Friday, 9 November 2012

Busy Line

 An entry to Sepia Saturday. "Using old images as new reflections"

A Bell telephone system and all the operators asking "what number do you require", from the US National Archives is this week's prompt.  I wonder if any are like Lily Tomlin's  amusing portrayal of the omnipotent Ernestine the operator?  And how many telephones were in America at this time?  I don't know but there were 1300 in the Lancashire town of Preston in 1922 because
this float tells me so. To get everyone involved the GPO has installed a telegraph pole on the back of the lorry, bet that was a high-ly sought after position.  The General Post Office at this time looked after all means of communication letters, parcels, telegraphs and telephones. From  the 1880s the Post Office were in charge of all telephone exchanges apart from in Hull, Portsmouth and Guernsey who had their own local companies.  You could always spot the Hull telephone directory in a library that had a full set of Telephone Yellow Pages because in contrast it was grey covered.  The GPO changed in the 1980s when the telephone system was privatised by the Thatcher government and that section became the behemoth that is British Telecommunications.

But back to the lorry and its crew of GPO workers.  The date is 1952 and the event is Preston Guild.  The famous expression when something rarely happens is "once every Preston Guild" and it was even more apt in 1952 as this once every 20 years event had been cancelled in 1942 because we were in the middle of a World War.  The Guild celebrations dates back to 1179 when Henry II granted Preston market town status and the 20 year gap was chosen in 1542 because that guaranteed the memberships of the guilds were renewed at least once for each generation.  This year was a Preston Guild year and there have been a variety of events and it once again had the trade floats but going back to 1952 and another form of communication
Harris Museum, Preston photo
the television. Here is the Horrockses "the greatest name in cotton" Television float. Clothes rationing had ended in 1949 and these 1950s cotton dresses could use as much fabric as they wanted and took full advantage.

Returning to the days when you asked the operator for a place and a number and the black and white TV detective series had someone asking the operator for the Scotland Yard number  - Whitehall 1212 and a time when companies didn't cold call, that would be bliss, here is Rose Murphy and the infectious  "Busy Line":

12 comments:

Liz Stratton said...

I hadn't thought of Lily Tomlin's Ernestine in years. "One ringy dingy ...." Thanks for the memory. :)

Postcardy said...

I wish that people would still answer their phones. It seems like the majority of people don't even answer their phones now.

Alan Burnett said...

As I read your words and looked at your photographs I was transported back to similar scenes on this side of the Pennines. A perfect example of Sepia Saturday being a vehicle for time travel.

Peter said...

@Postcardy, believe the problem is that today's telephones are mainly used for other things. So if it rings people don't know what to do :)

Bob Scotney said...

I hadn't heard Lily Tomlin's Ernestine before so your post got off to a brilliant start for me. I also toyed with idea of using 'Busy Line.' Seeing your Preston Guild pictures reminded me that it was 1970 before we could have a telephone and only then because I was managing a foundry/engineering company.

Kathy said...

I've been thinking about Lily Tomlin since I first saw this week's prompt. Those are such great floats. I especially like the television.

Jana Last said...

Those are some great photos! I wonder how long it took for the gentleman perched on the telegraph pole in the first float to tire out trying to hold his position there.

Karen S. said...

Oh yeah, I brought out Lily too! These photos are priceless- amazing truck ride! I really enjoyed this!

Pat transplanted to MN said...

I thought about Ernestine too and researching the web for some photos or quotes, but time passed on. I love the photos especially the first, such an event, that the number of phones was counted and displayed with pride! Great post....I was unfamiliar with Rose Murphy.

ScotSue said...

I was fascinated by your post and the research you had done, especially because of the Preston link, as I came from nearby Poulton-le-Fylde. I remember wearing Horrocks' cotton dresses.

Very nostalgic.

Kat Mortensen said...

I love the idea that the floats were used to advertise the number of phones. Can you imagine what they would say today?

NYC has XX million cell phones
XX million computers
XX million t.v.s

the list goes on and on!

Teresa Wilson Rogers said...

I had forgotten all about Lily Tomlin's Ernestine - she was hysterical! Love the float photos, especially the second one, very clever.