A woman in Massachusetts sent me her Western Electric Model 302 to be refurbished. Her father had given her the phone years ago to use as a toy. She had told me how as a young girl she played “operator” using this classic old telephone. She would emulate Lilly Tomlin’s character from the 1960’s television show, Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In by dialing a number and pretending to be the operator. Now many years later with a family of her own, she wants the phone to look nice again as well as being a usable working telephone. There was one unusual aspect of the telephone however, that was mentioned as a “by the way” type of thing.
As a child and while playing with the old desk phone, she dropped it to the floor. As a result both of the rear cradle ears were broken completely off the thermoplastic case. Now many years later, as mentioned she wanted the phone cleaned and put in working condition.
When she mentioned the broken ears in our initial e-mail conversation I indicated that I could probably locate a replacement case for her phone—one with all four good ears. She replied that for sentimental reasons she really wanted to keep the original housing. So the phone was shipped to me to do what I could to spiff up the phone, add new cords, clean the dial, get it ringing and send it back. What resulted actually turned out to be more than both of us had bargained for when work began. Thanks to my good friend and long time telephone collector Mark Scola, new cradle ears were created.
This phone is a real Heinz 57 of telephone parts. Usually when one sees a model 302 with an E1 handset, the case is made of steel. They were made of steel until WWII when the thermoplastic sets were produced. Sometime along the way this case was replaced. The handset has parts dated from 1937. The plastic housing from 1945. The base of the phone is dated December 1941, as was the ringer. The dial is the older #4 dial. It has what many call that “clickety-clack” sound to it.
Take a moment to view my Picasa web album and see the progression of the refurbishing process including the formation of the replacement cradle ears by Mark Scola. I put together some photos of what was done to make this a very nice, working presentable Vintage Rotary Phone.
If you’d like to hear the sound of the dual harmonic brass ringer bells, I have made a sound clip available, along with the sound of the refurbished #4 dial.
Mark Scola has been collecting antique telephones for over forty years. He is a member of the Antique Telephone Collectors Association and is currently on the board of directors for the Telephone Collectors International.