Throwback Thursday – Dialing MP

Montauk Directory published by the Montauk Chamber of Commerce | Montauk Library Archives


Montaukers of a certain age may recollect some of the people and places in this chamber directory. They might even remember using a two-letter telephone exchange prefix: MP for Montauk Point, for example.

The directory comes from a collection of printed materials and ephemera promoting Montauk restaurants, hotels, and the Montauk Chamber of Commerce from the 1950s to 1970s. Sally Nielsen donated it to the Montauk Library Archives.

It’s worth taking a close look at the establishments listed above. Note that there’s a Duryea’s Lake Montauk Dock as opposed to the longtime Duryea’s on Fort Pond Bay. In addition, Montauk used to have an Island Supper Club run by one Harry McLeod, public dancing at the Manor, “four fresh lakes with excellent bass fishing,” a businessmen’s association and a civic association, and a humbly self-described trailer camp. The Merry Mermaid – a green and white building with its namesake painted on one wall, if memory serves – was still around, and so was the Umbrella Stand (with no phone number), Sears Market, and Frank Brill’s Village 5 & 10.

The Umbrella Inn in 1928. | Al Holden Collection, Montauk Library Archives

From about the 1930s until the 1960s, telephone numbers started with the first two letters of the location: AM for Amagansett and EH for East Hampton, for example, which translated to 26(7) and 32(4) as prefix digits. Somewhere along the line the Montauk telephone prefix became 66(8) rather than 67(8), which correspond, respectively, to MO and MP.

In 1962, when the telephone company was getting serious about replacing prefix letters, which were connected to something meaningful, with seemingly random digits, an organization called the Anti-Digit Dialing League was born in San Francisco. The league argued that the switch was basically a form of dehumanization.

“These people are systematically trying to destroy the use of memory,” one of the organizers told Time magazine at the time. “They tell you to ‘write it down,’ not memorize it. Try writing a telephone number down in a dark booth while groping for a pencil, searching in an obsolete phone book and gasping for breath. “

Now, who remembers telephone booths and books?


  • User Avatar
    B M Reply

    In the 60’s, fresh out of High School, my mother worked for the phone company in East Hampton as a switchboard operator. At that time people could already direct-dial each other with rotary phones but many people still wanted operator assisted connections. A person could dial 0, the operator would pick up, and people would say for example “East Hampton 2” or “EA2” or “East Hampton Star”; any of which would get them connected and the phone would ring at The East Hampton Star newspaper office. The Star’s phone number is still 324-0002. They could also have dialed 3-2-4-0-0-0-2 but it was quicker to just dial a single zero and ask. My mother said people either were hesitant to trust the phones to dial correctly, didn’t know the phone numbers, or were just in the habit of speaking with a person.

    In the 70’s when push button phones became more common and operator assisted calls became less common, the switchboard on Pantigo Lane in EH was closed and the “Operator pool” moved to a regional office in Southampton. The Switchboard building is still there, on the north side of the road west of the Town hall. Now it’s Verizon.

  • User Avatar
    Pam Reply

    The previous comment sounds amazing. How wonderful it was that people still wanted operator assist even though direct dial was in place. Sadly an era gone bye.
    As for the brochure I loved all the numbers were letters and numbers but only 6 in total.

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