Calling Time

I always loved the fact that you could dial a phone number and get a recording with the time. 484-7070 got you some variant on: “The time is *Eleven* *Twenty* *Two*. Phone Mountain Bell. Downtown temperature: *Fifty* *Six*.” The voice was a male without much personality, somewhere between Paul Harvey and Earl Nightingale in sonority. The middle part never changed: We were always to phone Ma Bell, as if there had been any alternative during those days.

There was a joke of the day sixty miles away in Denver: “Ear Whacks.” When I worked at the answering service, I’d sometimes use our Denver line to listen to it. Did it have an ad? I don’t remember. I don’t even remember any of its jokes. Must have been an ad, though. Anyway, it came and went.

Good old Time, though, or Time & Temperature as it was more accurately known (nobody mentioned phoning Mountain Bell), was around till I moved away. In ’76, I was rehearsing a show at Laurel—the community center in the former Laurel Street Elementary School, a near-clone of the now-demolished Laporte Avenue School (see photo) where I went to kindergarten—and there was a phone on a desk in the open floor with a dial lock on it. I felt obliged by some sort of honor code to defeat that, which I did by rhythmically engaging the hook button to mimic the pulse dial signal. I wasn’t doing it to rob them of anything that cost money, though, so I only called Time. It was the principle of the thing. (Tough number, too, with those sevens and zeros to keep straight. Talk about cultivating a skill that is now completely useless.)

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