Saturday, August 14, 2010

Musings on old books, bookstores, and phone numbers

Wow. Way too long since I've been here. Twitter and Facebook seem to capture most of my online writing efforts recently.

I was just making a note in a Facebook comment about thinking that I have a copy of "The Law" by Frédéric Bastiat when I got up to check my bookshelf.

I didn't find "The Law", but realized that I have two paperback copies of "None Dare Call it Treason" by John Stormer (1964).

The covers look identical. One is a used copy I bought somewhere (probably online) on 19 October 2002. It was the 20th printing, one of a run of 1,000,000 in October 1964.

The other is more interesting. It has my dad's name inside the front cover, in his own hand. It is the 11th printing, one of 400,000 in the third printing of July 1964. I see by my penciled notation that I finished reading it on 3 December 1995.

The faded inked stamps on the title page indicate it was distributed by American Opinion Library at 1514 North Pennsylvania Street, Indianapolis, Indiana. I believe that American Opinion libraries and bookstores were an early distribution method for John Birch Society materials.

The phone number was MElrose 5-2891 = ME 5-2891. Today, we would know it as 635-3891, but that was back in the days when the first two characters were letters that stood for some recognizable geographical feature of the neighborhood with those phone numbers. Maybe this was associated with Melrose Avenue not far away.

1 comment:

Tom Heller said...

Don't forget postal codes of yore. Like Chicago 6, Illinois.

Speaking of phone numbering, a professor of mine mentioned that NYC's area code is 212 for good reason. (And Chicago's 312, and on & on...)

Before touch-tone dialing, phone exchanges employed electro-mechanical dialers. Dialing a "1" involved a very short arm(ature?) movement and thus was the most quickly-accomplished number to dial.

With three-digit area codes, assigning NYC, the single largest phone market, with an 'inefficient' area code would have translated into more dialer equipment (and electrical expense) than would an efficient area code, one that minimized the movement of the armature in dialing the three digits.

Since area codes needed to start with a number other than '1' or '0' (which btw involved the longest armature movement), the quickest area code to be dialed was assigned to the largest market. That quickest code was '212'.