Thursday, June 13, 2013

A Visit to the Telephone Pioneer Museum

The kid is out of school, so it is my parental duty to make sure he doesn't rot his brains away on YouTube videos and various toys he leaves on the floor to fuck-up my feet. I originally planned to take him to a robotics lab up in Corvallis, but that trip was delayed. Then, we were going to play disc golf, but it rained. And, the strip clubs are starting to catch wise to my ruse of him being my "seeing eye kid." Consequently, we ended up going to the Telephone Pioneer Museum in downtown Eugene.

The Telephone Pioneer Museum is located at 975 Oak St. on the ground floor of a building that has served as home for a revolving door of phone companies. Initially, it was one of the Bell companies, then it became Qwest. Now, it is home to CenturyLink. The museum is open for the slimmest of hours (Thursdays 10am to 2pm) pretty much assuring no one will ever visit. During the 45 minutes we were there, there were no other patrons.

As the old lady (I'm just going to assume her name is Gladys) told me between her solitaire play and bites of her homemade sandwich, the museum pretty much functions as a disposal for obsolete equipment. They get a couple donations here and there, but most of the exhibits came from "upstairs."

There are operator boards, phone booths, examples of the evolution of the phone, line testers, diagnostic devices, lineman belts and hooks, and ZERO cellular telephones, unless you count the old timey bag phone. Gladys told me that those used to be quite the status symbol.

This IS not an operator's board. Gladys will have you know this was for diagnostic testing of the lines, and you are welcome to finger the knobs.
Gladys was very nice and helpful, but she seemed to assume we had no knowledge of anything prior to the year 2000. Perhaps, it’s how they get people to volunteer to run the museum: they think they are preserving a time in history when people would get pissed off when they had to dial a 9 on the rotary. Keeping the museum open is an important role: people must remember things such as pay phones (which still exist despite what old codgers say). Gladys said 37 college students piled into one of the phone booths on display, but I got her to admit it was not true.

A plus at the Telephone Pioneer Museum is that you absolutely, positively can touch everything. I thought Gladys was being a saucy old girl, ‘til the kid started messing around with stuff, and I realized I had free reign. There were tools everywhere that could be jabbed into machines to create spectacular messes. The kid had a blast! From the pristine shape the exhibits were in, others clearly saw this as a polite invitation to explore and not a challenge to decimate.

My favorite parts were the replicas of the very first phone and receiver used by Alexander Graham Bell and that one guy Bell wanted to come here and see him. It was also interesting looking at really old phone books with phone numbers that didn’t make any sense.

I strongly recommend the Telephone Pioneer Museum to really old people and to kids. The old people will love to go on for hours about how the young people don’t know anything about the past because we didn’t live through it, and there is no possible way to encapsulate prior history on the internet. Kids will love to smash stuff and ask Gladys stupid questions. Both are free between 10 and 2 on Thursdays when useful people are working and the unemployed are sleeping.

Today's blog post is brought to you by the iPhone 4, which provided you with the picture above and outperformed every one of those damn phones in the museum. Seriously, none of the phones they had could take a picture. What's the point?

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