Top Ten Things Not to Do at the Issue of the First Telephone Book in 1878

New Haven Phone Directory

 

This week marks the anniversary of the world’s first telephone directory issued by the New Haven Connecticut Telephone Company containing the names of its 50 subscribers. Most of us are always interested in the release of a new book. This one is only one page but is the first of its kind, so we should go and see what it is all about. As usual, we need to take a list of things not to do to avoid the dreaded time continuum tear.

Top Ten Things Not to Do at the Issue of the First Telephone Book in 1878 by John W. Howell © 2020

10 If you are there, do not ask about a ‘do not call’ list. If you do, at best, folks will wonder what you mean. At worst, the publisher of the book will call you a radical communist. (After all, Kevin. Who doesn’t want to be called by their friends and neighbors? I think those guys with brass knuckles wish to talk with you.)

9 If you are there, do not try to take a second copy from Tiny, the WWF champ, who is also the distribution manager. If you do, at best, Tiny will gently remind you only one copy per customer. At worst, Tiny, who has skipped three anger management sessions and also his morning coffee, will demonstrate the law of gravity, and his ability to toss a 180-pound weight ten feet into the air. Yes, Kennith, you are about to go airborne.)

8 If you are there, do not describe the mayor out loud as having “More chins than the New Haven directory.” If you do, at best, you’ll be ignored. At worst, the Chin brothers want to talk to you. (Now you’ve done it, Khalil. The brothers think your comparison cast them in a bad light since they are not listed. It looks like a duel at sunrise is the only solution.)

7 If you are there, do not ask how you can get an anonymous listing. If you do, at best, the crowd will merely wonder about your point. At worst, the idea will spread, and the phonebook will be dead before it begins. (The phone company management wants to see you in private, Kurt. I don’t think they are going to offer you a bonus for your brilliant idea.)

6 If you are there, do not ask why there are no numbers and just names. If you do, at best, your question will demonstrate your lack of knowledge about how the phone works. (there are no direct dialing methods, Kenny. You pick up the phone and ask for a person by name. This will be explained to you in the basement of the phone company office. Oh yes, there will be a water board to help you remember where you came from.)

5 If you are there, do not try to spend more than three minutes on a single call. If you do, at best, you will be gently reminded of the rules. At worst, the phone police will suspend your call privileges. (It appears that you missed the provisions of the phone company, Kareem. Customers are limited to three minutes per call, and no more than two calls an hour without permission from the central office. It looks like Geraldine is in charge. Good luck in getting your privilege back.)

4 If you are there, do not begin talking without the company’s proscribed greeting of ‘hulloa.’ If you do, at best, no one else will be on the line. At worst, there will be others on the line, and everyone will be talking at once. (Nice going, Karl. You have now created the first mob scene in telecommunications history. Also saying ‘y’all shut up” hasn’t helped.)

3 If you are there, do not think your phone is missing a part. If you do, at best, someone will explain that the talk and listen function is in one piece. At worst, you’ll be ignored, and you will miss half of the conversation. (You are supposed to say ‘That is all,” when you are finished, Klaus. You then switch the receiver quickly to your ear to listen. There is a big guy heading your way to take that instrument away from you. Let him have it.)

2 If you are there, do not say anything you don’t want fifty people to hear. If you do, at best, what you say is insignificant. At worst, calling the doctor and talking about what is bothering you will be around town in three minutes. (Yeah, Kiefer. Everyone is avoiding you. They are wondering about that rash you described to Doctor Thompson. Maybe you could have used a code word for ‘down there.’)

1 If you are there, do not try to place a collect call. If you do, at best, the operator will laugh. At worst, the police will be notified since you have not paid your subscription fee. ( The price is $22 a year, Kurtis, and there is no such thing as a payphone. I think you have disrupted not only the phone company but time as well.)

85 comments

  1. LOL! Great list, John. Gosh, I had no idea the telephone book has been around this long. With all of the emphasis on recycling I wonder the telephone book is still distributed. Each year our book goes straight into the recycle bin.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. This is a good question, Jill. As far as I can tell the book is still distributed. There are some places where the print version has been discontinued and put online but most places still have one.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Amazing how much that grew and then seemed to vanish overnight.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Good point. The phone book gave way to a better idea.

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  3. Can I ask Tiny if there’s a special operator for the 911 calls?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Tiny says, “Give me your address and I’ll come and explain how 911 works. Better yet I’ll show you.” 😀

      Liked by 2 people

  4. WordPress just ate my comment. If it shows as a duplicate, you can delete it. I was marveling at the idea of a phone book I could tear in half. That would certainly show Tiny something 😉 Don’t worry about those collect calls, here in Hartford, I think we still have a plaque where the first pay phone was installed. Yankee ingenuity at it’s best.

    I like the notion of only being able to talk or listen. I think the world could benefit from technology like that today – I’m sorry, he’s talking, you have to listen. Maybe you can have Tiny work on that, John.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Great point , Dan. In fact the instructions encourage more listning than talking. I like the idea of havng a phone book that can be torn in half.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. […] via Top Ten Things Not to Do at the Issue of the First Telephone Book in 1878 — Fiction Favorites […]

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    1. Thank you for the reblog

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  6. Betchya no one ever used that first phone book for a booster seat.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hahahaha. I ‘ll bet you are right. Thanks, Greg.

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  7. I’d still want to be on the Do Not Call list.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Well, that’s interesting! Great list, John, and I wonder how long before the subscribers started getting robo-calls 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha hahaha. The first came in six minutes after signing up.

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      1. 😅 That would not surprise me 😁

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It was from the blacksmith reminding that the warantee on the horse shoes was about to expire.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m amazed that there was a telephone book as early as 1878! Thanks for the info John.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. New Haven had the first telephone interchange and grew from 50 subscriber to 361 in less than six months.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. You need to get these posts into schools to teach history! HAH, so funny! And such “new” ideas to kids!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It would be new for sure. I’m not sure if they would believe it though. Thanks, Luanne.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hah, you might be right.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. I can’t help wondering if you remember the old joke:

    “What are you reading?”
    “The telephone book.”
    “Isn’t that boring?”
    “Well, it doesn’t have much of a plot, but the cast of characters is great!”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Badda bump bump, cymbal crash. 😂 Thanks, Linda.

      Liked by 2 people

  12. I’m still giggling over “y’all shut up”!! Three minutes per call and a maximum of two calls per hour? Sounds like the telephone company never had teenagers, ha!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I think they outlawed teens. Thanks Debbie. 😁

      Liked by 1 person

  13. #1 works for me! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Billy Ray

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      1. 🙂 (Will WordPress ever fix the ‘like’ button? A crucial question of the day! NOT!

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  14. Okay, so I forgot to ‘close’ my parenthesis! I should be flogged!

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  15. I was able to control my laughing at “y’all shut up”, but “down there” put me over the edge. Really funny, John!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. “Down there” always make me laugh. I guess it is so provincial that it cracks me up. Thanks, Jennie.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Me too, John!

        Liked by 1 person

  16. Amazing, dear John! What a romantic time it was! Girls were alive, polite & never said: “The subscriber is not available now…” 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So true, Maria. I remember when I was fourteen and broke my arm. My mom worked and I could not remember her phone number. A nice young woman not only got me the number but waited on the line until my mom got on. She kept reassuring me that everything would be fine. It was. I walked to the doctor’s office and had a cast put on. 😀

      Liked by 2 people

      1. What a story, John! It proves that technology is unable to give us the essential: human warmth & sympathy. No AI ever will be able to do that.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. So true Maria. Thank you. (no AI could take your place either)

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Oh, John! Thanks! That’s very kind of you! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  17. A lot of funny in this one, John–but this made me spit out my tea laughing: “At worst, the idea will spread, and the phonebook will be dead before it begins.” Bravo:).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you liked it, Kristine. Thanks for letting me know. 😁

      Like

  18. D.L. Finn, Author · ·

    I haven’t gotten a phone book in a while. Great list, I don’t miss those party lines

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t think I ever had a party line.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. D.L. Finn, Author · ·

        my parents did and they talked a lot!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I guess mine did too.

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  19. I went to great pains to get a phone book from another area. It’s a great source of names for my fictional characters. Now, can I talk to someone about upgrading from this party line?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We can put you on a wire and tin can. if you wish.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. “Hello. Is this the party to whom I am speaking?”

        Liked by 1 person

  20. Can you have a telephone book if everyone’s number is unlisted?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes with nice pictures of the countryside.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. This post reminded me of collect calls. And pay phones. Most of my phone calls were over when the operator broke in and asked me to deposit more change.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I remember that too. “There is one more thing I have to tell you….” …..”Deposit twenty five cents for the next three minutes.” *Click.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Drop the mic, Sheriff. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You done good, real good

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Thank you, Marc.

        Liked by 1 person

  22. More great history. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Till next Monday then.

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  23. Very good, John, and we don’t even get these anymore because no-one in South AFrica has land lines any more.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Many communities here don’t either. Thanks, Robbie.

      Liked by 1 person

  24. It amazes me when I see things like that because it shows just how far we’ve come with technology. And phone book? Do those things even exist anymore? Great list, John!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I haven’t seen one in a while. I know they do exist in some places.

      Liked by 1 person

  25. What a hoot… to think we used to have that brick dropped onto our front porch once per year. Now? Nada!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I know right? I alsways counted on the door stop potential. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Right! Or booster seat for a little one 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes. That too. 😂

        Liked by 1 person

  26. Brilliant John…what a contraption those early phones were… but at least I found them easier to use than the smart phone…. hugs

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I liked the heavy black on made out of old tires.

      Liked by 1 person

  27. […] Head over to find out what the other nine things you should not do.. and don’t spill your coffee: Top Ten Things Not to Do at the issue of the first telephone book in 1878 […]

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    1. Thank you so much for having me on your blog today, Sally.

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  28. I did wonder about a phone ‘book’ not having numbers so was glad of the clarification in point 6 – and immediately felt stupid for not realising 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I stand to serve. Er not to make you feel stupid but to explain. 😁

      Liked by 1 person

  29. Fun post, John! I saw this over at Sally’s place and noticed that my husband’s third great grand uncle is listed — Rev. John Todd.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow. That is something. Thanks for letting us know. 😁

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