A Look At the Nevada, Missouri Phone Book (1957)

I think in all my years of rummaging and digging, this was a singular find.  I bought this a couple of years ago, and forgot about it until now.  Who saves phone books, anyway? It's certainly never occurred to me to keep one...to be honest, I throw the new ones away when they show up, these days.  Ah, but 60 years ago? 60 years ago, the phone book was a very important book.  Today we are going to take a look at this piece of history from 1957, and see how technology has evolved.  If all of this fascinates you, you are in the right place.  If all of this bores you, tune in next time, when we look at Yellow Pages ads from 1957; it will be more entertaining!
Thank you for the leather cover, Thorpe Appliance Company! By the way, if you need to call them, their phone number is 19.  Yes, 19.
This phone "book" is about a quarter-inch thick, and not quite 60 pages.  It was a bit confusing to see "Nevada Missouri" on the cover; a simple comma would have helped a bit...but Nevada (pronounced Ne-VAY-da, thank you Wikipedia) is a small town in Missouri that was named a few years before Nevada as we know it even acquired statehood.  It could have been worse:  the original name of the town was "Hog Eye."  Nevada is at least 400 miles away from me, so who knows how this phone book ended up in my hands.

My copy is housed in a leather cover, with pockets for the front and back cover of the phone book.  This was a bit of clever marketing, assuring that customers always saw the name of the company who provided it.  By the time I was a kid, the covers on the giant phone books in my area were plastic, and were covered with a patchwork of adds from tons of different companies, instead of just one.

It's also interesting to see that this edition is dated "April, 1957."  I'm not sure how often these books were issued, but this makes it sound like there was certainly more than one per year.  I imagine it was an expensive and time-consuming endeavor to compile one of these.  Notice also the banner that mentions the Yellow Pages.  In this book, they are called the "Classified Section," and are printed on regular paper, so that was confusing! We will look at that section and marvel at some 60-year-old ads next time.
Also, you see that your call goes through "Twice as Fast" if you "call by number."  Wait, what?
Chart of Long Distance Fees from the inside cover.  It cost citizens of Nevada $2.05 to call Los Angeles for three minutes, but keep in mind that most houses in 1957 cost $2.00! (okay, not really.)

Remember in Green Acres, or the Andy Griffith Show--or practically any show from that era--that people would pick up the receiver and tell the operator who to connect them to? Well, even when phone numbers were first used, they were still told, verbally, to operators.  Over time, laziness took over, and phone companies realized this was inefficient.  (Really though, which would you rather do in an emergency--call somebody and ask them to call the police, or just call the police yourself?!!)

Then exchanges came in, prefixes that helped show geographic designations to the numbers.  The most famous old-school example I can think of is the big-band song "Pennsylvania 6-5000." (Which was parodied in a horror comedy, called TRANSYLVANIA 6-5000, but we don't have time for that now.)

James Brown sang:  "Living in America / Eye to eye / Station to station." ("Station To Station" was also used as a Bowie song and album title, too, with a different meaning.)  But what does the phrase mean? Bus or train stations, right?
No.  Reading the above page, it's strange to think that a distinction was made between calling someone in specific ("Person to Person"), and just calling a place and not caring who you talked to ("Station to Station").  In fact, you will see above that it was actually cheaper to call the place...so wouldn't everyone just say they were doing that? It seems like a hard thing to keep track of, and maybe that's why it went away.  I'm just a humble blogger; I'm not a phonologist.

The point is, over time, people were being encouraged to dial direct.  But, even during the time this was happening...well, look at the very first page of the phone book:
Maybe this practice was slow to spread, but if you wanted the police department, you had to ask for it, which in my mind, slows down their response time.

The tips on how to use the telephone are golden...answer the phone promptly, but when you call, let it ring ten times...I'm considering identifying myself, from now on, with "1732." It sounds cool.

Also, note the bottom paragraph, about people recording you.  I'm not really sure how this worked in 1957, and who would be, exactly, doing the recording.  Somehow, though, if someone was recording you, it would cause a beeping sound to be heard every 15 seconds...I have questions.  They probably don't matter anymore in this case, but I do have questions.  I can only assume the telephone company was doing the recording...I just point it out because, well, it's the sort of thing that interests me.
So part of encouraging people to call "by number" meant that you would end up with some numbers that aren't in your phone book.  What do you do then? (Write them on the cover, if you were the owner of this particular copy).  The phone company has given you a handy card to write them on, and heck, they will even mail you a BLUE BOOK for FREE!
Next time, a look at some Yellow Pages (or "Classified") ads from 60 years ago.
Note the hole punched in the phone book, for hanging it from a payphone, or chaining it to a desk!


Sean Linkenback said...

Person to Person calls were always made through the operator, while station to station could be dialed direct. The operator would stay on the line until the person you requested was on the other phone and then they would start the billing. It was slightly more expensive, but could save many unwanted charges if someone else would answer and your person wasn't there (especially if you were calling an area with party lines where two or more houses would all share the same number), or if you were calling a business where it might take several minutes to get your person to the phone, there was no charge for the wait time in person to person.

Sampoerna Quatrain said...

Thank you for the good info--I didn't even get into party lines! That's a whole 'nother story!

Christopher Sobieniak said...

Today's generation certainly don't know how good they have it!