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Telephone History
(Page 3 -- You are here --) <-- previous page's Telephone History Series

Pages: (1)_(2)_(3)_(4)_(5)_(6)_(7)_(8)_(9) (10) (11) (Communicating) (Soundwaves) (Life at Western Electric)

Early 1970s work at WECO's Refurbishing Plant, Page 3, by Frank Harrell

Pallets of phones waiting to be sorted. Each open topped box contained 8 to 12 sets (depending on the model) and a pallet held from 9 to 35 boxes.

Pallets of phones

In the foreground below can be seen teletype machines, also slated for refurbishment, further back and on the right is the phone sorting area seen on the previous page.

Photo of the interior


The oldest phone set I remember seeing in 1972 was a batch of the 1928 desk sets as shown below. I believe they were from West Virginia somewhere in the back mountain region. I remember asking which part of the state they came from when they arrived. I think there were about 50 or so of them.


Much more commonly we saw many Western Electric #302 sets coming from all over. I don't remember seeing any of the early die-cast zinc models, but most had the older bakelite handsets, and the majority had dials. These sets were broken down and the materials were recycled.

More photos here: (external link)




We saw many of the 3-coin pay phones. Back then they were still being refurbished and sent back out into the field. I remember being discussed by some of the guys. If they picked up a pay phone and heard coins in it, they would often slam the phone on the concrete floor, occasionally destroying the phone, to get the dime out. Thinking back on that, it actually showed just how tough those units were built. By the way, there's an entire web page devoted to restoring an old three slot at this address: (external link)

3 slot payphone


About every 2 weeks we would take a day to handle the Trimline phones. Because of their shape they didn't work well on the chutes. When I first started there, they were processing the Trimline phones by trying to coil the cords up around the set-base and place the combined set in the trays.


I made the suggestion that if the cords were removed, the separated handsets and bases could be rolled down the chutes. Apparently my supervisor liked the idea. I don't know what transpired in the head offices, but a few weeks later, the Trimline phones started coming in without any cords on them. I guess they had the installers remove them. The cords came in a large pallet bin and were sent directly to recycling. This reduced the time it took us from a full day every 2 weeks or so to less than 3 hours. It ended up backfiring for me though. The repetitive high-speed body twisting that resulted from the speed up ended up causing me back trouble years later.

Frank HarrelA little more about the telephone page on my site, That page is a description as to how to build a phone line tester for the hearing impaired. It includes a page describing phone wire color codes. My deaf friend started me on the line tester project several years ago. She was unable to tell what might be wrong with her phone so I got to thinking about how to help her. After building the prototype (the only one I had originally intended) she talked me into making the project into a web page. I built a second one for the photo shoot. It then took me almost 2 years before I actually had any web space to publish it on.
I don't know if anyone else has built the project from my instructions, but I do get a lot of hits from people searching for color codes. :-)

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Pages: (1)_(2)_(3)_(4)_(5)_(6)_(7)_(8)_(9)_(10) (Communicating) (Soundwaves) (Life at Western Electric) logo West Sacramento, California, USA. A Tom Farley production