Even by 1958, telephone service was still somewhat of a novelty for many people; only 76% of U.S. households had telephones. The 7-digit, All Number Calling (ANC) system was instituted to handle the burgeoning amount of private phone lines being installed. Touch-Tone service was still a couple years away. Bell Telephone Company of Pennsylvania regularly published a magazine called, "The Telephone News," primarily for employees, but also as a public relations medium.
After seeing a couple cool photos on the Web while searching for some information on vintage phone systems, I came upon an eBay listing for the 1958 Christmas edition. It just happens to be the year I was born, so I figured why not buy it? I think it sold for about $5 + shipping.
Most of the Christmas edition is used for showing employee activities involving decorating offices, gift swapping, and, of course, lots of festive goodies to eat. It also includes service awards, safety tips, and reports on installation and maintenance projects.
One obvious departure from today's official public company publications was the phone company's use of the word Christmas, rather than Holiday throughout. Why, Christmas is even part of the title!
Front cover of The Telephone News
by the Bell Telephone Company
Here is a Christmas message from Wilfred D. Gillen. The chauvinistic, patriotic, religious zealot dared to write things like, "The finest qualities of men - love of God, love of neighbors and love of country - are in the forefront of our thoughts during this holy season of the year."
Oppressed women working the switchboard. How did they work in those burkas? Oh, wait...
If you think Uncle Sam's insatiable appetite for your hard-earned money is a recent phenomenon, read this article. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' CPI Inflation Calculator, $15 in 1958 is equivalent to $113.52 in 2010 dollars.
"Put Safety First on Your Christmas List,"
says Bill, the Safety Owl
The Telephone News (back cover)
Here is the table of contents
Egad, is that a crèche I see? Nowadays, some companies don't even want employees to display American flags.
Shopping for Christmas decorations for the office.
Decking the hall with boughs of holly.
Festivities before going home to celebrate Christmas with family and friends.
Remember when your basic phone service included a single phone? It was illegal to install an extension phone on your own. The phone company would periodically do surveys to detect the presence of additional lines by measuring the ring current to see if it was characteristic of more than one phone.
These images have been chosen for their uniqueness. Subject matter ranges from historic events, to really cool phenomena in science and engineering,
to relevant place, to ingenious contraptions, to interesting products (which now has its own dedicated
Featured Product category).
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Here are a few other Christmas-related items on RF Cafe: