Hand Cranked Telephones

Inspired by this thread, I wonder how many dopers have had to use the really old telephones where one cranked a handle and asked Central to connect you to someone? I used one of these until round about 1953.

I’ve never used one, but my parents have a real phone of that kind (not a replica) mounted on our kitchen wall. We never used it, though – it’s an antique.

I never have used the hand cranked models, but in my early youth we did have a phone where you had to pick up the handset and wait for the operator to answer, so that you could tell her what number you wanted. This would have been in the late 50’s, in the suburban Boston area.

Used one at the family cottage well into the 60s.

It is still there and still in use as a local party line, but no longer connected to the regional telephone system.

I went to high school in the mid-1980s (!!!) with a guy whose parents had a phone like this. He was from a very small town a few hundred miles west of Sydney in rural New South Wales, Australia. You needed to go through the operator to dial in or out, and his phone number was Quandialla 46.

The Navy still uses them. They call it a “growler” and it basically is a ringer circuit connected to a regular sound-powered telephone.

I’ve used them as recently as about five years ago.

I’ve got a couple of linesman’s phones with the manual crank. Found 'em in the junk lying around the exchange.

The village my dad came from in Ireland - Rathowen, Co. Westmeath - had its first public telephone installed in the mid-70’s [that’s the nineteen seventies] and it was one with a handle. There was still a manual exchange, one of the last remaining in the country at the time. In order to make a call, you either had to crank the handle or, if you were lucky, just wave at the lassie in the Post Office as you entered the box.

My uncle’s telephone number had 2 digits.

Until about 25 years ago, the town that I consider my home town ( despite my mailing address being different.) still had a switch board operator handling things.

Growing up, we had a family friend who was ‘Central’ for a very small rural town. The telephone exchange was installed in a sort of lean-to built into the side of her kitchen. But most of the phones were no longer the crank type; you just jiggled the hook switch to signal to her.

It was a very personalized service. You could use numbers, but mostly people asked for someone by name. I’m sure she could have listened in, but she didn’t do so – she said most of what went on in town was rather boring. And in a small town, she heard about most of it soon enough anyway.

I remember visiting, and hearing conversations like this:
“Hello, Evelyn – give me 412 for Mary Smith, please”.
“Well, Mary’s not there – she’s over Jane Doe’s, having coffee with her and her sister who’s visiting from the Cities. Do you want me to ring Jane’s number?”
“Yes, ring that – I need to talk to Jane, too.”

Also, the exchange was shut down from about 8:30-10:30 Sunday mornings, when she went to church. Extended to about noon if she went out to dinner afterwards. I once asked what happened if someone wanted to make a call during that time. Her response was ‘Well, they don’t – they know better. Besides, they’re all at church then anyway.’

Small town phone exchanges were really something!

We had one until about 1983, party line with 4 others. Paparoa 92S was the number.

Interesting answers. My mother used to turn the crank and say something like “Marie, put me through to Marge.” It baffled me to hear all that: Who was Marie and how did my mother know it was Marie and how did Marie know who Marge was and so on.

Only once. My dad was a railroad signalman, though he no longer did “field” work after I was 3yr old or so. But on rare occassions (once every year or two) he would get still get called out on trouble.

One time mom was out of town, so he took me with him. He needed to call the dispatcher (pre-cell phone era) and there was a hand cranked telephone in the equipment bungalo for that purpose. He let me turn the crank.

These phones were taken out of service a few years later. I still have a couple of the magnitos (the term dad used) out of them. They work well for catching night crawlers.

many country exchanges here were operated on a part-time basis, often by the sub-postmistress. The amount of traffic did not justify the cost of installing automatic machinery, until the 1970s

My grandparents, who lived in a tiny town in the Andes, used one until about 1989, when my father finally got sick of it and bought them a new phone.