With all of the moving, unpacking, kids and work, I haven’t had a chance to do much. But today, after a long day at the office, I came home after the kids were asleep (/sad face) and a package awaited. I recently picked up a Western Electric 302 telephone off of eBay for a song. I am embarrassed at how cheap I was able to snag this thing. Fully restored models go in excess of $200-$250. Not a massive sum, but tidy enough to be out of question for a hobby purchase, I mean I have kids. I won’t even say how cheap I got this phone… but it was silly crazy cheap. I wonder if I should just buy them and resell them after fixing them, but I probably just got lucky!
The phone was in very nice condition, though it was not guaranteed to work, thus justifying the steep discount. It did supposedly spend a decade in very light service followed by 60 years in a box. Several things piqued my interest. The brown cloth cords are in exquisite condition, and this is a May 1940 metal phone with matching parts. A little over a year after this phone was made, WWII ushered in an era of thermoplastic phones that would forever overshadow these metal beauties.
Don’t call this a “Lucy phone!” I abhor the term, as it is better suited to the plastic toys made after the war. I jest, but I do much prefer the metal phones. They are more expensive so I was thrilled to find and win one in such great condition for a stupidly low price.
I do not have any personal attachment to the WE-302 beyond liking it. I was born much too recently to have seen them in common use. Growing up in the 80′s I saw the touchtone trimline as the quintessential phone in kitchens at home and around town; though I do recall some relatives owning WE-500 rotary models. Still I appreciate the styling and the timeless elegant functionality of the good old fashioned 302. It’s perfected from the 102-202 but not so sterile as the 500.
I quickly tried my new phone but it did not work. My heart sank, but I was prepared for this. I sat down to work while my wife watched television. After a day of hard work at the office, a creative hobby is an excellent release. She just spent the evening juggling the twins, so she earned some couch time! For me though, the satisfying resolution of fixing something is quite relaxing.
Thankfully the dial was in perfect working order and after some rewiring inside the phone I was finished and ready to test by the time the show was over. The gongs gave out their harmonic ring as my cell phone dialed in. I was very pleased that our phone company’s rotary service functioned over their VOIP box. Kudos to you, Surewest.
The dial card was yellowed with age and possibly original, though I cannot be sure. It included numbers such as a two digit number for the fire brigade and 211 for a long distance operator. I fashioned my own “Wait for dial tone” card and filled in my number. I chose RIverside as my exchange, though of course my number doesn’t fit into an historical exchange, being in Granite Bay using VOIP. I was astonished at how perfectly Brush Script matched up with my expectations on the “Wait” font. It was simple enough to cut it out and place it under the cellulose cover. I retained the existing dial card, just in case I ever pass the phone along.
I made some test dials (actual dialing here!) and those worked as well. I love the sound quality and though some may scoff at this, the inability to cradle the phone against my shoulder due to the triangular shape of the F1 handset. This isn’t a multi-tasking device, it is a telephone. If I am talking to you on it, you have my full and undivided attention.
It may not be in pristine, like new condition, but maybe some day I will research proper restoration of the paint to fill in some minor wear and tear… perhaps replace the suede feet. Some lubrication and cleaning on the inside might not be out of order. I have no plans to sell it and do not care specifically about “ruining” it by cleaning or repairing it. I plan to use and appreciate it! (Also, it looks pretty cool)