Number Pul-leeze

by Curt Kovener

(This is an encore column from the Curt Comments archives.)
For some this may be a walk down memory lane, for others it could be considered a local history lesson. For the youngest of our readers this could be a “You’ve got to be kidding” column.
Back before cell phones, back before 411, 911, online whitepages, Google, and the old school plethora of thick multi-county telephone directories; back when a Crothersville phone number wasn’t 793- but SWift 3, the phone book was quite small and covered only one county.
It didn’t need to be big, there was only one phone line per family, that is, if your family had a phone.
In a box of unsold stuff at a recent local auction, I uncovered a 1960 Indiana Telephone Corporation phone book for Jackson County.
This 6-inch by 9 inch local bit of history has about 70 pages of listings and about an equal number of Yellow Pages of business listings and ads. However, the white and yellow pages have faded to about the same hue with the passage of time.
In it, I find dealers for DeSotos, Edsels, Ramblers and Hoosier made Studebakers. (For you youngsters, those were automobile brands.)
Ladies in Crothersville could have their hair properly coiffured at LaBelle Femme Beauty Salon or Style Mode Beauty Shop.
A phone listing for The Peoples Bank cannot be found. In 1960 it was known as the Brownstown Loan & Trust Co. Since 1960, many banks have changed names or merged.
Today’s families might be amused (or aghast) to know that even though there are dozens of pizza alternatives, in 1960 all of Jackson County had just a single pizza place.
It is interesting to see the ads for towing and hauling featuring the pictures of 1950-ish trucks. And gas stations touted their “fast, friendly service” where they came out to your vehicle, pumped your gas, checked your oil and cleaned your windshield and you paid around 39¢ a gallon.
In 1960 there were about a dozen places to have your TV repaired. Today, they are disposable. If it breaks it will cost more to fix it than to buy a new one…if you can find any electronics repair shop.
The residential phone listings were separated by community exchange. Back when this directory was new you could call all of the people in Crothersville you wanted for a local no-charge call. But to call another community would result in a long distance toll charge. Imagine calling someone in Uniontown (on the Seymour exchange) by dialing “0” because it was a long distance call.
Then after dialing “0” and waiting your turn, the operator would ask “Number please?” and after giving the number you wanted to reach you would be asked for your number. (That’s how you got the long distance charge on your phone bill.) Eventually, you got connected to your intended caller unless they were on a party line. More on this in a moment.
And long distant calls were not cheap by today’s standards. According to the phone book in 1960 it cost ‘only’ $1.40 for three minutes to talk to someone in New York City from Crothersville. Most contemporary long distant calling plans have that per minute fee beat. (2019 aside: and who would sit still for any long distance charges today?)
Many Crothersville and rural Jackson County phone customers were on a “party line” which grouped several homes together forcing everyone to share line usage. Woe to the teenager who talked too long. Party lines were also sources of community information…sometimes much of which the two callers preferred not to be aired publicly.
And in 1960 you didn’t carry your phone around in your pocket, purse or belt clip. There were no push buttons, touch screens, portable or stylish phones. There were two models: it set on a desk or it hung on the wall, And they came in one stylish color: black. And you could roam about the house in 1960 as you liked as long as you didn’t exceed the three-foot length of cord connecting the phone to the receiver.