I wanted to write a piece on rotary phones – after starting I realized I had two stories to tell. The other part of this story can be found on Retreading Pop in this article. Head over there if you want to read the rest of the story.
The phone pictured above was the target. I was the hunter. Too bad the hunt took 2-3 years. Let’s roll back for a moment and see how my wife and I captured my prey. Somewhere around 1999 when my wife and I were living in our first place we started to talking about the technology we missed and how we would love to get a rotary phone. We had a luggable computer or two, a CoCo, a Commodore Vic-20, a TRS-80 – but those were all computers. We didn’t have a single vintage phone.
Since I worked at a small PC shop, getting computers donated to me wasn’t completely uncommon. If I had worked for the phone company I’m sure I would have received some phones. Unfortunately I did not work for the phone company. We talked about getting a rotary phone, but never seriously started the hunt. I wish all those trips we spent in those years going to antique stores I would have sidetracked from the vintage books and picked up a telephone just once. Every once in a while in Oregon we would go out and look for a phone, then the time passed and we didn’t think about it for a while.
Around 2006 it became an object of desire. It could be that we bought our first house. It could be we had more disposable income. What we did know is that we really wanted a rotary phone. Not just any rotary phone mind you, but a black desktop model (I still want a red one thanks to the Adam West Batman TV Series). The first thing we noticed going out places was the asking prices for the phone. Good condition ones were going for over 200.00. We knew that there were literally millions of these things made, so there was no way we were going to pay that. The ones that were under 100.00 normally had noticeable damage to them. We didn’t want to pay for the same thing twice, if we had bought a damaged one we would eventually want to replace it.
So every time we went out to the antique stores (which was a lot less often than previous years) we would look over pretty much all the phones we could find. Then a few months after my son was born we went out to an antique store with my father and step-mom in Columbus. Doing the normal go through all the phones routine we found a couple that fit the bill. We managed to snag one in good (no reason to replace later) condition for 25.00. As far as I can tell all the pieces are there and it should work. The rub, we don’t use a home phone anymore. So this phone sits on the shelf looking pretty and begging to be used. It is something of art for us though, and the thrill of owning it still justifies the hunt.
There are only a few more things I actually want in the telephone department. I want a lineman’s handset from a couple of decades ago. I would take a touch tone – but would absolutely cream over a rotary lineman’s handset. I would also like a payphone – I’m fine with a touch tone for this. Double points though if it is vulnerable to a red box tone generator. Triple points if it is vulnerable to a blue box. Finally the one I will have to pay a couple thousand for – a phone booth. I’m not sure where I would put it in the house, maybe I would mount it in the backyard. I would love a phone booth either way. I’m also sure more than once I would change from street clothes into a Superman costume inside of it.
Head over to the Retreading Pop article to hear me gush on the rotary phone.