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What Made You Start Collecting Telephones?

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What made me start collecting phones...

As a teenager I visited a house where the owner had a small collection of Bakelite phones. They were in another room and I could just see them through the open door. I wanted to take a closer look but the owner was out. I never went there again. But I never forgot those phones, I thought they looked smart.

Years later I moved into a new flat (apartment) and on the floor of one of the rooms was an Ivory GPO 300 series phone. In a cupboard was a GPO 150 Candlestick. Both undamaged, unwanted and with the original dialcard for my 'new' telephone number. They had been installed in that property when new.

My own collection began that day. And I still have them.

I jump around with hobbies. I collect old German radios, antique books, old clocks, old watches, old guns, test equipment, old optics, and whatever else I'm interested in. So when my wife told me she wanted a phole like Lucy has on "I love Lucy", I bought a Western Electric 302.  She wanted a phone like the old lady on the Twilight zone "Night caller", then I bought a WE D1. My collection is small, 5 phones.

Well I started with a phone my dad removed from an old house when he was looking for property to buy. We just moved to New Hampshire and he and his brother were looking to make a new start and wanted property on which to build a new house. Well this old black WE 500 with metal dial hadn't been used in years, he didn't know how to connect it up, so I took one that the phone company put in the house, removed the cover and looked at the connections and copied them down and made the old phone connections the same. Connected the base cord and whala it worked.

My dad was impressed, he knew I liked fiddling with electronic and electrical things. After a while he had his business line connected to the house, had only one extension but wanted another in the master bedroom. So he asked me if I could use that old black phone and connect it to his business line in the bedroom. I said yea, but to run a wire from one end of the house to the other would be difficult because the house was built on solid bed rock, and crawling under the house in some areas was impossible. So I looked at the wire in the wall outlet and saw four wires, only two were used. So, I jumped the yellow and black wires to the CP (circuit protector) for his office line, connected the phone to the other end in the bedroom, and it worked!

My dad said I should work for the phone company, and I told him I'd love to. Well one day my dad was sick, (cancer) and wanted to know if I could connect the two lines into one phone, and some how switch between the lines. I said let me think about that, well after much thought I made a box up that used a relay and switch to operate the relay, and connected the two lines up to the one phone, and it worked.

This was before I knew about key sets, because that would have made life real easy. But my invention worked and he was very happy. After time I drifted away from phone stuff, and went for old pinball machines and vending machines.

I got an old candy machine on the side of the road, a building was being torn down, and in it was that machine, then I had a chance to buy a coke machine for cheap. It was in excellent condition, then I was looking at a magazine that was advertising as removed payphones. Then I thought that would be cool to have. All the time I was converting my dads work shop to a man cave, before man caves were a thought.

I had a pin, I had a coke/beer machine and a candy machine.

Now I wanted a payphone. So using parts from an old heathkit my dad gave me, an old tackle box, black spray paint and, and a G handset I found some where. I made a payphone. Using clear Plexiglas for the face plate, I back painted silver.

Drilled the hole for the dial, and the handset cord. Made a hanger from a F handset hanger (I don't remember the number) my uncle gave me from his days with ma bell. He said it was used on switch boards to hang a handset, fashioned a hook switch leaver. Put it all together and wired it up and it worked. Much to mine and my family's amazement. At some point I got a set from somewhere, it was in a fire, the housing was melted, I took parts out of for the network, and ringer, I added that and the network connected the new parts up and now I had a working payphone look almost alike. The clicking in the receiver was the only drawback. The simple dial in the kit had no contacts to short the receiver. So when dialing you wanted to keep the handset away from your ear.

Then a few years later I was given a NOS Beige WE 2565-HK wow that was real cool (to me). It took me a couple days sorting through all those wires to figure out how to connect it up to a single phone line. Well that was the start, the phone bug bit me, and I couldn't stop. I later came across a huge box of business phones, most NIB 2565, sets and other stuff. I was in heaven. I set out to build my own KSU to operate those phone's. Using a box that was used for well pump control equipment. It took many attempts to get the right set up. But I got it, and kept improving it over the years.

Then after the break up. I bought my first real unit with a bunch of 830 desk sets rotary multibutton sets. But still lacked female connectors. So I set out to source those, and find the tool to connect the wires.

After several hours working on the abandoned unit, I got it fully working. It had a 207A I believe that is the correct number dial intercom signaling unit. That in its self was a challenge. Then found the ATCA and joined, found key system manuals, so now I had it made. So that was the start of my collection, at one point had 102(looked brand new) with a #2 dial. 202s, 302s, 500/2500. 702s 2702s. In just about every color. Those were the days of yard sales and cheap phones.

But had to move, and down size big time. Also had payphones, mostly single slots, a couple 10-A and 11-A credit card sets. And a barn full of assorted single line and key telephone sets. Ahh those were the days... I still miss em, though next summer I'm going to build a payphone look a like much like that I made when I was 16, but I'm going to help my 10 year old boy do that. We're both looking forward to that.

Wouldn't call it "collecting" per se - at least not compared to the majority of the members here  :). As a matter of fact, my interests in "dinosaurs" are rather eclectic - I like antique or vintage fans, radios, TV, lamps, typewriters... And of course telephones. And reasons are primarily two - first one is a protest sentiment against an "everything disposable" society we live in, the concept of "planned obsolescence", and in general a desire not to follow the crowd. The second one is a simple fascination with technology of yesteryear, when (most) everything was built to last, was simple, functional, repairable, and had a certain degree of industrial design beauty, that I, as an engineer, learned to appreciate  ;)

So, I have decided to surround myself with a few objects, that are a pleasure to look at, are fully functional, integrated into my everyday life, and also serve as conversation pieces. Since I like learning new stuff, I basically made a decision to get those forgotten and discarded objects, that no one wants, and attempt to bring them back to life. I am pretty sure that I will never become a true collector, but there are a few phones that appeal to me aesthetically, and I have narrowed them down to the following list:

Western Electric B1/202 (1931) w/ 634BA subset
Western Electric 304, wired as 302 (1938)
Automatic Electric 40 (year unknown)
British GPO232 Grand Pyramid (1948)

And waiting for its turn to be restored is the last one - Automatic Electric 34 (1937)

Two other Western Electric D1/202's, WE 302 and an AE40 that I have restored in the mean time have all sailed to the new happy owners.

That's it in a nutshell.

As a child I was fascinated by all things electrical and technical.  I wanted to have such things of my own.  I used to buy as many of the popular magazines as my folks would allow and just as important as the articles and news stories were the myriad of advertisements and classifieds in the back of them.  One that always caught my eye were the ads from Burden Sales in Nebraska.  they put out a catalog that had fantastic stuff that the government saw fit to get rid of.  Two items I wanted more than anything were the AE40 and AE50 phones they had for sale.  Thanks to a birthday windfall, I found I could afford one.  Since my folks would kill me if I disfigured their walls, it had to be the 40.  I got it.  And after messing around with it. i finally decided to try to hook it up.  Our house had tie points in each room.  I worked with it, and a bit of trial and error, I got it to work.  A couple of days later, the friendly Indiana lineman came by to inform my parents there were too many telephones in our house.  I silently flew up to my room and disconnected and hid my phone.  After a couple of days, I set it back up and we got another visit.  After that my folks found my phone and that was all she wrote.  That got me started with phones and kept my interest up, and while in the Army, trained in microwave communications and frequency division multiplex systems.  I now work in UHF FM portables and mobiles and trunking communications systems, but still love the old familiar phones, starting my current collection with a good old AE40.


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