I do. I remember playing with it, when my mum wasn’t looking. It was made of black bakelite. It had a black curly cord. It had the letters PTT on the front. PTT was the god of telephony, back then, the state Telephone Authority.
It was a magical device. It was a HEEMAF type 1955. I remember pondering it’s inner workings, trying to figure out how the system worked.
Having a telephone subscription was expensive and making phone calls too. It was in the 1970s and the telephone network was still growing very fast but still not everybody had a telephone. It was not unusual for somebody to ring your door bell and ask if they could use your phone. Nor was it unusual to receive a phone call for a neighbor which you then had to go get them. Can you imagine, having to share your phone with family or strangers?
That is one of the reasons why many telephones were wall phones, hanging in the hallway, like in our house. And some people even had a small collection box near the telephone, for guests using the telephone, so they could put in a quarter when they used the phone.
On the telephone was a card, behind a small transparent window. On it was our telephone number. I always found that rather strange. Why would I need that? I could perfectly well remember my own telephone number. As did my sister and my parents. And who was going to ask for it anyway? Certainly not the people that called me in the first place. They already had our number.
Perhaps that piece of paper was there to indicate that the number went with that particular phone. For a while I thought the telephone number was determined by the telephone. That there was some kind of setting that could be adjusted if the telephone number needed to be changed. And that if you moved the telephone to another house, the number would go with it.
I remember wondering if the telephone gave off some kind of signal, indicating the number to the exchange. Perhaps once, when it was first connected, or every time when the handset was picked up, indicating where it was. Yooohoo, I’m here! At the Schaddelee line, it’s me! Nr 23856.
Later, I realized that the number of the telephone line was determined in the exchange. It did not belong to the telephone as such, but rather to the wire that went from the exchange to our house.
Why did they call it a telephone number? And not a telephone line number?
How did the system know I was dialing 2 and not 2 times 1? Once I knew the dial made pulses, 1 for the digit 1, 2 for 2 etc, this question kept me busy. So, tic tic tic could be 3 but also 1 dialed really quickly three times. How did the machine know? Of course I tried it out. And of course, the machine always knew whether it was 3 or 3 time 1.
And one day I realized that it did not send pulses when you turned the dial to the fingerstop, but rather when you released the finger wheel and it returned to its default position. So the pulses were always sent out at a constant speed with a pause between digits. That is how it knew.
And like many kids back then I practiced the fine art of tapping: pressing down the hookswitch in quick succession. This created pulses on the telephone line so you could dial numbers that way.
And as you can well imagine I dialed the speaking clock for fun, when mum wasn’t looking.
Remember that, the speaking clock? When I was older, we even dialed random numbers at parties and had drunken chats with whomever picked up the phone.
Then came the day PTT came and took it away. It was a rental. The handset had dropped for the umpteenth time and the repairman came. It was in the early 80s and they did not support bakelite telephones any longer, so they replaced it with an ugly grey W65. I still have it.
My mum asked the repairman if we could keep the old one, but he told her he couldn’t do that. It was going to be exported to the USA, he said, where it would be sold in shops. A rather strange story, we thought, as the USA was not exactly known as a developing country.
Later I learned this was actually true. These phones ended up being sold at Radio Shack. Perhaps our old telephone is still out there, somewhere. Maybe in somebody’s garage, attic or even hallway.
So if you ever come across a wall model Heemaf type 1955 in the USA with the number 23856 on the label, please contact me!
It’s full name is HEEMAF wall telephone type 1955.
One of the very few telephones designed, developed and manufactured in the Netherlands it was made by the HEEMAF company, Hengelose Electrische en Mechanishe Apparaten Fabriek; Hengelo (city in the Netherlands) Electrical and Mechanical Apparatus Company.
Although it was initially developed for PTT, it was exported all over the world by Philips together with their telephone exchanges.
If you're interested, read more about this telephone on my blog.
My name is Arwin Schaddelee and I am a telephone collector in the Netherlands.
I collect and restore rotary dial telephones and red telephones, among other things.
I run a website with articles about my restoration work and collection, so please visit Matilo Telephones.
I also have a Facebook Page, so please stop by, say hello and give it a like!