direct dialing between all points.  I do remember as a kid, however that the Andy Griffith Show in the 1960's featured "Mayberry" as being a manual service town.  I also remember going with my family on vacation to Reno, Nevada, and to Virginia City, NV.  I remember Virginia City had phones with no dials at that time which was probably about 1965.
« Last Edit: October 24, 2014, 08:23:38 PM by Phonesrfun »
-Bill G

Offline Under Dog

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Re: Old telephone numbers
« Reply #7 on: October 24, 2014, 11:00:10 PM »
Thanks Bill! 

I will have to plan in some time at the local library next time we travel out there and see what we can figure out.  Mom swears there was no exchange, just the "79".  She thinks there may have been 1300 people in town at best...

What might a dial card for something like that have looked like?  Can anyone point me to appropriate/approximate pictures?

Offline JimH

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Re: Old telephone numbers
« Reply #8 on: October 24, 2014, 11:13:13 PM »
Here are some "low number" number cards I have.  It may or may not have had the exchange or city name on it.

Jim
« Last Edit: October 24, 2014, 11:34:16 PM by JimH »
Jim H.

Offline Phonesrfun

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Re: Old telephone numbers
« Reply #9 on: October 24, 2014, 11:33:19 PM »
Although the way number cards looked varied by region, phone company and when they were made, Jim H's examples are very representative of early number cards for the Bell System companies.

Here is a scan of a page from the 1956 Walla Walla yellow pages.  The last directory published before WW went to dial phones.  Notice the 1,2,3 and 4 digit numbers and no exchange names.  Notice that Walla Walla Steam Laundry has telephone number 4.

-Bill G

Offline tallguy58

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Re: Old telephone numbers
« Reply #10 on: October 25, 2014, 09:54:05 AM »
Stewart's French Dry Cleaners aka The House of Satan....call 666. :o :o
Cheers........Bill

unbeldi

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Re: Old telephone numbers
« Reply #11 on: October 25, 2014, 09:57:59 AM »
Small places, towns, and lower for which one switchboard was sufficient, didn't use exchange names, as there was no need for them.
Even when switchboards were interconnected to neighboring town exchanges with tie trunks, telling the operator the name of the town was sufficient.

Larger towns that did eventually require multiple exchanges, and often simply used terms such Main, North, South, West, East at first.
In the 1940s came the first concerted effort to create a unified numbering plan for the country and the local telephone companies began converting to 2L-5N formats in stages, but in many places this didn't happen until the system was concerted to dial service, often late into the 1950s.
« Last Edit: June 05, 2017, 07:10:01 AM by unbeldi »

Offline markosjal

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Re: Old telephone numbers
« Reply #12 on: June 05, 2017, 01:36:24 AM »
Stewart's French Dry Cleaners aka The House of Satan....call 666. :o :o

MOhawk 6 or 666 was GTE country where I was from it always seemed evil, smaller calling area
Phat Phantom's phreaking phone phettish

Offline Brinybay

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Re: Old telephone numbers
« Reply #13 on: June 08, 2017, 12:53:29 PM »
...my grandfather kept their only phone, a black 302, on the meat counter in the grocery store...so that he wouldn't have to answer it after hours and open up the store for people when they called. 

Smart man!


...I'm hoping to chase down what would have been the original "dial card" (is that the proper term) and put the original phone number on it.  The phone was located in Delano, Minnesota, about 30 miles west of Minneapolis.

Where/how do I start?


I think it would be a tall order to try to find the original dial card and not worth the effort, especially if you're going to put the phone number on it yourself.  Residential dial cards weren't real fancy, just plain paper stock with a number stamped or handwritten on it.  Most likely it stayed with the phone, and it could be as mundane as a handwritten number in pencil.  Even if the phone itself survived, the dial card you're seeking most likely would have been tossed and replaced as the phone was re-issued and phone numbers changed.  Add to that the fact that these phones are now sought after as collectibles, the original phone could be anywhere.  But if you really want to try, I would start by posting ads around that area.

If you have first hand information on the number from your Mother, go with that as accurate information and reproduce a dial card.
The idea that a four-year degree is the only path to worthwhile knowledge is insane.
 - Mike Row
e