Tuesday, December 27, 2005

They're REALLY yellow pages now

When my great-aunt died in 1992, I found among her possessions a phone book from 30 years earlier. Completely intact, the directory is a relic of its time; while not all that dissimilar from today's phone books (come on, Lafayette!), it does showcase everything good, bad and just plain weird about life before Beatlemania. Today, we look at a phone book that JFK himself could have conceivably held in the sweet and innocent month before the Cuban Missile Crisis (not that he did, of course; that's an idea too cool to be reality).

On another note, does anyone else find it ironic that the cover of the Yellow Pages is GREEN?

Whatever happened to this artist? It seems like every advertisement or book was illustrated in this manner from the 1940s to the early 1980s; I'll bet even the porn looked like this.

Well, what do you know...it did! Cheeky devils.

The early 1960s were an age of innovations for the telecommunications industry, as evidenced by the increasing plethora of calling services available for customers. The one explained below allows you to reach a caller who isn't home. With this convenient service, you don't even have to stay at your phone! In fact, you'll want nothing more than to get away from it:

I can't imagine this was too popular, considering the wake-the-dead bells of classic telephones. Not to mention the poor hillbillies who had to take more steps than the combined tooth count of their families just to talk to Jethro in Beverly Hills.

Emergency calls were no less complicated in the age of the Rotating Dial:

One of the big hits of the Fall TV season in 1962 was Rescue CE-56411, starring a pre-Star Trek William Shatner. A typical emergency recording went like this:

Dispatcher: "Hello! City Police."
Caller: "How do you do?"
Dispatcher: "How do you do?"
Caller: "Fine. Thank you."
Dispatcher: "Fine. Thank you."
Caller: "Now that we're acquantainces, I want to report a fire."
Dispatcher: "I'm terribly sorry, but this is the police line. If you want to report a fire, you must call the Fire Department. Consult your telephone directory, if it hasn't yet gone up in flames."
Caller: "Oh, darn. You're right. I apologize profusely for this unnecessary intrusion. Good day to you, madam!"
Dispatcher: "Good luck to you too, sir!"

But those were far from the only complicated arrangements back in the day. While 1962 was a sweet and innocent time, the powerlines of the day were anything but:

Shucks, that lying robot Al Gore didn't invent the Internet after all! Kennedy did!

I can only imagine how slow the connections in this setup had to have been; then again, 1962 was a slower age, so maybe it all worked out. Television-repair ads, on the other hand, tout their quickness, showcasing the high priority that TV once had in America:

Because you can really trust repairmen who handle your TV on a unicycle while getting shot at by a young George W. Bush, who is fiendishly blocking the stairs. Slow down, sir! Mike Douglas will be on again tomorrow night.

Artists certainly took their time, as we've already seen above. Witness also this ad for Keller's Bakery:

According to local folklore, this girl's fire-breath killed this artist. Birthday girl recently turned 47, which scared the hell out of everyone who stood around her cake. Amazingly, this bakery is still in business, at the same location. Their boxes even look the same. Eat THAT, Wal-Mart!

Pregnancy girdles? I thought it was coathangers in those days...

And just in case the stork dies en route:

Hey, those newfangled fast-food hamburgers weren't going to make themselves!

It is often said (by me, anyway) that one can tell a lot about a society by the name and nature of its night spots. This is certainly true for 1962. For a fun brainteaser, try to guess the atmosphere and demographic of each club listed below. Go ahead, I dare you!

And speaking of segregation...

But actually showing the "colored" people? Too risque for a family publication!

For those times when your home is invaded by hordes of black termites:

The point of all of this is, as Billy Joel once put it, "The good old days weren't always good, and tomorrow's not as bad as it seems." Then again, he was 13 back in 1962. Probably didn't even have a cell phone, that square!


Michael said...

Thanks for the post--slice of life history stuff is interesting.

One thing, though--the "reach a caller who isn't home"--is that actually a way to reach a party line subscriber? "Party line" had a different meaning back then.

Flamingo Jones said...

This post goes along so well with the book I'm reading. I got a copy of "The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap" for Christmas.

I'm definitely not one who longs for those "good ol' days" way back when. I wouldn't need to go further back than 1991.

Ian McGibboney said...

Michael, I think you're right. But it appears to have multiple uses (such as reaching one caller for a one-on-one conversation) and it resembles a still-existing service where your phone dials the number repeatedly, but mercifully rings only when the other person answers. Regardless, I find the idea of an old phone ringing endlessly until someone actually calls highly amusing.

Flamingo, I might go back to the late 1980s, but only with my then-state of mind. Too bad life isn't a videotape, because I'd be fast-forwarding at this point.

Flamingo Jones said...

I would go back to 1984, if I had to. Reagan was obviously fallible...but at four, I didn't care TOO much. (Although, I did convince my mom to let me go in the voting booth with her and I literally cast my first ballot that year.) BUT, mostly it was the year of my first real birthday, my first olympics, no school yet, and She-Ra. It kind of rocked.

Ian McGibboney said...

In 1984, I started preschool because doctors thought I was developmentally disabled. I just remember being really confused. I also got my first car that year--a sweet silver Corvette pedal car. Zero emissions! Ahead of its time.

I didn't even know there had been an election in 1984 until about 1988. I used to think the presidency was an 8-year thing (phew!!). I also used to think Washinton DC was the same as Washington state.

Mary Lou Retton, baby! Jump! Knee-high socks! < /1984>

Neil Shakespeare said...

Oooo! "Conductor Pipe Drivers"? Yikes, that's nasty stuff. Disgusting!

Flamingo Jones said...

You should have been friends with me in 1984. You could have come to my birthday party...that would have brightened up the year for you. I recall a killer game of Pin the Tail on the Donkey. And Erika S. lost TWO teeth in the pizza! BEST. PARTY. EVER.

Anonymous said...

Flamingo shouldn't have changed her blog to disallow anonymous comments. That is gay like you are.

Ian McGibboney said...

Yeah, God forbid your unparalleled commentary be silenced! The author of such illustrious works as "Primary Colors" and "I was a Teenage Sex Slave" is always welcome to comment here at Not Right.