Sunday, July 25, 2010

637. ME7-1387

Tonight's entry number reminds me of old telephone exchanges. My Aunt Louise Roberts' (nee Anna Louise Hockensmith) phone number was ME7-1387. In my mind's eye, I can still see my grandfather's writing in his little phone book indicating his little sister's phone number. She lived on S. Floyd Street in Old Louisville, just up the street from the old Saint Philip Neri Catholic Church. She herself belonged to Walnut Street Baptist.

My grandfather's other little sister was also in that book with the number 50-BU3-xxxx. I won't list the last four digits because Aunt Mildred Smith (nee Mildred Hockensmith) still lives in the same house over in Clarksville where she lived when I was kid. And, still has the same number. Back then, you had to dial 50- to call over to Indiana. For a while, you had to dial 502-. All that has changed.

Those telephone letters were remnants from the older telephone exchanges from around town. I'll be honest - I never used them. I learned telephone numbers had seven numbers, not two letters and five numbers, except in Frankfort where all the numbers began with 22- so you just dialed the last five digits. But, I digress.

You could tell where a person lived by their phone exchange. We had EMerson, MElrose, JUniper (or JUpiter), SPring, TWinbrook, WOodlawn, WEst, GLendale, and CEcil, all of which later in life became phone numbers beginning, respectively, with 36-, 63-, 58-, 77-, 89-, 96-, 93-, 45-, and 23-. Back then all those exchanges served a particular area. South End, Old Louisville, Downtown, West End, East End, Okolona, PRP/Valley Station, the Highlands, and Fern Creek. I'm not sure what the exchange for Jeffersontown was, with its 26- numbers; some combination of the letters A-B-C with M-N-O - maybe COral or ANne or something like that.

I used to always try to figure out where the exchanges changed, from one set of numbers to another. They were sometimes marked with higher-than-usual phone poles with those ubiquitous upside-down glass jars in a line across one of the poles' t-beams. Where Belmar Drive goes under the Norfolk Southern Railroad is one of those cardinal points, bringing together the 36-, 63-, and 45- numbers. Similarly, 36-, 96- and 45- came together where Durrett Lane and that same railway cross under the Watterson Expressway. Where Wathen Lane crosses the Paducah and Louisville Railroad was the demarcation line between 63-, 36, and 44-, the latter serving the Shively area (and another exchange whose "name" I don't really know). Another spot is along Pennsylvania Run Creek, south of Mount Washington Road, where the separation occurs between 96-, 23-, and the 95- exchange in northern Bullitt County, known in history as the Echo Phone Company and later the Pioneer Phone Company, serving Zoneton, Brooks, and what was then called Maryville but since the 1970s has been known as Hillview.

As I know you know, numbers, in various configurations, have always intrigued me. Phone exchanges are just another set of numbers, which when linked together, allow people to communicate. Kind of like notes on a scale in music. In the proper order, they make sense.

1 comment:

Monica said...

When I got my first radio as a little girl, I remember WHAS's Milton Metz giving the telephone number for his late (to me) night call-in show: JUniper 5-2385. It just had a nice rhythm to it. They kept that number for years and I was nostalgically sad when they changed it to the new fangled multi-line toll-free number. My phone number growing up began with TEnnyson 9.

The Archives at Milepost 606


Louisville, Kentucky, United States
Never married, liberal Democrat, born in 1960, opinionated but generally pleasant, member of the Episcopal Church. Graduate of Prestonia Elementary, Durrett High, and Spalding University; the first two now-closed Jefferson County Public Schools, the latter a very small liberal arts college in downtown Louisville affiliated with the Roman Catholic Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. My vocation and avocation is politics. My favorite pastime is driving the backroads of Kentucky and southern Indiana, visiting small towns, political hangouts, courthouses, churches, and cemeteries. You are welcome to ride with me sometime.