Recalling how telephones became key part of daily life

Congregational Church Ligthcliffe
Congregational Church Ligthcliffe

It is now 30 years since the first telephone call was transmitted over what we call a mobile phone and the Americans call a cell phone.

It was Michael Harrison who contacted his father to wish him a happy new year on old year’s night from his home in Surrey to Parliament Square in London. His father was then the chairman of a company called Vodaphone, now one of the big four operators in the UK and beyond. Today it is estimated throughout the world there are 6 billion mobile phone subscriptions in use now.

It was 30 years ago when I bought a telephone directory dated August 1946 - this is an A4 publication which is about one inch thick. It not only covers all Bradford and the Leeds areas but it also includes Halifax (Brighouse, Hipperholme), Huddersfield, Ilkley, Keighley, Shipley, Skipton, Batley, Dewsbury, Morley, Pontefract and Wakefield. Yes all in one book.

Now it has been written about many times that Brighouse 1 telephone number was Charles Woods. According to my directory in 1946 if you wanted to ring the Brighouse Cricket Club and Bowling Club at the old ground on Clifton Road the number was Brighouse 395. If you want to ring the new club premises on Bradford Road the number is 715395. As more telephones have come into use additional numbers have had to be added. Just the same as street numbers as more and more houses have been built in the same street.

I am sure like me many readers will recall the days when you had a telephone for the first time and wanted to try it out only to find the next door neighbour was talking. ‘It’s them again...they’re always on..’ you would be thinking to yourself. Yes it was one of those party lines when you had to share the line with a neighbour.

I was once contacted about someone who lived in Leyburn Avenue in Hipperholme back in 1946. For some reason they wanted to know who lived at a particular house and what the house number was. As a quick as a flash I told them the house number and ‘ Oh by the way do you want his phone number...’ which I promptly gave and do you want to know who you and your childhood friend were in your school year at Hipperholme Grammar School that year as well. The word gobsmacked comes to mind is how I would describe the callers reply. To be able to provide so much information in a fifteen minute phone call made the caller almost speechless.

Back in those days what with a party line and you can have any phone as long as it black which are the almost identical words Henry Ford said about his early motor cars. We have come a long way - ‘...how many telephones have you in your house...’ that is a question I ask the people who attend my reminiscence meeting on Tuesday mornings at Maurice Jagger Centre in Halifax. Everyone has one, some have two as well as a couple of mobile phones I am not alone when I say I have four telephones and two mobile phones at home.

This week’s photograph is Leeds Road Lightcliffe where it is dominated by the Congregational Church and its steeple. Hipperholme does have its own telephone exchange building on the right before you get to The Crescent. Growing up in Stoney Lane I remember the first telephone we had it was grey and was a Hipperholme number and started with a six.