Our Sepia Saturday theme image this week shows an old telephone exchange. Dozens of young women plug wires into boards connecting people from opposite ends of the earth. It is a bit like an old-fashioned Internet when you think about it, a pre-digital web spun out of twisted wires rather than fibre optics. I say this, however, from the standpoint of someone who has never really quite understood how the internet actually works : for all I know there is some freshly-permed lass who has just plugged a wire into a socket and connected your computer to mine so that you can read this post.
But, I digress and I am in danger of getting my wires crossed. The theme image immediately sent me searching among my collection of old prints and negatives for photographs featuring telephones. And to my surprise, I found precious few, and none at all dating from more than about 30 years ago. I am not sure why I was so surprised; although telephones are so ubiquitous these days, it was well into the 1970s before we had a telephone at home. All the time The Lad had been at University, I have been able to contact him on an almost daily basis via telephone, to hear of his triumphs and disasters, to receive his requests for food and cash, and to reassure myself that the chap is still safe and well.
My photograph dates back to 1968 and shows my desk at Fircroft College in Birmingham. I have always been fond of photographs like this; ones you can have a good old nosey about in, see what people are reading, writing, drinking and - if the box of Swan Vestas is anything to go by - smoking. If you look, you will find my beloved old typewriter, my precious old dictionary, even my ever-faithful hole punch; but you will not find a telephone. Although there were public call boxes in the building, neither my parents nor my then girlfriend (then girlfriend, now wife) back in Yorkshire has access to phones. We would communicate by letter or by postcard, scribbled messages on bits of paper and card. I am tempted to say that we were better for it, but no, that isn't the case. I would have gladly exchanged my Parker pen for a telephone. There was many a lonely night when I would have liked nothing better than for someone to have plugged a wire into a socket and brought me a little closer to those I loved.
You can get connected to other fascinating old photographs by going on over to our digital image exchange, Sepia Saturday, and following the links.