Dial “R” for Retro: 1960s-80s Ladies and Their Old-School Telephones

090_1980 Cosmo

There’s nothing sexy about a smartphone – it’s just a thin flat rectangle.  Let’s face it; today’s phones have the sex appeal of a beverage coaster.  Old-school telephones, on the other hand, had some vavoom.  Before they went cordless, before you could take a selfie with them, phones had substance and character….

… okay, truthfully, they were cumbersome as hell. But they made a good prop for a photograph.  Now let’s enjoy some ladies from yesteryear and their telephones…


Remember these phones?  We thought they looked so nouveau with the rotary dial at the base of the receiver.  The hipster phone of choice – sort of like the iPhone today.



How about the phones with the ridiculously big buttons?  Again, we thought they were awesome at the time; in retrospect, they seem made for the nearsighted.


021_Hangin' on the Telephone

Ah, life before the cord was cut.  Since the cord to the receiver was often too short to allow much free movement, people used to have inordinately long cords connected to the jack.



The payphone – once as ubiquitous as fire hydrants, now an endangered species.  For more on this, check out 5 Things Your Smartphone Has Made Obsolete



If you were super cool, you had a phone made to look old-fashioned.  In a way, this makes me a bit sad to see the standard land-line telephone disappear – they had character.


039_Hello. I'd like to rent a fork lift to move my PC to another room.

Welcome the Future.  It’s all so very high tech, isn’t it?

084_vintage needlework (97)

Again, we have the tremendously cool phone with the rotary dial at the base of the receiver… but this time it’s offset by the tremendously uncool full-body quilt.



Before touchtone, dialing a number was a process.  It took time to connect before speed dial; and woe betide those that mis-dialed a number and had to redo the entire process.  Not something I miss.


She’s got the page open to Harrod’s.   Perhaps we’re witnessing some impulse buying (before online shopping became a thing).


054_switchboard ladies

Now here’s a picture that seems like it may as well be a hundred years ago.  The switchboard operator – file under “jobs that vanished overnight”.


093_phone girls

The 1-900 business was big business in the late 80s and 90s.  On a related note, check out 976-Evil? 5 of the Strangest 1-900 Horror Hotlines of the 1980s and 1990s

001_You Can Afford a Car Telephone

Save up your money, plan ahead, and do your research – then, and only then, may you become the proud owner of a car telephone.


054_GO V01 N01 1965

This is a classy, if not gaudy, telephone; one that I’m sure would fit nicely within Liberace’s home decor.  Note: If you’re in the mood for some more vintage girlie magazine covers, you may want to check into our generous stack. You’re welcome.



Now that is some fancy telephone equipment.  Platform sandals, polyester dress and fake fur jacket are required to operate.  Don’t ask why, they just are.


009_40 B.C. (Before Cordless)

You were just so tethered back then.  Stuck in your little phone nook, where everyone in the house could hear your private conversation – we take for granted our freedom to escape with our phones…… of course, this means we are now symbolically tethered – never truly free or away from our phones.  But that’s a deep thought for another day.



A fine illustration of the aforementioned problem with the short receiver cord.  “Hey, Cheryl.  It’s Bob.  He wants to talk to you.”  Massive discomfort, scrunching, and awkward positioning ensues.  “Hi, Bob.  I can’t talk long, my neck is already hurting.”



Before there was computer dating, there was this.  Also, anyone recall the party line?  That certainly made for interesting situations – a shared line meant that someone had to get off the line to enable a new call.  It was insanely frustrating but provided great gossip fodder.


098_vintage gams

That’s funny, I don’t see a cord anywhere.



Of course, standard land-line telephones aren’t completely extinct yet.  I’m happy to report that they’re still hanging on, albeit by a very thin thread cord.  Cheers.



Would you like to support Flashbak?

Please consider making a donation to our site. We don't want to rely on ads to bring you the best of visual culture. You can also support us by signing up to our Mailing List. And you can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. For great art and culture delivered to your door, visit our shop.