Bonus Edition introduction by George Kupczak of the AT&T Archives and History Center
A war film with a public service message — and one that was disseminated to the general public via movie theaters throughout the country. In 1943, while people went about their daily lives, they were, individually and as a community, asked to be aware and make decisions depending on how they could help the war effort. This film shows where those decisions could be made regarding use of the telephone.
More than anything, this film can be taken as a motion dataset — it uses animated bar charts and moving graphic diagrams with data to propagate the following messages:
Think before you call
Phone usage ballooned during WWII. In Washington D.C. alone, calls were up 200% between 1941 and 1942. This, combined with the fact that the phone company was using its manufacturing efforts to make war telephones and other communication equipment, meant that existing circuits were pushed to the limit. It was vital to get the message out to keep circuits clear for emergencies.
Copper, the backbone of telephone communication at this time, was allocated to wartime uses, especially as the international lines of copper mining and refining were cut off by the war. Recycling of existing copper was key — and with Bell Labs at the time coming up with synthetic substitutes for some materials whose supply chain was also jeopardized, like rubber — there was still no substitute for copper.
No new phones
During WWII, you couldn't get a new phone line installed in your house unless it was deemed vital to the war effort (See also The Case of the Missing Telephone). So it created new communities around actual party lines — groups of neighbors who shared just one party line telephone. It was part of what drew people closer together during wartime — they had to work out just the small detail of how to share a telephone. It was a few years even after the end of the war until enough new circuits and telephone infrastructure was built to support individual phone lines for every household.
One of the key diagrams that runs throughout the film is the number of telephones in the US. Starting in 1938, there were approximately 20 million. Over 70 years later — the number of landlines (specifically) in the U.S. today is around 260 million. And that doesn't even include cell phones, which number more than 200 million.
Footage courtesy of AT&T Archives and History Center, Warren, NJ