Friday, 28 May 2010

ELL week: history calling

Just outside Hoxton station, the view from the train windows includes a ghost sign.

Stamford Trading Co of Geffrye Street proudly displays its telephone number, now antiquated. Originally, London exchanges were known by three-letter codes which corresponded to numbers on the telephone dial. SHO for Shoreditch translates to 740 (the letter placement was not the same as that on modern mobile keypads: O and Q were placed at zero).

Letters were replaced by numbers in 1966, so this sign must be over forty years old. My own telephone nostalgia only goes back as far as dials which made a proper noise as they turned, but I enjoyed this taste of the past too. I have to admit that, influenced as I am by golden age detective stories, these letter codes evoke people picking up the receiver to request 'Shoreditch 5537' from a real live operator. Now that was when making a phone call had romance!*

*Admittedly it didn't have privacy, convenience or affordability.


crosswhatfields said...

Old phone numbers I remember: 692 was TIDeway, 853 was GREenwich.

Minnie said...

Intriguing series, Caroline. Yup, another one here who can recall some of the old Alpha-numeric combinations, esp the (to me) exotic-sounding FLAxman. Others included FRObisher (Earl's Ct), PARk (Bayswater/Hyde Park); DICkens (Highbury), CANonbury (obvious!) & DREadnought (sic. Another section of Earl's Ct). Old industrial/market gardening connections were remembered, e.g. MULberry for Wood Green, as well as genuine celebs (Dickens, Nelson).
As a child, I used to imagine which one would be my own when I, too, lived in London. In fact, 3 of the above, but they'd changed to numeric codes by then.
So much nicer than anonymous numbers: we seem to be continually reminded that we're just a series of numbers ...

Anonymous said...

I used to work at the Garrick Theatre and our phone code was Temple Bar