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11/07/2010

Western Electric

Hold the phone! This week’s featured story from the First Person Museum Online Gallery comes to us from Dan from Bala Cynwyd. Travel back in time through a story about a rotary phone that is squat, black and solid — much unlike its owner. Gather ’round what Dan calls “a household altar” for a tale that pays homage to a grandmother and the pre-satellite era.

Have you uploaded your story yet? Drop the First Person Museum a line at firstpersonmuseum.org along with media including a photo of you, your object, or video. Choose from Themes like “You Can’t Go Home Again” and Object Types like “From Long Ago.” Operators are standing by! Who knows? Next week’s story could be yours!

Theme: You Can’t Go Home Again
Object Type: From Long Ago
My grandmother’s phone is squat, black and solid, and in that respect it was unlike her, a tiny Italian woman with narrow birdlike bones. Otherwise, however, they were in parallel: built of stronger stuff than their modern-day equivalents, and hard-wired once and forever into a tidy house in Ardmore. It bears an exchange number, MI for MIdway, which is vastly more permanent than fungible 64.

It works by means of magnets and metal, dense with respectable copper, resting firmly on hard rubber feet, an artifact of an age of clear cause and effect. A household altar to the electromechanical mystery of the single, totemic Phone Company. First the old AT&T was slain, then the very wires themselves, and the phone and my grandmother were both thrust into a contingent, unreliable era of cells and satellites. “You’re walking on the street in Canada? You sound like you’re right next door!”

Like her, the phone ended its days affixed in the same place but severed from its context, cast out from the eternal verity of the 215 area code and into the distressing meaninglessness of 610. People say it was a stroke that carried her off, three days short of her ninetieth birthday. I know better. It was ten-digit dialing.

Dial up Dan’s official entry here.

The Museum is officially open at the Painted Bride Art Center. (230 Vine St.) Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 12-6. You can also visit whenever there are performances and events during the First Person Festival. Thanks to everyone who came to Friday’s opening night reception.

See you at the Museum!

-Becca Jennings

Upcoming Events
  • Commonspace Broadcast: Social Norms
  • Date: June 24, 2018
  • Time: 8 PM
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