You no longer have to answer phones with your number. Somehow reciting the words “Balham 0557” still rings (no pun intended) favourably with me and was gutted when, sometime in the 60s, the Balham prefix BAL changed to the very impersonal 673 – where is the magic with that? At least make it 666 – infinitely more comedic; the telephone exchange number of the Beast!
I had an aunt who had a phone voice; if you rang her she started off as Princess Margaret and if she knew who you were would instantly (subsequently moving several rungs down the ascendancy to the Throne scale) became Margaret Powell (who might have driven a Princess, but certainly wasn’t one).
My family’s first phone was red and was a step up from the yoghurt pots and string we’d owned before; although more expensive, you never got cross lines on a yoghurt pot and there were no party lines either – it was YOUR yoghurt pot – no waiting for the old woman downstairs to come off the phone to the chimney sweep.
Until Trimphones came along phones were quite cumbersome – only slightly smaller than the Colossus built at Bletchley Park. The receivers were good, however, if you wanted to practice rounders in your lounge.
Phone boxes aren’t as popular as they were, either. No wonder there are loads of ads on TV for printing your own business card, the former major advertisers within phone boxes now (allegedly) use the Internet. And pressing “Button B to get your money back” was how fruit machine addiction began.
“Putting you through now, caller.”