Cell phones are great. You can watch movies; play games; find news, weather and sex partners … you can even make phone calls*!
What you can’t do — at least, not without a ton of work — is find out the phone number of someone you don’t know.
Back in the day, it was as easy — literally — as ABC.
“Phone books” sat by every telephone. Updated every year — thick for cities, thin for towns like Westport — they offered a complete, alphabetical and very egalitarian look at every home and business.
The other day, Suzanne Urban sent me the Westport directory for 1961-62.
I have no idea why she kept it. But it offers a fascinating look at a time before caller ID, answering machines, and “sorry, I just went through a dead zone.”
On one page you can see a bit of the commercial and governmental life of Westport (and Weston):
There’s also a peek at the people in town (and, if they were female, their marital status).
As for those “CA 7-” and “CL 9-” numbers: They stood for CApital and CLearwater (the latter for homes near Fairfield).
Those letter prefixes were replaced by “227” and “259” a few years later. Then came “226” and “255,” followed by “222” and “254.”
Today, prefixes mean nothing. The many years of “203” as Connecticut’s only area code are gone forever. too You can even keep your area code when you move.
The phone book made it easy to memorize phone numbers. I can’t remember what I had for breakfast, but I still remember friends’ numbers from the Kennedy era.
Today, we can’t imagine life without our cell phones. Back in the day, we could not have lived without phone books.
One day, kids, I’ll go back and revisit directory assistance, and the Yellow Pages.
*Provided you have service. And “minutes.’
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