Trace that call 1950’s style – it took a little longer because….

Trace That Call

by

Clifford Dobbins

In the 1950’s and 60’s I was employed by General Telephone of Kentucky. In the early 1960’s I was the business office supervisor in Ashland, Kentucky, which serviced eight surrounding cities.general telephone

All transactions for the area went through this office. Also at this time I was the President of the local Optimist Club of which the local Fire Chief was also a member. One day he asked me for assistance with a problem they were having. Someone was calling in false fire calls to the station, and he wanted to know if there was any way that the phone company could help determine the culprit.

Now in those earlier years of technology the digital revolution was yet to be. There was no Caller ID or other such features. In those days telephone calls were routed and connected through a series of mechanical switches. There was no existing way to determine who was placing the calls.telephone-switchboard-operators

By working with our plant department personnel we devised a method to identify the calling party. Using a special plug we could freeze the mechanical switches to keep the call open and as long as the receiving party did not hang up their phone, we could trace the call back to the originating party.

We soon determined that the false fire calls were coming from a mentally ill woman who enjoyed watching the fire trucks race past her home. Soon the Police department was asking for help with nuisance and obscene phone calls. In one instance a disgruntled employee would get off the bus each day and call her former employer from a pay station then leave the receiver hanging, which would cause the line to be tied up.phone off hook

In another instance a former classmate, who was now a local college professor was receiving obscene phone calls to her home. This turned out to be one of her students. In each case I would go interview the complaining customer and if it was determined they were a victim, I would instruct them to not hang up there phone after such a call and then call us from another phone.

We could then trace the call back to the offending party, and provide the name and address to the Police Chief. A police cruiser would visit the offenders, and each time this would end the problem.

Dialing Tips circa 1950 American Telephone & Telegraph – Bell System

 

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