Pause for Thought – a five minute read – Week 27

Genesis 41 v 25 – 34; Luke 2 v 1

Press Button B and Get Your Money Back

I read a newspaper article recently about me. It is a strange experience reading what someone else has compiled about you; I read it to see if there was anything there that I didn’t know about myself. The pivotal point of the article was that I had produced my first book at the age of 72, (actually I was aware of that fact) and why I hadn’t done it before. The newspaper reporter had interviewed me over the telephone due to not being able to visit because of COVID restrictions, and as we talked I thought of how the conversation would have been different back in the 1950s.

I can remember the first telephone that was installed in our house. My dad needed one for his building business and after much deliberation mum finally agreed.  The telephone was black Bakelite with a bright silver metal dial with finger holes corresponding to numbers from 0 to 9. We were on a shared line which meant that the telephone line outside the house served both our house and the house across the road. It was cheaper to install this way as opposed to a dedicated line, but it did mean that only one user could make calls at one time and It also meant that we could listen in to their conversations and vice versa.

Making calls was also different, we could only dial a local call, but any other calls that were long distance, (Trunk calls) had to be through the operator. This was achieved by dialing 0 and requesting the number, but we could only do this after 6.0pm because it was cheaper at that time.

Of course there were no mobile phones or cordless phones and I can recall that our telephone had a cord that had a life of its own. It used to twist and curl up effectively making it shorter in length resulting in the phone being regularly pulled off the table.

All telephone calls were paid for by the minute, local calls being cheaper than trunk calls, (which were cheaper after 6.0pm). Mum and dad were fanatical about the cost of the calls and they installed a wooden box next to the phone to put money in after every call. I was far too young to be allowed to use the phone but my sisters used to spent hours on the phone (according to mum and dad) and they had to put money in the box.

If you did not have a telephone at home, you could use the telephone box which to me as a lad was great fun. You had to follow a strict procedure in order to make a call. First you had to remember the number to be dialled, then the receiver could be lifted and the correct money inserted into the slot. Now you could dial the number. If the call was answered, then the button marked A must be pressed and then you could speak. If the call was not answered you had to press the button marked B and the money was returned. As a very young lad, every time I saw a telephone box I would go and press button B to see if the was any money left in.

A telephone box was also a welcome shelter when caught in a shower of rain but you had to pretend to make a phone call.

There are many examples of how messages were sent and received in the Bible. Luke tells us that Emperor Augustus decreed that a census must be taken across the Roman Empire. With no telephone, internet, radio or any communications it would have been a matter of messengers sent out across land and sea to organise the census.

God’s messages were sent through the prophets and their words of warning and repentance were spoken to the nations. Dreams and visions were also prominent. Joseph is well known for his gift of reading and interpreting dreams as in Genesis 41.

It could be argued that the most unusual message was delivered by mysterious appearing human hand writing on the plaster walls of King Belshazzar’s Palace as described in Daniel 5. King Belshazzar had defiled the drinking cups stolen from the Temple. Somehow you just know that words on the wall written by a mysterious hand are not good news and it certainly was not good news for King Belshazzar.

The words spelt, Numbers, Weight and Division. His days were numbered, he had been weighed and found lacking, and his kingdom would be divided and scattered. All of Daniels interpretation came to pass.

I can recall introducing the first mobile telephones into Nottingham City Council Building Control section in the mid- 1990s. They were made by ‘Motorola ’and were so big that you required a holster fastened round the waist in order to carry them.

A far cry to the slim mobiles/cameras of today.

Derek T.