Calling up the past with directories
by Juanita Hughes
July 29, 2014 09:04 PM | 1722 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Juanita Hughes
Juanita Hughes
As technology changes our lives, we tend to discard the remnants and remains of old technology, considering it useless, labeling it as clutter. But Linton Dean, owner and proprietor of Dean’s Store for 75 years, stashed away such items as charge account ledgers, Coca-Cola invoices, business contracts and correspondence that seems to have no relevance to anything important.

He kept phone books as well, probably not so much for the printed information as for the scribbled notes on the covers and inside ... names and phone numbers not in the book, or perhaps the numbers frequently called or reminders about orders.

Even when the books were outdated, having been replaced by others, they remained on the shelf, becoming a part of the store’s landscape. By then, they were no more likely to be discarded than a bottle of Wildroot Creme Oil shampoo from the 1950s or a can of Prince Albert tobacco.

The oldest phone book displayed in the store is dated April 1946. It is small, about 6 by 9 inches, and thin. Southern Bell listings covered Acworth, Alpharetta, Austell, Dallas, Douglasville, Powder Springs, Roswell, Smyrna, and Woodstock.

Woodstock telephone subscribers numbered only 34, and those took up only one-third of a page. Customers were charged 20 cents for a three-minute call to Canton and 15 cents to Atlanta. A call to Los Angeles was more expensive, $2.35. Person-to-person calls generally were 5 cents more.

Night and Sunday calls were cheaper. The Woodstock telephone exchange was located on the second floor of the J. H. Johnston Company building, and Lucile Durham was the operator. Phone numbers were two digits, sometimes followed by one letter.

The person making the call would tell Miss Lucile the number, or perhaps the name, of the other party. Although Linton Dean’s mother had died the year before, the phone number remained in her name in this directory.

By 1957, the phone directory included instructions on how to use a dial telephone. (There are folks today who can’t do that!)

The five-digit number was preceded by a two-letter code. In Canton, Greenwood translated to GR, followed by 9, (the 3-number prefix, 479) then the four digits that completed the number. By 1961, everybody was dialing.

The phone book had gotten larger, especially with ads. The Woodstock book was tiny. There were 4 1/2 pages of residential and business numbers, and 13 pages of classified listings in the Yellow Pages.

Goods and services advertised included ambulance service provided by the funeral home, well-drilling, radio and TV repair and druggists, a listing that included, perhaps erroneously, Dean Drug Co. J. H. Johnston Company was listed under Poultry ... and many other items. The Hubbard Fowler Grocery still had a two-digit number listed.

The 1968 book brought a chuckle or two. Party line information was still included, and there was still only one Woodstock number prefix, 926, calling to mind how we could once-upon-a-time identify where someone lived by their phone number prefix.

Area codes had been introduced, and all of the Atlanta area, including Woodstock, was in the 404 area. There was a handy color-coded map of the United States showing the different area codes. The book contained instructions on dialing long distance without operator assistance and added notes concerning answering machines.

There were new and exciting headings in the Yellow Pages. A Five-and Ten Cent Stores entry referred the reader to Variety Stores. There were ads for Excavating Contractors. (Apparently they were successful.) Another ad was entitled Birds — Exterminating Company.

They bragged about bird and pigeon control. One particular Canton listing under Pianos referred the world to Abernathy, Lee Roy. What memories.

In 1974, an independent printer published a Canton City Directory Supplement, a buyer’s guide and classified business directory. The category headings reflected a different lifestyle while retaining a few old-timey items as well. There was Pulpwood, Playpens, Screen Doors, Mobile Home Supplies and Equipment, Hatcheries and Adding Machines.

There were different headings for the main entertainment of the day — Televisions, Televisions-Color, Antennas-Television, and Stereos. Howell’s Drive-In was listed under Theatres.

My favorite was Trading Stamp Redemption Centers, and under that was Holden Red Stamp, Academy Street. That always brings to mind the good times I shared with friends on shopping trips, not to the mall, but to the stamp redemption centers. What a treat to go shopping with those books of stamps when we had no cash.

And what a treat today to visit the past via telephone books.

Juanita Hughes is retired head of the Woodstock Library.

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