Reminiscing: Snippets of the Past


In this blog, Reminiscing: Snippets of the Past, I will be adding historical information about different vintage items I think will be of interest to our readers. As we get older, we often find ourselves thinking back to memories from our past and reminiscing about yesteryears. These fond memories can be triggered by seeing or hearing something from our past that causes us to remember and we may think, “My mother had that,” or “My grandmother had that” or “We had one of those when I was a kid.”

A Snippet of the Past: Telephone Directory dated June 1960

As I picked up a printed phone book, dated June 1960, I had to smile. I began reminiscing and became flooded with memories from my childhood of the old-style telephones. A full-page color ad on the back cover showed a display of 9 different colors for extension desk and wall telephones: rose pink, aqua blue, light beige, moss green, white, cherry red, pastel yellow, light gray, and ivory. The ad motto or catchphrase read “Talk about colorful living – Get extension telephones in color.”

I leafed through the once bright white, but now yellow pages that were beginning to fall apart from age, I remembered the phone numbers that began with 2 letters and a number, then a dash, and ended with 4 numbers, as in EM6-8991. My family’s phone number began with MU.

Do you remember your phone number from that era?

Odessa, Texas is a central part of the oil-rich Permian Basin. The Front Cover reads “Drilling for Black Gold goes on and on through dusk into the night. .  . The oil-rich Permian Basin supplied almost 20 percent of the oil produced in the United States in the 1960s and 15.1 percent of all free-world production.


The back cover featured a full-page colored ad for 9 different colors of wall and desk telephone extensions for different rooms in a home. The extensions were designed to save a person steps from room to room so if they were cleaning a room upstairs, they did not have to run downstairs to try to get to the phone before it stopped ringing. At that time, you had no way of knowing who was calling you. There were no pop-up phone number screen displays on these phones that showed the number calling.


The old telephone directory included a page, complete with illustrations on how to use the dial telephone. You were instructed to dial the first 2 letters in the prefix, then dial each of the numbers. If you could not find a number listed in the directory, you could call 118 for information. But, please, look in the directory first.


Reminiscing: Snippets of the Past – Telephone Answering Machines Considered Newest  Communication Technology in 1960

One of the newest developments in the communications field at the time was the automatic answering and recording device. While you were away, or could not answer the telephone, this machine answered calls for you, gave your greeting message to the caller, and recorded any messages the caller left for you. Or you could purchase a device with answering capability only.

Snippets-of-the-past-Telephone-Directory-June-1960-telephone-instruments-answering-machineThe core feature of the old telephone directory was to give people a way to communicate by having access to phone numbers to call them. These pages were filled with an alphabetical list of last names, first names, addresses, and phone numbers. A popular Yellow Pages’ old slogan from the 1970s ad campaign was “Let your fingers do the walking.” Their slogan was developed to send a message about how easy it was to use their print directory compared to walking or driving around town, looking for a certain product, dentist, accountant, etc.


Reminiscing: Snippets of the Past – Yellow Page Ads were the place to Advertise

The Yellow page ads, which were not yellow in the first place, were as yellowed with age as the original white pages with lists of phone numbers by name and number. The directory was free to all, but businesses could advertise with ad sizes of 1/12th, 1/6th, 1/2, and full pages. The entire phone book, which was thin for a phone book was 352 pages, not including the front and back full-color covers.


As for Reminiscing: Snippets of the past and readers interested in even older vintage and antique telephone directories, for sale, you may want to check out Vintage Telephone Directories

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