The Newnan Times-Herald


Squeezing my Rolodex tightly

  • By The Newnan Times-Herald
  • |
  • Sep. 04, 2019 - 5:23 PM

Squeezing my Rolodex tightly

The Newnan Times-Herald

The appreciation of technical advances is relative to how long you’ve been around. There will be things mentioned here that loses half my audience due to their younger age and others that have forgotten just how many nuances that have replaced routine items in our daily life.

The other night I flipped the remote over to watch All The President's Men, a movie from 1976 about how the Washington Post reporters, Woodward and Bernstein, helped crack the case of the Watergate break-in. 

Throughout the movie, I caught glimpses of items from the past that made me laugh thinking of how we could have ever survived with the archaic relics from the past.  

We see a payphone in a phone booth, Rolodex rotary file, carbon paper, manual typewriter, library inside a business including various phone books, smoking in the workplace/elevators/inside cars/and while visiting a residence (not even asking if it was OK to smoke inside), rotary dial phones with lighted hold buttons, the need to unscrew the microphone of the telephone handset because there was no mute button, and having to ask the operator for an outside line to dial long distance. 

The breakdown is as follows:

I thought you could only find a payphone in prison or a museum. Remember stacking all your loose change around the booth to be Johnny-on-the-spot when the operator told you how much to deposit before connecting your call?

The Rolodex rotary filing system was a prized device that grew more valuable as your entries from network contacts amassed. Just when you thought you were about to be fired from a job you made sure to grab that Rolodex on the way out the door. Sometimes it was more valuable than you were.

While working as a real estate agent in the early 1980s, I remember aligning carbon paper between legal-size sheets of preprinted real estate contracts before typing everything I needed other than an original signature. Hard to believe a photocopy machine could possibly replace carbon paper and all those dirty fingers that came along with it.

I learned to type on a manual typewriter in high school. Two fingers seemed to work better than ten until the electric version came on the scene. Dad used to tell me, “if you can type, you’ll never starve.” So far, I haven’t starved yet.

The thing that cracked me up in the movie was all the casual smoking… everywhere. Do you remember when they collectively banned cigarette smoking in the office? 

We would have to hold our breath as we walked through the gauntlet of the stagnant smoke cloud at all the exit doors, as the other nicotine-addicted employees puffed-away on their smoking break. Then there was the inevitable question all restaurant maître d’s would ask, “smoking or non-smoking?” And there always seemed to be more seats available in the smoking section, dang-it.

I grew up with rotary dial telephones. We thought we were living high-on-the-hog when Dad showed up one day with a ten-foot extension cord. That was our version of a mobile telephone. 

That rotary dial used to drive me crazy when your finger slipped out of the hole before holding the dial all the way to the end to that little chrome-plated, half-moon shaped stop, and then you had to start the whole process all over again. Greasy fingers didn’t help much on the touch-tone version either.

The computer, changing social mores, and general technologies have improved our lives no doubt. But I must admit… I made off with that Rolodex and still have it today. 

The Precinct Press is authored by W.J. Butcher, a retired 26-year veteran of the Atlanta Police Department. Send comments, kudos, and criticism to: .