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Memories – Rotary Dial Telephones

Growing up in my era, phones were not streamlined size that they are today.  They were heavy, black, Bakelite, rotary-dial phones which were leased from the phone company and had party lines unless you paid for the privilege of a private line.

First, if you picked up the phone and it was not in use, you could make a call. Your fingers did not fly across the touch-tone keys – instead your finger went around the dial for the first letter or number, then around again for each successive digit. The receiver was extremely heavy which encouraged you not to stay on the phone too long.

The telephone numbers were definitely different as well. I don’t remember the days of the 4-digit numbers; but in the early 60s our telephone number was EVergreen 2-6822.

Party lines were a whole other story. In the First and Second World Wars party lines were put in place to conserve the much-needed copper that it would require to set up more “loops” in the lines. To the best of my knowledge we only had one person on our party line; and she was a chatty one. Yes, you could pick up the phone and eavesdrop if you were so inclined. The operator could intervene for emergency calls at either end.

The following link connects to a video of two 17-year-old boys trying to use a rotary-dial telephone: Teens Using a Rotary Phone

The days of the public telephone and telephone booths are also gone in the United States.  Everyone has a cell phone; and it’s not necessary, for the most part, to have a public telephone available.

At the 1962 World’s Fair the dual-tone multi-frequency push-button dialing was introduced under the trade name “Touch Tone”. By the 1980s the rotary dial phone and party lines were becoming a thing of the past.

Thank you for stopping by and reminiscing with me!

  • Have you ever used a rotary-dial telephone?

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    • No


What do you think?

22 Points

Written by LindaOH


  1. Though the phone we were using was not heavy, it’s rotary-dial. I remember when many of my friends had already changed to the push-buttons, but my home was still using the rotary-dial phone as my mom said it was still usable, so we didn’t change. This really brings back my memories of using the old phone.

    The video of teens using the rotary-dial phone is funny. I wonder if my kids know how to operate that. 😀

  2. We had a rotary dial telephone while I was growing up and then alter a push-button one. I would not mind having a rotary dial one today but I only have access to my mobile phone.

  3. I also remember we only had 3 phones in our house. If you wanted to have a private conversation you were screwed!

    Actually, when we first moved to Indiana we only had one phone.

    • Ah but you could always hear when someone picked up. Or how about when you would go to dial a number and there was someone already on the line that had been calling you and it never rang.