Pitzer with Rotary Phone, c 1965

Avert your eyes from that terrifying owl over his right shoulder and look instead at the glorious multi-line rotary phone over his left. I can almost feel the solid feeling of pushing one of those buttons:

Pitzer with rotary phone nd

Bonus: This is by way of notifying everyone that I no longer have a Rice land line. It has been the bane of my existence for years and I’m glad it’s gone. Most of you already know this but if you want to get me, just send an email: kean@rice.edu. You could also try to come find me, I suppose, but frankly, good luck with that. I don’t sit still.





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26 Responses to Pitzer with Rotary Phone, c 1965

  1. I installed many of those clunky multi line phones (looks like a Western Electric 564) working for Southwestern Bell during summers and breaks while I attended Rice, including some on the Rice Campus. I wonder if any photos survived of the Western Electric switchboards and step-by-step switchroom gear that was in the basement of Allen Center. My favorite night operator on the switchboard was Ruby.

    • Melissa Kean says:

      I haven’t seen such photos but I’ve learned never to say never.

    • effegee says:

      You must have had the pleasure of making connections on the ancient frame in Allen Center comprised of technology that preceded Type 66 punch-down blocks. That frame almost delayed moving into Mudd Lab in 1983. The week before the move AT&T’s union went out on strike, taking with it all the field workers who knew how to work the frame. With some encouragement from Louis Spaw’s office, AT&T located a supervisory employee who had worked on the frame before he became management. Single-handed, he moved the some 250 circuits on the frame from Herman Brown to Mudd over the weekend while all the computer and telecom equipment was moved.

      • Yes, I soldered a jumper or two on the old frame, and entered my work in the record book. I did make sure all of KTRU’s circuits were properly documented and highlighted to protect them when I was updating the book one time. I don’t know what it was like by 1983, but the record books in PBX switchrooms were on an honor system of sorts. You were expected to keep them up to date so that the next guy could sort out what was what. About the time I left the Bell System, various “new” ideas on the maintaining of outside plant were coming down the pike, and many new installers were being taught to “just tone it out to find a vacant pair” and a lot of folks did not even know to find the record book, or how to read it. So, I imagine it was becoming a bit of a mess by 1983. Sometimes a big “throw” like you described was a good opportunity to clean up the mess when a frame had gotten disorganized, especially if you could get a plant order (overhead approval) to charge your time to.

  2. grungy1973 says:

    Why can’t I remember what the outside line in to the switchboard number was?!?
    What’s wrong with my memory?
    JAckson 6-2000? JAckson 7-2000?
    Someone on here will answer before I can get home and dig out an old directory…
    BTW, Melissa – my first phone (that I paid for) was a TouchTone™ version of that five-line phone (at home), with two lines on it (my parents’ number too), and the “Hold” feature worked.

    • Modern telephone technology has managed to take a pretty simple “Hold” interface on the old key telephones and turn it into a confusing non-standard mess on new phones that seems to be designed to drop calls.

  3. effegee says:

    Can’t recall for the Bell system.
    527-8750 for ROLM system along with limited direct-dial numbers in 527-4xxx and 527-6xxx.
    Eliminated in the Northern Tel system due to greatly expanded direct-dial in 348-xxxx.

  4. Bill Peebles, Hanszen '70 says:

    My sister who lives out in the country between Navasota and Brenham still has a rotary dial phone in her house. It works when the power’s out, a frequent occurrence.

  5. marmer01 says:

    Wasn’t it 527-8101 and then you had to ask for the extension? That predated ROLM. We still have a handful of analog phones around here with that on their number tab.

    • marmer01 says:

      I remember feeling like I had really arrived when I got a -4xxx extension!

    • Mark Williamson says:

      Yes, that sounds familiar.

      • effegee says:

        8101 was the main switchboard number for an operator to connect you with an extension. It required the switchboard to be attended. Reducing the number of operators and hours of coverage were common methods of cost reduction prior to 2000, when most numbers were made direct dial.

        8750 gave you an internal dial tone and allowed dialing any extension 24/7 without operator intervention. I thought this is what Grungy asked for.

    • grungy1973 says:

      …and it rang through to the campos after-hours…
      (confirmed in my ’75-’76 campus directory)

      Odd side-bar – the Sears store in Memorial City also used JAckson-7 numbers.
      That always seemed a long way from the building on Richmond @ Graustark.

      • effegee says:

        Another side note: Texas Southern University was the other major tenant in the 527-4xxx range with direct dial numbers in the low end of the range. Eventually Rice would have direct dial lines in 527-6xxx because of the growth in demand at both schools exhausted the 1,000 numbers in 4xxx. Both schools moved to separate 10,000-number blocks around 2000.

  6. marmer01 says:

    There was a period in the early 80s (maybe before) when everyone who lived in the colleges had to make their own independent arrangement with AT&T (SW Bell, actually). Phone numbers were a mixed bag and you had to buy your $100+ Western Electric phone. That was a lot of money back then.

    • Terry Cloudman Hanszen '65 says:

      That is right. In the ’60s we each dealt directly with Southwestern Bell to have a phone in our rooms. We didn’t have to buy the phones, as a matter of fact I think this was when it was not possible to attach an owned phone to Bell’s network. The name of the exchange was Jackson. Many people used the letters to give out their phone number. One that was well known in Hanszen was JAckson GLURK which if I remember correctly was the phone for Griffin Smith and others who were associated with the Thresher. It shows up in an article in the April Fool edition of 1963. https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth231234/m1/1/ in an article entitled: Senate Report. You could keep your phone number over the summer by making it inactive and paying a fee.

    • Similar in the mid-90s. I *think* that rooms got the same numbers from year to year, but billing arrangements still had to be made with SBC upon arrival on-campus. Of course, by then, you could get a $20 phone from Radio Shack or one of the new big-box stores that were starting to creep onto the scene (Best Buy at 59/610, or the Incredible Universe a little further south on the Loop).

      • effegee says:

        Through the 1990’s SBC allowed numbers to be “parked” for the summer and then reactivated by the next occupant(s) of the room in the fall using a “waiver”. So college residents knew what their phone number would be once they knew what room they won in room draw.

        Around 2000 (can’t recall if it was 1999 or 2000), they informed us that FCC rules for “number portability” required release of numbers that weren’t being paid for by a subscriber within something like 30 days, at any rate a period that was much less than the roughly 3 months of summer break. They could, and did, allow us one more waiver. The following summer (either 2000 or 2001), we expanded the then newly-installed NorTel switch and installed lines in all the college rooms.

  7. Eric says:

    Looks like the owl Bubo from Clash of the Titans

  8. marmer01 says:

    I thought 8750 arrived when the ROLM switch arrived. Prior to that you couldn’t call a non- 4000 or -6000 number from off campus without asking for it from the operator. That would have been approximately 1983/84 maybe? I remember it was very helpful to MOBstaff because the band hall number (x2346?) was not direct dial and we often had to call on Friday night or Saturday morning.

  9. effegee says:

    If there was a way to bypass the switchboard operator to connect to an extension before the ROLM was installed, I never learned it. Departments could, and did, install Bell lines that did not go through the switchboard but they cost more than extensions. For example, ICSA had modem banks on both internal extensions and so-called “outside” lines that bypassed the swtichboard.

    The ROLM was rolled out over a few months at the very end of 1982 into early 1983. ICSA had been moved to the ROLM about 6 months before it moved to Mudd in August 1983.

  10. marmer01 says:

    Again, if I remember right, pre-ROLM, RUPD had an off-campus emergency number that began with 524-, bypassing the 527-exchange completely. This was before the 6000 series of numbers and as an alternative to x3333.

  11. degb00 says:

    I had a dorm phone in the Hanszen old section in 1976-1979. You made the arrangements with Southwestern Bell, paid a $5.00 deposit for the phone, and got the same number as the room had the previous year. All they asked you was your parents phone number. In August of 1977, my parents were driving across the country while moving from New York to Oregon. When the Bell rep asked for their number, I said they didn’t have one at the moment. Then they asked for another relative’s number, but I didn’t know their numbers, and they were unlisted. The rep gave in and let me connect the service anyway.

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