What gets left.

So much good bloggage today, let’s just get to it and let it guide the comment conversations today, eh? I’ll be housebound for much of it, anyway. I’m working on a story and apparently I’m afflicted by some odd aphasia, where I tell people “I’d like to talk to A and B about X and Z,” and they hear, “Blah blah blah and please don’t feel you need to call me back before October. I understand it’s vacation season, and besides, I am a mere freelancer.”

Also, I’m getting Comcast phone service today. I’m hoping this will halt the death of one acre of forest, slaughtered to send me mailings for the Comcast Triple Play, but who knows? I’m just hoping for a prompt technician.

OK, then. First we have a tale of the bargains to be found on the local real-estate market:

DETROIT — One dollar can get you a large soda at McDonald’s, a used VHS movie at 7-Eleven or a house in Detroit.

The fact that a home on the city’s east side was listed for $1 recently shows how depressed the real estate market has become in one of America’s poorest big cities.

And it still took 19 days to find a buyer.

(That’s another Ron French special, btw. A lesser writer would have overlooked the 19-days part. Always with the great detail, that Ron.) At first blush, this isn’t that surprising — I’ve written about $100 houses in Detroit before, so $1 isn’t that much of a stretch, and what’s more, I’d bet there are at least a few unloved parcels at bargain-basement prices here and there in most American cities. What makes this house so of-the-moment is that it sold not two years ago for $65,000. But the new owner couldn’t or wouldn’t pay the mortgage — fraud is always a strong possibility — and once it was empty, it was as attractive to the scrapping vultures as a fresh dead heifer is to the real kind. They started from the outside and worked their way in:

“The siding was the first to go. Then they took the fence. Then they broke in and took everything else,” [said a neighbor.]

The company hired to manage the home and sell it, the Bearing Group, boarded up the home only to find the boards stolen and used to board up another abandoned home nearby. Scrappers tore out the copper plumbing, the furnace and the light fixtures, taking everything of value, including the kitchen sink.

Click through and enlarge the picture and take note of the dying ash tree on the park strip, too. That’s the new arboreal symbol of southeast Michigan, and don’t get smug about it — sooner or later the emerald ash borer is coming to your town, too.

How bad is it in Detroit? Even the dead are leaving town:

CLINTON TOWNSHIP– At precisely 8:57 a.m., under an overcast sky, Francesco and Francesca Imbrunone were re-laid to rest. A man in a dark suit stood over their remains proclaiming that they “await the resurrection.”

If that promise holds true, then it would be, in a way, the Imbrunones’ second resurrection. As it happens, the couple was buried nearly 50 years ago in Detroit’s Mount Olivet Cemetery on the city’s east side. Then their grandchildren decided to disinter them, move them to the leafier suburbs and bury them again this particular morning.

Five grand, the grandchildren spent, so they won’t have to cross 8 Mile to visit their ancestors. This one is ridiculous, to be sure, and a look at the accompanying video only confirmed what I suspected — these are the thin-lipped suburbanites who say, in public, sorrowful words about “convenience” and “safety,” but as one poster on the DetroitYES forums pointed out, Just imagine what their private conversations were like when they came to the conclusion to move Grandma & Grandma. Yes, I can just imagine. The route between their new homes and the ancestral burying ground is hardly the road to the Baghdad airport. Of course they mention the inevitable car breakdown. Car breakdowns are like car backfires — spoken of often, but scarcer by the year. But you can’t tell that to someone willing to drop five grand to never have to see the city at less than freeway speeds again.

For the record, I have yet to “visit my parents” since their interment at Union Cemetery in Columbus. So part of my puzzlement is a cultural disconnect with the idea of primping graves forever; isn’t memory enough?

Finally, a clue to why, perhaps, the city is dying: German technology bent to the task of? Anyone? Engine performance? Hydrogen fuel cells? Rechargeable batteries to power green cars? No. Reproducing the sound of a V-8 engine (inevitably described as “throaty”). Why? Because people are stupid, that’s why:

Eberspacher GmbH and its Novi-based North American subsidiary have developed technology that replaces a muffler with a speaker inserted into the exhaust system. That speaker — a heat restraint version of a typical stereo speaker — emits sound waves that can either silence engine noise or tune it so that even a quiet hybrid sedan can roar like a classic muscle car.

Widespread use of such a system could solve two issues facing automakers as they strive to offer smaller, more fuel-efficient and hybrid vehicles: Consumer perception that quiet cars offer poor performance; and concerns that hybrids, which are silent at slow speeds, pose a safety hazard to the blind because they use engine noise to identify moving vehicles.

I’m amazed how often I hear this, anecdotally: “But I like a car with that deep rumbly sound.” Oh, bite me. When we were in Monterey, the peninsula filled with motorcyclists, there for a road race in nearby Salinas. Alan said it was a Formula I of bikes, and the idea of thousands of them in town was enough for one art gallery on Cannery Row to close pre-emptively, “due to excessive noise.” But guess what? There was hardly any noise. It turns out that aficionados of European road bikes — BMWs, Triumphs, Ducatis — don’t measure their manhoods in decibels. That’s for those tattooed lardasses on Harleys. (Apologies to any tattooed lardasses in the readership; I’m just venting.)

So, just to sum up: Speakers in your mufflers. It’s times like this I think of “Idiocracy,” the prelude, where the best minds of science are bent not to the problem of declining IQs, but hair loss and erections.

Are we done ranting? I guess.

A little more bloggage, HT Roy: The Guardian’s gallery of LOLBush, at the Olympics. Stupid, but mildly amusing.

A bit testy this morning? Why yes, yes I am. I’m taking Poynter.org off my bookmarks, or at least restricting myself to the RSS feed, which cuts out all the b.s. links surrounding Romenesko’s media news. If I see one more Jill Geisler essay on “newsroom leadership,” I may explode.

Off to make phone calls. Enjoy your day.

Posted at 10:02 am in Current events, Detroit life |

51 responses to “What gets left.”

  1. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on August 13, 2008 at 10:46 am

    I call people as both a freelance writer and as an officer of the county juvenile court, and i’m here to tell you that everyone around both offices i work with agree — no one returns phone calls the way they did even a few months ago, let alone one or two years ago.

    E-mail to beeeg cheeses who i figure will take three tries get a full and frank response within the half-hour quite often, but phone messages — oy. Days, if a’tall.

    And it goes without saying, so i’ll say it, the younger the contact, the more the skew. When we have to start texting or twittering offender families to order them to come in for a mediation or drug screen, i will LOL.

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  2. brian stouder said on August 13, 2008 at 10:46 am

    thin-lipped suburbanites who say, in public, sorrowful words about “convenience” and “safety,”

    I’m still reeling from that one!

    Those folks must be the sort that ‘wouldn’t be caught dead’ on the ‘wrong’ end of town…..but wow! Wow. I suppose dead people have no rights, but what if THEY chose the spots they were in, and wanted to be there?

    It’s tempting to say that they could have burned their $5000 in the grill and gotten more for their money, and indeed, it reinforces my predisposition to be cremated (when the time comes, that is!)

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  3. alex said on August 13, 2008 at 11:23 am

    A car with a throaty engine recording — perfect for tooling around with your trophy wife with the fake screaming orgasm. Or maybe for driving to your next canned African lion hunt in Texas. Sure wish I could get excited about this new development. Pass me the Cialis.

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  4. brian stouder said on August 13, 2008 at 11:26 am

    Hey, speaking of Romenesko/freelance journalism – you saw this, yes?


    and excerpt

    The city has offered free trips to Portland, Ore., Los Angeles, Phoenix and Seattle to reporters willing to write positive stories about public transit projects there. Baltimore officials are looking for four “freelance journalists and/or bloggers,” but prefer the latter.

    Looks like the path to a slam-dunk free trip is open for you…

    PS – another tidbit on Romenesko concerned the unabomber’s objection to his cabin being in the Newseum. True enough, he cannot be waterboarded, but someone should tell him to shut the hell up, imo

    PPS – Alex – loved the faux-throaty car/faking trophy wife line; Perfect!

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  5. LAMary said on August 13, 2008 at 11:43 am

    Alex, I think you may have met my boss. You’ve described his style perfectly. He has a Harley and a V8 Mustang and some giant expensive SUV or something. And a trophy wife twenty years his junior. His office is decorated with tacky photos of his wife draped on the motorcycle and ugly pictures of eagles.

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  6. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on August 13, 2008 at 12:04 pm

    Like the end of the intro roll on the Colbert Report?

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  7. nancy said on August 13, 2008 at 12:13 pm

    LAMary sent me, via e-mail, a line from her boss’ resume that just…kills. I’d love to reproduce it here, but Googling it yields only one hit — his LinkedIn profile — and it’d reveal my source. Just trust me: It’s priceless.

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  8. whitebeard said on August 13, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    I agree with Jeff “no one returns phone calls the way they did even a few months ago, let alone one or two years ago.” When I am freelance writing, if I do not get a call back or an e-mail answer within a day, that person misses out on being included in the story.
    But in the very old phone days, when telephone exchanges had electromechanical “stepping” relays (I think they might have been called T Bar systems”) and you absolutely had to have an answer as deadlines approached and the line was busy, you could dial (yes, with a real telephone dial) all but the last number and lock up that number for any number of minutes you wanted to wait.
    And the first words you heard from them when you dialed the last number was that their phone stopped getting calls for the time you had their line on “hold” and you agreed that it must have been something wrong at the damned phone company.
    Mind you, that trick also froze nine other telephone numbers so you had to use it sparingly. A telephone technician could free up the stepping relay but it would be hard to find among hundreds, maybe thousands of relays back at the telephone exchange office.

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  9. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on August 13, 2008 at 12:28 pm

    Yeah, but when said party “is” the story, it gets rather painful.

    Pour moi.

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  10. nancy said on August 13, 2008 at 12:30 pm

    Whitebeard, that is some ol’-skool phone phreaking. I never heard of that one.

    On the other hand, when I moved into the dorms at Ohio University, an older student gave me the three-number code that got you a particular switchboard operator. All you had to say was, “Give me an in-state WATS line, please,” in a hurry-up and/or authoritative voice, and presto, free long distance.

    “Free long distance.” Man, that dates me, don’t it?

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  11. whitebeard said on August 13, 2008 at 12:32 pm

    On the making of noise to let pedestrians know that a electric car is heading in their direction, perhaps the sound of a bicycle bell would be enough, but a souped-up Mustang exhaust rumble would be a tad too much.
    But, with today’s infrared and radar sensor technology, the sound would only have to be turned when live pedestrians were close enough to be hurt. Who knows what NHTSA, whose acronym stands for Never Harshly Troubling Sweetheart Automakers, will come up with after hearings.

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  12. Howie said on August 13, 2008 at 1:22 pm

    My work study job for four years (late, late 80’s) at Rose-Hulman was switchboard operator. We worked coffee breaks for the REAL operator, and covered the evenings and weekends too. It took about a month to become familiar with the whole board, including the WATS lines and the various scamming techniques. (The most frequent one being an authoritative voice calling from a dorm extension – we had old school caller ID). As a freshman, I enjoyed the power to grant or refuse that WATS line. I tried to be generous, but I drew the line at the habitual offender from my dorm, calling yet another of his out of town girlfriends. Nancy, it sounds like maybe your “particular switchboard operator” was way too generous, and asking to be fired. Ahhh, college.

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  13. nancy said on August 13, 2008 at 1:27 pm

    Every day, you peoples be bustin’ my bubbles.

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  14. kayak woman said on August 13, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    That bit about moving the bodies is cracking me up. My brother died three years ago and his ashes are all over the place. Some of them go riding in his favorite vehicle. Others are scattered in the shipping channel of the upper St. Mary’s River. Plus there are still some hanging out in whatever you call the container they came in. That’s how he would have wanted it.

    And good luck with your Comcast guy. I had one in my house a couple years ago that totally creeped me out.

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  15. derwood said on August 13, 2008 at 2:26 pm

    I don’t allow Comcast in my house. I go pick up whatever I need installed from their customer service center. The last time someone was there it was to install the HD box. They didn’t allow those to be picked up as the technology was to new for me to understand(*cough*). I finally told the guy I would install it after he stared at the instructions for an hour and finally admitted it was only his 2nd HD install and they only gave them a 30 minute training session.

    Free long distance…I used to have a recording of the exact sound a quarter makes dropping into a payphone. You could play it and the operator would credit you with the amount she thought you deposited into the phone. Ahhhh the days of using my Commodore 64 for things other than its intended purpose.


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  16. Julie Robinson said on August 13, 2008 at 2:54 pm

    Our high school had a pay phone for calling your parents to pick you up after school activities. But if you shouted into the earpiece of the handset you could avoid paying. Everyone used it that way–did the phone company never wonder why there was no money in the thing?

    I also remember having a party line, living out in the country as we did. Four homes shared one line, and you couldn’t get your own no matter how much you offered to pay. And there was only one phone in the house, but my folks graciously bought a long cord so we could drag it into the closet for some imagined privacy. Except of course, the other three homes on the line could listen in. It was so Green Acres.

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  17. Kirk said on August 13, 2008 at 3:05 pm

    I was a railroad freak when I was a little kid. I owned a 78-rpm record that was nothing more than the sound of a steam train rolling down the tracks (about 20 minutes worth on each side). One day, some old biddies were yakking on our party line for what my dad thought was far too long, because he needed to make a call. So he cranked up my train record and played it into the phone. The line was soon free.

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  18. Julie Robinson said on August 13, 2008 at 3:17 pm

    Oh, Kirk, thanks for the memories! One of our neighbors would leave their phone off the hook for hours and hours. My Dad had a police whistle to get their attention. It didn’t usually work because they were usually stoned.

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  19. nancy said on August 13, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    One of my editors in Columbus had the last party line in the city — at least she said so. And she openly admitted listening in on the other parties. It was part of her home-entertainment experience.

    A lot of the houses around here have a built-in telephone alcove somewhere on the first floor, usually in the foyer or front hall. I showed a few of them to Kate when we were house-hunting and explained it was for the prehistoric days of one hard-wired land-line phone. It was hard for her to wrap her head around.

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  20. whitebeard said on August 13, 2008 at 3:52 pm

    Getting physical to get free pay phone calls can be inventive. At a veteran’s hospital in Montreal in the 70s, there was a pay phone on wheels that would be rolled around and plugged in to make a call, with coins of course.
    But the resourceful veterans found that if you tipped the phone to the left side, the coin mechanism thought it had been fed a quarter and gave a dial tone and a free call.
    The telephone company responded by putting in a mercury switch that cut off the circuit if the rolling phone was tilted to the left.
    The veterans responded by tilting the phone cabinet to the right, bingo, another mercury switch was put in; to the back, another mercury switch; tilted forwards for a free call, another phone company mercury switch.
    The telephone war ended when a squad of veterans turned the phone upside down and the phone company raised the white flag and surrendered to its fate.
    I might have mentioned this before but when I was calling my wife-to-be from a phone booth in the New Haven, Connecticut, bus station, New Haven being the birthplace of the first telephone book in 1878, I got more than a free call.
    The phone started giving me quarters like a slot machine; I dialed the operator but she said she could not stop the mechanism.
    My wife-to-be was astonished, amused, tickled pink and grinning as I dipped into two full pockets of quarters for sodas, newspapers, gasoline (remember 23-cent-a-gallon gasoline) for the entire weekend.

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  21. MichaelG said on August 13, 2008 at 3:56 pm

    In college I had what we used to call a “phone hook”. It was a piece of heavy gauge wire bent a certain way which when shoved up the coin return tripped something so that coins inserted in the slot fell right into the return. You could call anywhere forever with a nickel, a dime and a quarter.

    Remember exchange names? Our phone number was Skyline 8-something or other.

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  22. brian stouder said on August 13, 2008 at 4:09 pm

    Our internet connection is in the kitchen*, so that if the young folks (or anyone else!) want to see naked people (for example), they have to do it in front of God and everybody.

    This is just the way our telephone was, when I was a kid, so if you wanted to talk with a girl, or make plans with the fellas, you did it standing near the kitchen sink, with mom & dad & all the others flitting about.

    *Pam got a laptop last month and now utilizes the freedom our wireless Verizon internet router offers…and the kids immediately took note of that! So now, Shelby (10) has added “laptop” to the list of things she wants! (Mom says “sadly, no”)

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  23. whitebeard said on August 13, 2008 at 4:27 pm

    Remember when you had to “rent” a Bell telephone to have a second phone in the house and Bell would routinely measure all the phone lines to see if a second “illegal” phone had been installed. The trick was to disconnect the bell on the added telephones so it would not show the extra ringer coil impedance or resistance in the circuit.

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  24. nancy said on August 13, 2008 at 4:28 pm

    Yes, but that was also back when a Bell System phone could be used to beat a man to death. Nowadays that cheap-ass shit just falls apart in your hands.

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  25. MarkH said on August 13, 2008 at 4:39 pm

    Ha! Exchange names; 50 years ago in McKeesport ours was ORchard 2-2443, later in south hills of Pittsburgh it was TUxedo 4-1776. Remember, the first two letters were always caps. How do I recall all this?? Sheesh…

    By the time we moved to Cincinnati in ’65, it was all digits.

    Payphones: apparently as late as 1974 operators could not necessarily tell if they were putting a call through to a payphone. So that summer I’m walking down North High St. in Columbus and the payphone near the Agora rings. I hesitate, then answer it. “Will you accept a collect call from so-and-so?” Sure, I would! After telling the other guy (in California) his intended callee, or anyone else, was not around the pay phone, we had a nice five minute conversation on Ma Bell.

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  26. brian stouder said on August 13, 2008 at 4:45 pm

    Yes, but that was also back when a Bell System phone could be used to beat a man to death

    Note to self: don’t piss off the Proprietress

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  27. coozledad said on August 13, 2008 at 4:53 pm

    We had cell phones when we first moved out here, but you had to walk out to the cemetery to get a signal. I recall walking out there one day to make a call while it was sleeting. As soon as our contract expired we went back to the land line. We’re never away from home much, so it works fine. My wife also bought a long distance card, which is a little bit of a pain in the ass to use, but it’s correspondingly cheap.
    The new phones are cheap-ass. I can’t find one whose buttons don’t stick. But as many as we run through, I should find one fairly soon.

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  28. colleen said on August 13, 2008 at 4:59 pm

    The “beat a man to death” remark made me choke on my gum.

    I have to explain to people who visit our house why my fridge is so small and off in its own little alcove by the back door, (it’s where the icebox went so the iceman didn’t have to track his drippy self through your house when he cometh with his ice delivery) and why people have those little doors in the back of the house. (for the milkman to put the milk. Then Happy Homemaker opened the door on the inside and brought it in. And put it in the icebox)

    Alas, no phone cubby in my house. I love those.

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  29. Kirk said on August 13, 2008 at 5:24 pm

    We still have a heavy-duty Bell phone in our basement that was there when we moved in 25 years ago. When they used to make those test calls to check how many phones you had, we just kept it unplugged most of the time. If we were in the basement and heard it ringing upstairs, we could plug it in — or not.

    I got used to those old phones. About 15 or 20 years ago, I got so pissed off at the operator here at work that I hung up my phone with gusto and broke it in half. I had to make up some lie about what had happened to it so I could get a new one.

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  30. MichaelG said on August 13, 2008 at 5:36 pm

    Right! The first two letters on the exchange were in caps. In those days where I lived the phone co. owned all the phones. There were no personally owned phones. And yes, they were stout. And you could actually jam the handset between shoulder and head and talk hands free. Then there were those rubber thingeys to attatch to the handset to further aid handsfreeness. It’s all coming back now . . .

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  31. caliban said on August 13, 2008 at 5:59 pm

    Any of y’all that receive VH1 Classic: The great music documentary Wattstax is showing at 8p est tonight. Haven’t seen it in years, but it’s in the pantheon, with Last Waltz, Gimme Shelter Monterey Pop. Cultural dysphasia precludes inclusion of Woodstock. Hippies.

    As I recall, Bad Moth… real life alter ego Isaac Hayes is in it, and great footage of Sly.

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  32. moe99 said on August 13, 2008 at 6:21 pm

    In Defiance, we didn’t have those fancy letters before our phone no. On Clinton Street our phone no. was 42591. Then when we moved to Elliott Lane it was 782-6591. Because my father the pediatrician in Defiance, I could never stay on the phone longer than a few minutes because it had to be free for emergencies.

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  33. Connie said on August 13, 2008 at 6:41 pm

    Our first house had one of those alcoves in it, with a scenic “mini mural” some one painted on the back. It also had the phone jack wired to a light that blinked when the phone rang. Previous owner was deaf.

    Our cottage always had a bright yellow wall mounted rotary phone. I got tired of not being able to use my phone card, and one summer a few years ago I brought a new phone, a jack conversion kit and my tools along, yanked that thing off the wall, wired the conversion kit, and mounted up a new and up to date phone.

    It was the only rotary dial my daughter has ever seen.

    My Dad still has the old PRospect exchange number we got in 1960. Used to be for long distance calls you told the operator your number for billing purposes, but as kids we were always required to use Dad’s office number.

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  34. MarkH said on August 13, 2008 at 6:52 pm


    Here in the Tetons, it was all party lines until 1966. My wife’s number growing up was 246-J. Everyone knew everyone AND their business. When Deb got home from school and her mom wasn’t home from work yet, she’d dial “O”. “Ruth, where’s my mom?” Ruth recognized all the kids’ voices: “Oh, she’s over at Doris'”. When I moved to Jackson in ’81, there was one phone exchange; now there are six.

    Nancy, what was it your mother did for the phone company, and for how long? You must have some other stories.

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  35. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on August 13, 2008 at 7:25 pm

    Wow. Are we all old, or what . . .


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  36. Dave said on August 13, 2008 at 8:24 pm

    TEmple 7-7302, Canal Winchester, OH, exchange, Pickerington wasn’t big enough to have its own exchange. Anyone familiar with todays’ Pickerington wouldn’t think that.

    In southern Ohio, where my parents came from, my cousin’s other grandmother was the operator for years, at a switchboard where all the calls went through the switchboard, just like the Andy Griffith show. Now, you talk about a lady who knew what was going on. I well remember my grandmother’s old wall phone in the front entrance.

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  37. Jolene said on August 13, 2008 at 9:41 pm

    I grew up w/ a party line phone at home, too. And making long-distance calls required calling the operator and “placing” the call. Needless to say, one didn’t make such calls for just any old reason, but, still, my family was, by local standards fairly cosmopolitan. I once awed my classmates with my social aplomb when, faced w/ the need to make a long-distance call in connection w/ a class project, I was able to dial 0 and say, “Operator, I’d like to place a call to 123-4567.”

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  38. JGW said on August 13, 2008 at 10:08 pm

    I do remember dial phones and have some knowledge of phone preaking and the use of junction boxes. Steve Wozniak gave us more than the U.S Festival.
    I also had to laugh at the beat a man to death remark, I remember my grandma’s phone was made of 1/3 inch thick black bakelite with a really solid speaker and mouthpiece.

    But I only wanted to comment that my main experience here in Bluffton re: phones is people here with the classic 260- (formerly 219) 824 local exchange give four digit phone numbers. The local paper is 0224. If you have a fancy 827 or 273 cell exchange you are very suspect.
    When we had a cable phone (landline sort of) with a 273 number from Mediacomm people here would get in angry arguements with my wife and I to say we were liars and had a cell phone, not a landline.

    I’m holding out for the little com badge pins from Star Trek: TNG. Sometimes when people here freak me out (like holding hands and praying loudly in a (Richard’s) restaurant (about why they were right with God to loot a church building fund) I am compelled to tap at an imaginary com badge and say, “Enterprise, Enterprise. One to beam up.” I’m still here. it must be a temporal displacement rift.

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  39. basset said on August 14, 2008 at 12:00 am

    when I was growing up in Martin County we were still on a mechanical phone switch – dial the rotary phone and you could hear the relays closing one by one. you could even dial your own number, hang up, and in a few seconds it’d ring.

    Isaac Hayes… one of the big Democratic events of the year is the annual “coon supper” in a small town about half an hour from Memphis. story in the Tennessean this morning mentioned that he was a long-time friend of the politico who put that event on and never missed a year. wouldn’t eat the main dish, though, because a raccoon has hands.

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  40. Dexter said on August 14, 2008 at 12:46 am

    The late Coach Bo Schembechler of M maintained an office in Schembechler Hall until his death.
    Bo had the habit of slamming the receiver down hard after every call, and his duties after his retirement were mostly talking on the phone to old cronies and, I suppose , recruits.
    Shortly after he moved into that office, he had an old-time black super-heavy phone installed. Bo slammed that phone down many contented times after that.
    Waterloo, Indiana, had a 4-digit number system way after everyone had 7 digits. I was away playing baseball all over the South and called home once in a while…had to call the operator and tell the town, state and number. I noticed in the background an operator repeat to another,”219 plus 837 plus (the 4 digit #) . Anyway, I figured I could just dial those numbers and get through, and I could, paying, of course. Also, I go back to party line days, too…we didn’t even have a goddam phone…had to cross the road to the neighbors and borrow the neighbors’ …and wait for the line to open. Damn. No hot running water…no indoor toilet, no phone…but we did have a TV and a window-unit air conditioner.
    I have a old yardstick that says “Corunna Hardware…Dial 6”
    That’s OLD!
    You guys amazed me with tilting phones, phone hooks, screaming for free calls—I never beat a pay phone but at work the guys figured out how to bang the cigarette machine just-so for free smokes…of course all the smokers emptied that thing nearly every night…it was months before the vendors got wise! How could they not know?
    But WATS lines were tits! Once you figured that out, it was free calls from office phones all the time. Once I was bored and called a LA TV station just to chat with someone in the weather reporting “department” or whatever. Whoever I talked to was friendly but definitely puzzled. WATS lines were great for me because I was always going to Cubs or Sox or Tigers or Reds games…free ticket-order calls,
    …first time I remember “throaty” was from a quote from Bill Ford, at that time CEO of Ford . He was talking about his greatest driving thrill…the throaty roar of a Mustang. I prefer silent cars. I once had a 1968 yellow Dodge Polara with a 383 V-8. My friends were astonished because you could not hear the engine running at idle speed while standing outside the car…it was that quiet.

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  41. Hattie said on August 14, 2008 at 1:12 am

    Could those poor old bulky people send their grandparents’ corpses back to Sicily? They could all move back there, maybe? What awful lives. Awful.

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  42. Dexter said on August 14, 2008 at 2:33 am

    Funny thing about bones…most of us these days want to be cremated into dust, but some spend decades worrying about and doing their damndest to have old family bones that were lost or never found returned home for burial in a family plot.
    A few years ago some Viet-vet’s bones were finally located and it was a helluva deal when they returned to the US.

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  43. MarkH said on August 14, 2008 at 4:22 am

    Dave — The magic 837 exchange!

    I lived in Pickerington ’77-’79 and worked in Lancaster. Most of my friends were still in Columbus. It was normally a toll call between Franklin and Fairfield Counties, BUT if you lived n CW or Picktown, no charge to any town in either county.

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  44. Dave said on August 14, 2008 at 5:41 am

    MarkH, it was like that clear back in the mid-fifties, when we were still on a party line, my parents moved into the house they still live on New Year’s Eve, 1955, we were w-a-a-y out in the country.

    Lancaster was OLive but I’ve no idea what surrounding towns like Baltimore or Carroll were.

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  45. Terry WAlter said on August 14, 2008 at 6:25 am

    My brothers ex-wife said she knew it was time to leave her first husband when he threw a phone & hit her in the ankle.
    I attended Vincennes Un-iversity many moons ago. Since Vincennes is down in the hole,in many ways, they were one of the first to have cable TV service. The dorms had cable in the lounges. This guy I knew went down to the lounge,pulls the box out of the wall, and proceeds to tap into the line. His room was clear up on the 2nd floor. Well, you know how word gets around, so before long, half the dorm was participating. Anyway, it was into the 2nd semester before “the raid” came. He managed to get unhooked before they got to him. Never heard of any major flak anyway;don’t think their jail was big enough. When I was there, some businesses had signs up that they wouldn’t accept checks written on a Gary bank. Don’t suppose they can do that these days.
    And you know,Nancy, we are here to PUMP you up.

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  46. Dorothy said on August 14, 2008 at 9:19 am

    PEnhurst 1-5705 in Wilkinsburg, MarkH!

    When my daughter interned as a journalist at the state capitol (Harrisburg) between her sophomore year and junior year at Penn State, she worked for 4 or 5 different newspapers, alternating weeks here and there between them. Sometimes she’d have a desk, and sometimes she didn’t. We went to visit her or a weekend and she took us on a tour. During that week her “desk” was actually what used to be a phone booth. You could not stand inside the thing and put your arms out straight. Her laptop really WAS a laptop that week, cause there was no place else to put it.

    Oh and at my first job after high school (1975) I worked at Mine Safety Appliances Company in Monroeville. The switchboard they used was the old plug in type. About 2 years later it was replaced with a much more modern desktop style. But it sure was fun being the operator on that plug in thing! Velma was the regular operator, but Linda and I were her “relief” for lunch and pee breaks.

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  47. MarkH said on August 14, 2008 at 10:02 am

    Dorothy, the father of one of my school friends was an engineer at MSAC as well. I used to know my cousin’s Penn Hills number, but no more!

    Dave, can’t remember those exchanges either. But, being from Canal Winchester, I’m sure you knew one of the guys I worked with at WHOK, Roger Hanners and his family. I read he passed away about eight years ago.

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  48. Dorothy said on August 14, 2008 at 10:23 am

    The MSA engineers mostly worked at the Braddock Avenue location or in Murrysville. I was in Monroeville at Penn Center.

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  49. Dave said on August 14, 2008 at 8:16 pm

    MarkH, I grew up in Pickerington, home of the Tigers, class of 1968, that definitively dates me. I am familiar with WHOK but remember when Dick Schorr and a fellow named Johnny Garber were on the radio, Schorr did sports and Garber might have been part time, he was a 1960’s era disc jockey, also ad at least part interest in a bar in Lancaster which name escapes me now. I was in there enough, can’t imagine why I can’t think of the name but I remember it was across the street from a bar named the Pink Cricket on E. Main Street.

    I also recall that the phone exchange in Whitehall was BElmont, my aunt and uncle lived there.

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  50. MarkH said on August 15, 2008 at 11:45 am

    Garber was before my time, but I knew Dick Schorr who also did “Bowling Fro Dollars” on Channel 6. When I was at WHOK, it was truly in the boonies, a little white building on the hill outside Lancaster. Development has engulfed that site now and the long-abandoned facility is gone, I believe.

    Additionally, Dave, I worked as a part-timer covering high school sports for The Times in CW. I attended many events at Picktown, Bloom-Carroll, Groveport, Baltimore, Amanda, etc. I was surprised to find that paper no longer exists, but in this day and age, weeklies in large markets have a tough time.

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  51. brian stouder said on August 17, 2008 at 10:43 pm

    Here in Fort Wayne, in the early ’70’s (presumeably), when there was no cable tv, and we had three channels – the CBS affiliate (channel 15), the ABC affiliate (channel 21), and the NBC affilliate (channel 33)….

    each afternoon, channel 15 ran an ‘early show’ movie (at 3pm? or maybe 4?), and during the commercial breaks, they had Dialing for Dollars. The host (Dave King?) had the white pages of a Fort Wayne phone book chopped into thousands of squares (maybe 8″ x 8″) in a horizontally mounted mesh drum. Behind him were two spinners on the wall (made to look like a phone dial) and one had a bunch of numbers all around the circumference, and the other had the words “up” or “down” alternating all around the circumference, and he’d spin them and arrive at something like ’12’ and ‘up’ (for example) – and then spin the big mesh drum ’round and ’round – and draw a slip of paper from it, and then (in this example) count UP 12 names from the bottom, and call that number…..

    and if, after all that, a person answered the phone (on live tv!)…they had a chance to win $25!

    I think the jackpot would increase by $5 each day, ’til someone won it!

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