Wednesday, September 10, 2008

My Obsession With Phones

I have found the ULTIMATE in a retro telephone.

This one is called the Ericofon and it was designed by a Swedish guy named Ericsson. It was initially produced in 1954 and was the first phone to have an all-in-on design; a dial in the handset.

I found one in aqua on eBay. Doesn’t it look like the ultimate in 1950s modern-Scandinavian design? I’ve just gotta have it. It will be an incredible addition to my retro phone collection.

Here’s how it works. See that red button in the middle of the dial. That’s what connects the call and hangs it up. When it rings, you pick it up and you’re connected. When you set it down, the red button disconnects the call. Boink.

Those Swedes; Ever so clever.

I remember when I got obsessed with phones similar to this one. Growing up in my little-bitty home town in Texas, we only had your standard desk model dial phones. Touch-tone phones were available in big cities, but not where we lived.

As a matter of fact, I can recall dialing only three numbers for a local call. They changed that to five numbers in the mid 60s.

One day when I was about 13 years old, I was at a friend’s house whose mother used a wheelchair. It tutrned out that they had a Trimline wall phone which was more accessible for her to use; the one with the dial in the receiver. It was beige.

I was amazed! I had no idea such things existed. It looked so sleek and modern.

I had to have one!

Back then, you couldn’t buy phones like you do nowadays. They could only be supplied by the local phone company.

I called the phone company to find out how much it would be. It turned out that the phone company charged you one dollar a month for a standard desk phone, $1.50 for a Princess phone (yuck!) and a whopping $1.75 per month for a Trimline. There was also an installation fee.

Mom said it was silly to pay extra for a phone. I begged and pleaded to have our extension phone changed to a Trimline. I was completely obsessed with that phone!

I offered to pay for it myself out of my piddly earnings. (I earned a dollar a day for working after school at my grandmother’s dry cleaning shop).

Finally, after months of begging and pestering and being a major pain in the ass, mom gave in. I felt so triumphant when I got to call the phone company and order a Trimline phone. I ordered a red one for the wall.

I remember the day the phone man was to come and install the phone. He was scheduled to install it while I was at school that day. I remember it like it was yesterday. I couldn't wait to get home!

I rushed home from school, tore through the house and burst into the room where the extension phone was.

And there it was!

I remember a flash of heat going down my spine the instant I saw it. Choirs of angels could be heard in the distance. My knees felt weak. . .

. . . And I began to cry.

I was just so happy and excited over this phone that my 14-year-old self just couldn’t handle it.

I studied every detail of that phone: The mechanism of the dial; the way the dial would light up; even the way it sounded when you hung it up. I cradled it and breathed in the smell of new plastic. I had my Trimline phone at last!

It wasn’t until 1983 that my little-bitty home town got touch-tone phone service. We got one for my grandmother’s bedroom as an extension phone. Upon pressing the buttons to make a call, she laughed and said, “I just don’t feel like I’m doing enough!”

Today, I have two Trimline rotary dial phones in my apartment; a yellow one on the wall in my kitchen and a blue one on my coffee table.

To this day, whenever I use them I still get a thrill, remembering what it was like as a 14 year old boy who lost it and cried over a phone.

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At 3:07 PM , Blogger Barb said...

while I don't collect phones ~ I certainly am fascinated with them. I grew up on Miami Beach with a mom who was the "Chief Switchboard Operator" back in the day when phones in hotel rooms didn't even have dials. I started working on the switchboard when I was like 6 or 7. I used to make the wake up calls during the summer when I would go to work with my mom... and I worked my way up from there. Good memories.

At 4:42 PM , Blogger Miss Healthypants said...

Dude, I've never known ANYONE who's this enthralled with phones. :) Wow. :)


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