TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: TV Telephone History

Re: TV Telephone History
25 Jul 2005 11:02:57 -0700

John L. Shelton wrote:

> While watching TV Land, I realized I could learn about the
> phone-wealth of various TV families.

> Rob & Laura Petrie (The Dick Van Dyke Show, early 1960s) had 5
> telephones, very unusual at the time. There were model 500 desk phones
> in the breakfast room, kitchen, dining room, living room, and master
> bedroom.

I think they had only three -- the living room was also the dining
room, and the kitchen was the breakfast nook. The bell sound seemed
to be an external ringer, rather common for TV shows.

If you watch the shows carefully, you'll notice props can change from
week to week. Sometimes change even within a single scene! One actor
was shot on one day, and the other actor was shot on another day and
it's all edited together. The props could shift from day to day.
Sharp-eyed (obsessive?) fans notice these little details. They're
rare but do happen.

Anyway, telephone props were often changing -- color and location of
telephone often varied. A specific phone could be missing or change
style or color.

On Dick Van Dyke, when he called home from work sometimes he asked
"Marge" to get Laura for him, sometimes he asked for an outside line,
sometimes he just dialed.

Telephone sets changed over time. In early Andy Griffith the phones
were crank, later on they became modern sets only without the dial.
By the end of the show, manual telephone service was pretty rare.
Indeed, small towns like "Mayberry" would've gone dial earlier to save
on costs of a 24/7 operator. A VERY TINY village might use a
community operator whose family rotated switchboard duties to provide
24/7 but it appears Mayberry was too big a town to get by on that and
I think that contract operator arrangement was obsolete by the 1960s.
Indeed, Mayberry might have had enough telephone traffic in 1965 to
justify two operators during prime time and not much spare time for
Sarah to socialize.

> [TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: As best as I can recall, Lucille Ball
> and Desi Arnez ('I Love Lucy', a 1950's invention mostly, had two
> phones; one in the front room which was nearly always the one used on
> the show, but also a phone in the bedroom we only saw when an episode
> needed a bedroom phone.(In one show, Lucy called Ethel from the
> bedroom.) Their number was MUrray Hill something, I do not remember
> what, although a couple shows had them saying the number.

There seemed to be a 202 set at the club near the entrance that
served for all calls. BTW, did Ricky own the club or was merely
a lead employee in charge of entertainment and the band?
I think the show presented it as both scenarios.

Lucy used the old gag of tying up the phone while Ricky was waiting
for an important business call. Indeed, the telephone played
frequently in story gags, with characters taking calls and pretending
to be someone else.

In one episode at the country house, they had a buzzer installed to
summon Fred/Ethel from the kitchen. Common in those days, but how
many houses and offices today have buzzer systems? I once worked at a
secretary's desk that had a forest of buzzer push buttons underneath,
all disconnected.

> The Cleaver Family (Leave it to Beaver) had a phone in the Den, and a
> reader here said they had one in the upstairs hallway also, but I do
> not recall seeing it.

I recall a phone in the den, living room, and kitchen, all used. I
never recall seeing anything of the upstairs except the boys' room. I
also recall them moving to a new house early in the series, but I
don't recall much about the first home.

As mentioned, three phones in 1960 was a sign of doing well, although
Ward's nice den was also a well-to-do sign.

I remain amazed at the changes of social interaction of the Cleaver
boys compared to modern kids of the same age. As mentioned in an
prior discussion, Mrs. Cleaver would leave 13 y/o Beaver and a girl
from school alone in his room with the door closed (with milk and
cookies) without giving it a second thought. Parents today would be a
bit more cautious.

Actually, in thinking about it, the show seemed to make girls rather
"icky" for both Beaver (even when older) and Wally. At best, an older
Beaver was willing to tolerate talking to girls. Wally dated
regularly, but his dating seemed to be more of a standard chore of
life, like raking the leaves and going to school, something that was
"all right, I guess, but nothing special." I don't believe any kind
of physical affection was ever shown. There were girls who had
crushes on the boys, but that was portrayed as a problem.

> And who can recall Sheriff Andy Taylor's phone number, both at the
> jail and at his home? Barney Fife's number at the rooming house where
> he lived was '407' on the one occassion I heard someone on the show
> ask 'Sarah' the operator to be connected.

All I remember is Sarah connecting by name, not number, "Sarah,
could you get me Goober down at the filling station?"

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: With Sarah, yes, mostly always just
'get me whoever, at wherever'. And she was always introduced as
'Sarah'. The one episode I saw which was at someone else's house
(maybe it was Barney's girl friend?) the little kid Opie walked over
to the phone and picked it up. I expected to hear him say 'Miss Sarah'
(as he always referred to her, 'get me whoever'. But that time, he
asked for '407' and Barney answered. PAT]

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