Yellow Pages

 

Yellow Pages


I can’t remember the first phone book I saw. I also don’t recall the first phone we got in Sandy Point, either. I don’t know when I first heard of yellow pages. I do know that there were no phones there when I was little and it would have been after electricity was brought in about 1946 +/-. Mr. Smith got a phone up on the main highway (US 80) and I think my grandparents used that phone on some occasions. I think they also used a phone at the courthouse. But no phone service was available on the back roads for a while.

My uncle installed a phone, more like an intercom, between my grandparents and his house on the other side of the road so they could talk if anyone had a reason, rather than walk across the road in the rain or after dark.

Early phones in rural areas had several people on the same line so privacy was in short supply but so were phone calls. I don’t remember anyone using the phone except in special occasions. And, an operator at the exchange was available to connect you to another party. You may have seen Andy and Barney pick up the phone, which had no dial, and get the operator and say something like, “Sarah, get me the diner.” Or, “Sarah, get me the sheriff over in Mt. Pilate.”

Eventually, the phones had dials and you just picked up the phone and dialed your party. You may remember Junior Samples’ car lot was BR549. Most people only had three or four, maybe a half dozen numbers to call and then they would call information for the other numbers.

As time went on, the phone book became more and more important. The use of the phone increased to include doctors, lawyers, car repairmen, feed and seed stores, friends and on and on. The phone book was placed somewhere near the phone and Heaven forbid someone moved it! Frequently called names were often written on the outside of the book. The phone book was now a necessity.

Then, some one got the bright idea to add advertising and business numbers and the yellow pages were born! In 1886, a man named Reuben H. Donnelley started the first classified telephone directory advertising. He started a whole new industry now known as the Yellow Pages.Where the idea for the pages being yellow, no one knows for sure. Somebody said they ran out of white paper and used the yellow paper they had on hand.Nothing too creative.

There was a time that the yellow pages were a major part of a company’s advertising budget, if not all of it. And, the yellow pages were used by folks on a regular basis to find any service or item they needed. Other than the newspaper, on a local basis, the yellow pages served buyer and seller better than anything else.

Of course, names were listed by town and then alphabetically. At first, the books did not use numbers as the operator made the connections. Numbers came later.

I knew a business once, it may still exist, that called itself A Aardvark. I asked the owner where the name came from and he informed me that he wanted to have first position in the phone book and yellow pages. Three a’s seemed to do the trick.

As time went on, the phone books in big cities got so big that they split the residential phone books from the business yellow pages. The yellow pages were king! Everybody used them! Everybody needed them. The ad revenues were huge! There was just nothing else to compete for many years. Anything you wanted could usually be found under some category in the yellow pages.

Then something happened! The internet and Google. People started looking up things and businesses and services on the internet! The golden age of the yellow pages was coming to an end; not just in Sandy Point, but in Long Island and Boca Raton, also.

I looked in my pantry (where we keep the phone books now) and dug out four books in some version of yellow pages. Marietta, Atlanta, Cobb County, and something called a companion Greater Atlanta book. None of which do I remember ever using. And every so often, new phone books appear stacked by my front door and I go through a little ritual of throwing away the old books and putting the new, never to be used, books in the pantry. You never know when I need to find a painter in an emergency situation and the internet is down!

The younger generation does everything on their iPhone. They probably don’t know what the yellow pages are supposed to be used for nor the power they once held.

So who are the yellow page books for, then? Old people who grew up using yellow pages, that’s who. Therein lies a BIG problem: the tiny print in these books is so small now that only a twelve year old could possible have a chance of reading them. They might even need a magnifying glass on a couple. The print measures, as best I can measure it, 1 MM. If my life depended upon reading this, even with my expensive Rite Aid reading glasses, I would be done for. I have come to understand why old people always had magnifying glasses around the house. There are pictures of Sherlock Holmes with a magnifying glass that I always thought made him look like a professional when in fact he was probably just blind as a bat!

My computer will print down as low as a font size 8, which I can read. These yellow pages must be 3 or 4. Teeny, tiny print. Hello! Old people and teeny print do not go together.

It appears the books and the intended users are out of sync. Or, my understanding of the world is messed up. But I’m certain if I asked my grandchildren where to find a painter, they would pick up their iPhone and say, “Painter”.

So what I have concluded is we may should retire the yellow pages books. Or, at least make them readable. But if you make a living producing yellow page books and selling ads in them that might be a little threatening. So you might never mention to the people buying the ads that no one is using them, no one could use them and they are probably a big waste. I guess I’ll stack them with my old Sears Catalogs. Maybe they’ll be worth something some day.

JC© 2017

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