Ever read a phone book? 1935-36 edition intrigues

WORTHINGTON -- There is a scene in "Rain Man," where Raymond (Dustin Hoffman) reads a telephone directory and memorizes names and numbers as he goes along. When "Rain Man" is shown, someone nearly always chuckles during this scene. It is funny to...

WORTHINGTON -- There is a scene in "Rain Man," where Raymond (Dustin Hoffman) reads a telephone directory and memorizes names and numbers as he goes along. When "Rain Man" is shown, someone nearly always chuckles during this scene. It is funny to see a man reading a telephone book.

At the risk of making you laugh at me, I will tell you I also spent some time lately reading a telephone book. (I should let you know, at further risk of laughs, I sometimes identify with Raymond. As Raymond explains, he is an excellent driver -- one wheel over the curb -- he doesn't go on airplanes and he doesn't want to go outside when it is raining.) 

You will have to bear with me. 

My telephone book is, "Worthington Telephone Exchange, Winter, 1935-36."

The featured ad on the cover is for the 1936 Ford V-8, now available at Tellander-Hagge Motor Sales, corner of 10th Street and Fifth Avenue. (The Tellander-Hagge ad doesn't say so but in this Summer of John Dillinger, it should be noted the V-8, put on sale for the first time in 1932, was Dillinger's choice of cars. V-8's were faster than about anything cops and FBI men were driving.)


The first thing important about reading a 75-year-old Worthington telephone book is to remember all calls are handled by Central. There are no telephones with push buttons or dials. When you want to call, lift the receiver. Central will answer with, "Number please." Central will connect you with your party. Central will tell you if your party doesn't answer.

If the number you are calling is not listed, ask for "Information."

Fires. Call Central.

Police. Call Central.

Central's employer, the telephone company, sponsored an ad inside the front cover urging you to get a phone of your own. "What do you do if your neighbor asks, 'May I use your telephone'? There are three things to bear in mind. (1) To lend this service occasionally is a courtesy, (2) To do so day after day is a nuisance, (3) Don't impose on your friends. Install a Telephone."

My long-ago directory was a thoughtful book. It had features I would welcome in telephone books today. If you want to call the depot, the listing is CSt.PM&O for the Omaha railroad, CRI&P for the Rock Island. If you don't remember the name of the railroad, look under Depot. The numbers are listed in two places.

If you are calling Court House, the office and the officeholder both are listed as a reminder to you: County Attorney, A.W. Brecht; County Auditor, Craigen Thom; County Treasurer, L.A. Hons. And so forth. Sheriff's Office, Elden Rowe.

Once again, each listing is repeated. Under the B, Brecht, A.W., attorney, court house. (Bingo!)


In present-day telephone directories, Worthington Daily Globe is listed under D. Daily Globe. In 1936 Worthington listings are under W. Worthington Globe, Worthington Bakery, Worthington Clinic, Worthington Creamery -- Worthington Rendering Works. 

The book is not big. Sixteen pages from Abbott to Zweep. No yellow pages. The 16 pages do include information on long distance. A night call to Brewster is a dime, a night call to Sioux City is 35 cents. Day time calls to Sioux City are 60 cents. It doesn't get higher than this.

Eight eating places have telephones, all in the downtown area and all homegrown:

Green Lantern Eat Shop, 423 10th St.; Ideal Restaurant, 1010 Fifth Ave.; Leona's Cafe, 422 10th St.; Manning Lunch Wagon, 411 10th St.; Caspers' Cafe, 107 12th St.; Chat & Nibble Coffee Shop, 1027 Second Ave.; Worthington Cafe, 213 10th St.; Jackson Cafe, 1110 Second Ave.

Grade School under G. High School under H.

Hollywood Tourist Camp. 

Hose Station No. 1, 921 Fourth Ave.

Kruse, John, custodian, Court House.


Hyland, Miss Julia. Olson, Miss Ella.

One beauty parlor. Six beauty shoppes. No beauty shop.

Funeral homes advertise, "Lady Assistant."

There are a number of solid first names not often heard at baptisms any longer. Magnus, Ole, Gunder, Gunnar, Gus, Chester, Siguard, Ludwig, Fritz, Hjalmer, Quinn, Werner, Maye, Mamie, Effie, Dorothea, Sadie .

There are two listings I cannot explain:

Maide Riete Chemical Co., 909 Fourth Ave. 

Hamm Brewing Co., Omaha Freight Depot.

Ray Crippen is a former editor of the Daily Globe. His column appears on Saturdays.

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