Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Who remembers the age of the switchboard?

Switchboard operators in New York City, courtesy of the New York Daily News photo archive.
Raise your hand if you can remember when your phone number began with JAckson. Hmmm ... not many of you, are there?

Hard to as it may be to believe, but there was a day when the prefix to every number began with a word, its first two letters capitalized. Idaho Falls was JA, for JAckson. "JAckson 3-7393" may sound like a Wilson Pickett song (dating myself again), but it's actually the number I had for more than 30 years.

According to the Telephone EXchange Name Project, Blackfoot was SUnset, Rexburg was either ELmwood or ELwood and Rigby was SHerwood. There is a database where you can go to look up any town or city in the U.S.A. This makes me so glad we have the Internet.

Here's the cherry on top: A chart of Ma Bell's officially recommended exchange names. According to it, my smart phone number, 821-1285, should begin with one of the following: TAlbot, TAlmadge, TAylor, VAlley or VAndyke. I think Taylor rolls off the tongue best, e.g. "Hey man, call me at TAylor 1-1285." Of course, now you have to dial the area code first, another sign our world is in decline.

The past has so much to give us that's fun and fascinating. Could we marry the conveniences of the present with everything from the past that makes us smile? Or does the past make us smile because it's the past? In 50 years, maybe people will think of selfies as fondly as I do of my old phone number, OLympia 5-9822. I doubt it, but who knows? I don't expect to be around to find out.