The Saturday Evening Post History Minute: 5 Quirky Facts about Rotary Phones

How many of these quirky features of the rotary telephone do YOU remember?

Brother listening to sister's phone conversation

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A few decades ago, telephones came one per house. They hung on the kitchen wall or perched on a hallway table. It seems quaint now, but that rotary-dial phone was a family’s lifeline to the outside world. Here are a few reasons people loved – or loathed – their rotary phones.

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  1. I LOVED (literally) dialing the phone in the 1960’s & ’70s. It was fun and made those short and longer sounds while dialing. I thought the style of the kitchen wall phone and the one in my parent’s room went back to 1949. Basically the black phone depicted here only non push button. They came in a variety of colors too. That Bell System rotary phone from 1954 here looks older than that to me.

    The busy signal (now) is something I’d rather get than voice-mail, trust me!! I thought party-line phones were gone by the ’50s. I also looked for that Alajalov cover and couldn’t find it. I remember phone booths too, but now they only exist in old movies and TV shows.

    On ‘Barnaby Jones’ (1973-’80) he’d often get out of that big Ford LTD to stop and call Betty back at the office as needed from a phone booth. The criminals did too—-to each other, of course.


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