How to use a vintage rotary dial telephone: Top tips for callers from 1957

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LIFE Feb 17, 1958 Telephones

Blue rotary dial telephone from 1956


When dialing

Look in the directory for the correct number.

Lift the receiver and listen for the “dial tone.” The steady humming sound tells you the dial equipment is ready for your call.

Place your finger firmly in the opening for the particular letter or figure desired. Pull the dial around until your finger strikes the metal finger stop. Then release the dial and allow it to return without interference.

To dial local calls

Dial the two letters and the five figures of the telephone number. For example, to call ALpha 9-1234, dial A, L, then 9-1, 2, 3, 4.

If you reach a wrong number, try to determine the exchange name and telephone number you have reached. If you have reached a telephone outside your local calling area, hang up, wait a moment, dial “Operator,” and tell her what has happened.

Do this promptly to avoid having the charge appear on your bill.

Ready to work perfectly whenever you twirl your dial

LIFE Aug 24, 1959 - Vintage dial telephone

MORE HANDY HINTS: How to dial a telephone (1952)

To call one of the other people on your party line

If you want to know who else is on your line, dial “611,” Repair Service. They’ll be glad to tell you who the other parties are.

To call another party on your line, dial “Operator,” give her the number you want, and tell her it’s on your line. She will request you to hang up and will ring the other party. Allow time for the other party to answer and then remove your receiver.

If party wanted is not on the line, recall operator by moving receiver hook up and down, and ask her to ring again.

A neighborly party line

Give way in emergencies. If your neighbor says the line is needed for an emergency, cut the call short and give the right-of-way. Doing so may help save life or property.

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For your protection…

Our employees carry this card

How to use a vintage rotary dial telephone: Top tips for callers from 1957

All telephone company employees carry an official identification card like this. They all understand you don’t care to let unidentified people enter you home, so they’ll gladly show you their card before coming in. Just ask to see this wallet-size card if you have the slightest doubt about anyone who calls “from the telephone company.”

Check the picture on this official card to see that it resembles the bearer. You may also look for the Illinois Bell seal.

ALSO SEE: Eisenhower & the rotary-dial telephone (1955)

Recorded telephone conversations

(“Beep” tone)

If you hear a “beep” tone at fifteen-second intervals, your telephone conversation is being recorded by the person you are talking to. This signal is transmitted automatically whenever a recording machine is connected to the line. It is for your protection.

If you do not want a record made of what you are saying, ask the person with whom you’re talking to disconnect the recording machine. The “beep” signal will stop when the recorder is disconnected. Use of a recorder without this signal is unlawful.

How to use a vintage rotary dial telephone

Free personal telephone directories

They’re called “Blue Books,” and they’re handy for keeping a list of the local and long-distance telephone numbers you call regularly. Your Service Representative will be glad to send you your Blue Book free. Or, drop into the Business Office personally and we’ll be glad to give you one or as many as you need.
LIFE Feb 17, 1958 Telephones

You may telephone telegrams

Your telephone may be used to send telegrams, radiograms and cablegrams. By arrangement with Western Union, charges for such messages will be added to your regular telephone bill. (From coin phones, the “Operator” will ask that you deposit the required amount of money.)

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