woensdag 23 november 2016

We won't have it known that we own a telephone

In my previous post, I told you about the 1960s radiogram cabinet we were given by our neighbour.

However, this is by no means the only gift which was recently bestowed on us.



Shortly before we got the radiogram, Jos was given this phone by a friend, who used to work as a technician with the Antwerp police force.
It's a direct line desk phone, with a metal body and a Bakelite handle. It has a crank, and no dial, and it probably dates from the 1950s, or possibly earlier.











It was manufactured by ATEA, who used to have a factory in the Antwerp suburb of Berchem, and a a bit of googling revealed that it is quite rare.











We already owned a regular black Bakelite phone, bought at a second hand shop several years ago.


It reminded Jos of the phone used in the 1964 Belgian youth series 'Kapitein Zeppos' and although I couldn't find a still from the series in which the phone can be seen, I did find this one of the series' protagonist, the 'Kapitein' himself, making a telephone call.




Quite a dapper chap, no? It's somewhat off-topic, but the series was even bought by the BBC - quite a feat for a Belgian series - who aired it in 1966 as 'Captain Zeppos'.


The phone is a 56 A, which was introduced in 1956 by RTT, the Belgian telegraph and telephone company, as their standard phone, which could be rented by the public. It has the RTT logo on the front.

Older versions of the phone might have a lion on the front, as this was the old RTT logo.


The phone was produced by a temporary association formed by ATEA and that other Antwerp based company, BTMC, or Bell Telephone Manufacturing Company. The phones produced by BTMC are marked with 56 B at the bottom.



It was based on a model developed by ATEA, who had been producing different versions of the phone since the mid-1930s.

1930s ATEA advert
I quite fancy the white 1930s version!

In our dining room, an even older phone is taking pride of place.

This hand cranked wooden wall phone was made by Bell Telephone Manufacturing Company and probably dates back to the early 1900s.

In the 1960s, when Jos was working at his first job as an electrician in a brick making factory, they were in the process of replacing these phones, which were still in use on the shop floors. The phones were all dumped and destroyed, but fortunately Jos had the foresight to salvage this one.



Fast forward 50-odd years when, while visiting a large second hand shop, I spotted a collection of what looked like bird houses on a long plank. Bird houses made of high quality wood, and without entry-holes, that is.









I was mystified as to what they were and when I drew Jos's attention to them, he got really excited.

Turns out that these were the boxes which held the batteries needed to operate the wooden wall phones.

It goes without saying that we bought one of them, and lo and behold: it was a perfect fit, and our phone is now fully restored to its former glory, albeit without the battery.


The top of the battery box can even be used as a little writing desk to take notes while on the phone.

When the hand crank is turned, the bells on the front of the phone still ring, which is a favourite party trick!


By coincidence, a couple of years later, Jos started working at Bell Telephone Manufacturing Company, or 'den Bell', as it is colloquially known in Antwerp.

When they celebrated their centenary in 1982, they begged Jos to lend them the phone for an exhibition, which Jos refused, as he was afraid he would never get it back or that it would get damaged. They then had to make do with a replica.






It's all in the detail!

Did you notice the carved wooden cat on top of the phone?

It has been sitting there for almost twenty years, looking down at the cat which has been sitting on the dresser for almost as long.

Aren't they a cute pair?












Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a couple of telephone calls to make ...

24 opmerkingen:

  1. AHHHHHHHHHH, this was sooo interesting!!! I love seeing your phones and about the history of them. How Amazing to have that original phone and then get the matching 'bird box'!

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    1. Thanks Kezzie! We've had that phone for such a long time that it tends to become "invisible" for us. So blogging about it makes us appreciate it again. xxx

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  2. that's great that you were able to reunite the parts of the phone.

    I'm always amazed by just how heavy old phones were-even the ones from the 60's would take some effort to use hours at a time.

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    1. They are indeed quite heavy, which I found out when I wanted to have a look at the marks on the bottom ... But then again, even the first mobile phones were heavy things ... xxx

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  3. beautiful old telephones!!
    we like them very much too - sadly they cant be used anymore because of the digital system......
    and i refuse to place a non-working phone her :-)
    this kitties are supercute!!
    xxxxxx

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    1. Regretfully, none of our vintage phones are working either. It's a pity really, as I would have liked using that black Bakelite phone. The others, which do not have a dial, would be impossible to use nowadays. xxx

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  4. Those are fab! I'm not surprised Jos didn't want to lend out something as irreplaceable as the antique phone.

    And now you've got me all intrigued about Captain Zeppos, as though my eyes weren't square enough...

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    1. Kapitein (or Captain) Zeppos is quite a cult series here in Belgium ... xxx

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  5. (By the way, we do get a fair bit of foreign drama on BBC4 nowadays - Saturday nights always has a good crime drama from somewhere in the world. They showed Cordon, a Belgian drama, in that slot.

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    1. Oh, I'm really chuffed now. Cordon was filmed here in Antwerp! They are showing a new series now, but I haven't seen it, and it turns out not to be such a success as the first series. xxx

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  6. Hahaha! Make a couple of calls, indeed! My those are cute, carved kitties!!

    Happy thrifting ;)

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    1. It would have been difficult to make a call on the old wooden phone, without the battery and without an operator at the other end to connect me ... Happy thrifting to you too! xxx

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  7. What a fantastic collection! I love all of yours and would love to find one of those white photos, its super spacey looking.
    We have a couple of rotary dial phones (and a few more in the shed...shhhhh!)
    Like Mim I'm intrigued by Captain Zeppos. I live for subtitled European dramas! xxx

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    1. Thanks Vix. Sadly, I've never come across one of those white 1930s phones. Captain Zeppos, unfortunately, wasn't subtitled but dubbed and I've heard that the actor doing the Captain's voice sounded completely different from the real, Flemish captain ... xxx

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  8. So interesting! I have an old Bakelite phone which sadly doesn't work but I keep on display anyway...it's not as shiny as yours though. I don't remember Captain Zeppos, I expect it was on past my bedtime! X

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    1. Thank you Fiona! I must admit that the phone was a bit dusty looking, so I cleaned it up before taking the blog photos. It is not usually that shiny ... xxx

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  9. Love, love, love your cats. That is exactly the kind of quirky thing I love to see and do with my own ornaments.

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    1. Thanks Gisela. Those cats have been looking at each other for years, but I'm not sure they ever "met" ... xxx

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  10. I adore that phone. Years ago when I was first married so 15 years ago now! Wow! My mother in law game me a beautiful 50s pinks and gold phone she found at a garage sale sadly our cat Baby, who just turned 16! Knocked it over and broke it

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    1. Oh, what a pity about that phone! But you can't be cross with a cat for very long, no? Our previous cat once knocked a Westminster clock from a shelf ... xxx

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  11. This is a lovely little collection, how fascinating! I would have thought it was a bird box too?! x

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    1. I am wondering what happened to the rest of them. Maybe they were all sold as bird boxes? Even the shop's owner didn't know what they were. xxx

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  12. I enjoyed reading this. Old phones are something of a draw for me, I think they’re so much nicer than what we have today. Not that we have a landline at home, we both have mobiles and have to have our internet by satellite, so we really have no need for one, but if we did I’d like to think we could find a vintage one in working order. And the pair of cats - adorable!

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    1. We still have a landline as well as mobiles. Unfortunately none of the vintage phones are in working order but I guess that the black Bakelite one can be reconditioned if we wanted. xxx

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