By Tim “Shoe” Sullivan
So Don “Ducko” Ceplina, a former neighbor, came to the front door of my house. Ducko was a terrific high school track star back in the day and is deservedly in the P.J. Jacobs’ Hall of Fame. He brought an interesting item with him and said I could share it with you.
The item is a Stevens Point telephone directory from May of 1941.
How long ago was that? Well, the phone book came out about six months before the start of World War Two.
What a gold mine.
There were no cell phones back then. People in their 20’s today have no idea of how this phone thing worked. So let me tell you. You would pick up your phone and a female voice would say, “Number please”.
You would then say a number. When I was a kid, our number was 1064-J. You would tell the telephone operator the number you wished to call, and the gal would say, “Just a minute, I’ll connect you”. Then the person you were calling would answer their phone from the other end.
Actress Lily Tomlin made a career out of imitating “Ernestine”, a telephone operator. Ernestine would answer the caller and say, “One ringy dingy…two ringy dingy”.
In case you didn’t know it, Emma M. Nutt of New York became the world’s first female telephone operator in September 1878. Emma was hired by Alexander Graham Bell.
Ducko’s 1941 Point phone book came out a little before my time, but it is a treasure. Just looking at the names, addresses, and phone numbers is a lot of fun. I see that my first family doctor, Dr. Stanley Miller, could be reached at 280-R.
If you wanted to call Pagel Milling Company (a block from my house), you called “67” and they put you through to the mill on Arlington Place. If you said “737-W”, someone would answer at Quality Beverage on Union Street.
The advertisements in the book were plentiful. Number 1144 would get you Fisher’s Dairy and their “perfectly pasteurized products”. You could call 446 and somebody would answer at the Black And White Super Market across from St. Peter’s Church, and they had nine Stevens Point clerks to serve you. They also had free delivery.
If you wanted to reach Taylor’s Drug Store, which also delivered, you could call 1296. Tell the operator that you wanted 380 and she hooked you up to Normington’s Dry Cleaning.
Mrs. Joe Schmauss, my second -grade teacher, answered 204-W. The number 887 connected the caller with Ed Razner’s Clothiers on Main St., and 470 would get you Rudnick’s Quality Market at 304 Main.
The Belmont Hotel on Strongs Ave. let you know that they had a bar and dancing, and if you called 1305, Andrew Fox Blacksmith could get you in for some horse-shoeing. Building your home? Try 87 for Vetter (Better from Vetter) Lumber and Millwork. Bake-Rite let you know that they had good bread. Point Bakery (call 861) was operated by Ted Zdrojewski and delivered to any part of the city. First National Bank said its capital and surplus was $271,000, the largest in Portage County. Nigbor Fur Coat Company billed itself as “Wisconsin’s Largest Furriers”.
The number 87 also got you Vetter’s Manufacturing at 313 Wood St., and you told the operator 312 if you wanted to reach Weber Fly Company on Ellis. Westenberger’s Drug Store on Main St. was 27, and if you needed a cab to get you there, you called 218 for Hub Taxi at 206 Depot Street.
For entertainment in 1941 Stevens Point, you could find out what movie was playing at the Fox Theatre at 444 Main by calling 1020, or you could check out the Lyric Theatre at 454 Main (1638).
My buddy Ma Pesch’s dad Melvin, at 602 Shaurette, had a 1267-W number, and Harry Wenzel down the block at 618 Shaurette answered to 1267-J.
Goodman’s Jewelers (173) informed you that it pays to buy quality jewelry, and Peickert’s Market at 451 Main could be contacted at “68”. Peickert’s also had free and prompt delivery for its quality meats. You could call “1515” to reach C.M.Lipman Company for new and used furniture, and number 148 would get you in contact with Meyer Drug Company “on the square”. Perry’s Bicycle Shop was open every day. and the Rock Garden Inn could be reached at 1690. You could pick up a Speed Queen in 1941 at Mirman’s on Main Street, and Schnabel’s Better Clothing was in the Whiting Hotel.
Man, talk about a lot of Point history. It doesn’t appear that my family even had a phone number in 1941. But Harris Cigel across the street at 441 Water had one (1577-J), and so did Joe Schwebach down on the corner (593-J). If you wanted a bacon sandwich, you could call the Pal Restaurant on Main St. at 114-J.
I could look at this stuff all day long, Stevens Point history at its finest. By the way, Felix Ceplina’s phone number was 1394-W. I’m not sure when the operators were phased out and you simply dialed the number, but all good things must end. However, if you simply dialed the number yourself and you got in touch with the Black And White Super Market, I’m sure they would tell you if their nine clerks were working that day.
So let’s thank Ducko Ceplina for sharing this great treasure of a local phone book. NOTE: If anyone wants to know what a Stevens Point phone number was back in 1941, give Shoe a call at 715-344-2923. All it takes is a ringy dingy. Or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: City Times reader Jim Sachs, a column fan, is at Odessa Ct. in Point. Jim said he has to move his extensive book collection. His books are mostly sports and he’ll donate them to whoever wants the books. Jim can be reached at 715-341-0343. That’s awful nice of him.
You can even call him on your cellphone.
By the way, anyone know if the Point Bakery still delivers? Always loved their doughnuts.