Hotel Pennsylvania

Hotel Pennsylvania

On alphanumeric telephone numbers:

In the United States … phone-numbers followed the 2L-5N (two letters, five numbers) rule. This meant that the first two letters of the exchange-name stood for numbers. Notable exceptions to this rule were cities of New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Chicago, which followed the British example of 3L-4N. This brought up exchange-names like ‘PENnsylvania’, ‘TREmont’ and ‘ELDorado’. Since the rest of the country did 2L-5N, this could create some understandable confusion to people who weren’t from the US. East Coast. Eventually, these cities conformed with the rest of the nation…

Glenn Miller fans will appreciate this tidbit:

PENnsylvania-5000, it was changed to PEnnsylvania-65000 when New York switched to the 2L-5N format. This number remains the oldest, continuously-used phone-number in New York City. Issued in 1919, it has belonged to the Hotel Pennsylvania in central Manhattan for the past 90 years! Dialling that number today (736-5000) still gets you the Hotel Pennsylvania, just as it did 60-odd years ago when Glenn Miller wrote his song! It’s usually spoken or written as ‘Pennsylvania six, five thousand’, because ‘Pennsylvania sixty-five thousand’ sounds a bit silly, doesn’t it?

Green. The color of musty shag carpet. Unflappable and heavy, yet its cord wangly, betraying just a bit of vulnerability, its rubber-crusted wires hanging, gruntled and unkempt. This, the 1970s family telephone. Relegated to the kitchen wall as a rule, yet the receiver itself, rarely there. Always in hand in a six-person household. Just like the sing-song of our first phone number will never leave me, I’ll never forget that phone.