Early 1970s work at WECO's Refurbishing Plant
A close up view of the phone sorting racks, circa June, 1972. Each row was a different type, and color. The black type 500 sets are closest to camera in the photo above. There were about 10 or 15 chutes dedicated to black 500 sets. In contrast, the only other type that had more than 1 chute dedicated to a given model was the white 500 set, that one had 2 chutes.
A metal tray was taken from the row above, 4 to 6 identical sets would be placed in a tray, a computer card from the bins on the left would be placed with each phone, and the full tray was placed on the conveyer below the slots, where it was checked by a great guy who couldn't speak English but caught every error, then on to the other side of the plant to be refurbished.
A different angle again of the chutes is seen below. In most cases we would wait until we had at least 4 of any given set, before placing them in the bins. These photos were shot during the lunch break so there were few sets in the chutes.
When we were moving along, it was about all 6 men could do to keep up with the flow. There were 3 men on each side of the chutes. Three on the upper side of the chutes where the phones were taken out of the shipping cases and run down its appropriate channel.
The computer cards, which can be seen more clearly in the photo above, were organized into the rotary bins closest to the areas where that type of set came down. I guess there must have been at least 400 or 500 different types of sets, when each color was taken into account. There was a different card for each type and each color located in the bins in numeric order. One card for each phone set. The computer cards were already punched for us.
Each phone color had a number which was attached to the end of the model number. It was never actually on the phone itself, just referred to when dealing with the model. I can't remember most of the numbers but I seem to remember black was indicated by a "3", white was "60" I believe red was "52", green "51" yellow "66" etc. Maybe some WE employee may remember the numbers. It is possible that the color numbers were only used within the WE plant, since I never ended up working outside that job I couldn't say for sure.
The only time that I can remember that we couldn't find a card for a set was an incident with a modular phone. That phone came through the line with what I now know as a RJ11 jack on it. No one had ever seen one before and we had no computer card for it. The supervisor had to take it to the head of the WE plant to find out what to do with it.
I was always curious about unusual phones and continually asked my supervisor what they did. Especially if the difference seemed to be internal and not obvious on the outside. One of your pages talks about the advent of loading coils. Some of the sets, almost always black rotary dial ones, had special networks to manage lines of varying lengths. My supervisor didn't know the particulars, but explained that they were being slowly removed from service and what ever the requirement was that called for the special network was being handled in the central switching offices. (this number is probably wrong but you would see a phone with a number like 524-26b or 582-12c, instead of 500, that would specify the special networks)