Lost & Found Sounds: Rotary Telephone

Remember this sound?


In the late 1970s, our family still had an old Western Electric rotary phone—with a heavy, black base and a clear plastic “fingerwheel.”

As a pre-teen and an avid listener to our local pop-music radio station, I tried and tried to win prizes. “Be the 15th caller to win!” Well, I couldn’t dial that rotary phone fast enough! Finger in the wheel, “zzzzzip” to dial the first number. Then an agonizingly slow “clack, clack, clack” as the wheel spun back into position. The worst was when I had to dial a zero. It took forever!

Out of desperation, I found a trick. (I think one of my sisters will take credit for it.) When I knew a request for callers was about to be announced, I would dial all but the last digit. Then when I heard, “Be the next caller…” I quickly dialed. All that waiting and dialing and tying up the phone line paid off! Once, and only once. I don’t remember what I won, but it didn’t matter. It was the thrill of the chase.

Today, with over 2,000 contacts in my phone, I just push a button—a virtual one at that—and dial. Sure, it’s fast…but it isn’t nearly as fun.

What lost sounds do you remember? The sounds may be gone, but your stories are here, waiting to be recorded—so today’s kids will know what they’re missing.

For help telling your stories, give me a ring: (617) 755-3283.