Imagine being able to dial to the past. Just dial a number and listen to how it was back in the day. Which era would you call?
From the 4th of May until the 20the of May 2018 this becomes reality. In the stadsgehoorzaal (City concert hall) you can place a call to Leiden during world war 2 at the exhibition “over oorlog gesproken” (talk about war).
Multimedia artist Pim van der Heiden spoke with dozens of Leideners and made recordings of them, telling about their experiences during world war 2. Historian and writer Alphons Siebelt made the texts on the boards accompanying the phone displays.
I was in the fortunate circumstances to be able to contribute to this exhibition.
At the bottom of this article you can find the exact opening hours and location. The exhibition is open from 4 may to 20 may.
Leiden during world war 2.
Of course Leiden is more than just the backdrop for the book “Soldier of Orange”. Already in the May days of 1940, when German planes on their way to the Hague, flew over the city and parachutist even landen in the canals around the city, the tides of war came to our city.
Because Leiden was a garisson city, a large German presence during the occupation was inevitable.
The proximity of the North sea coast, Valkenburg airfield, the presence of important railway infrastructur and the transit of V2 rockets led to bombings and aerial combat over the city aerea. Traces of which can be seen in the next picture: bomb craters, trenches, destroyed houses.
Among the poignant low points are the bombing of the haverzak quarter and the deportation of the jewish orphans.
Last accounts of the war
Naturally these events did not only leave their marks on the city itself, but also on the inhabitants themselves. Pim van der Heiden had several denizens of Leiden tell their stories and made recordings of them. Personal stories, big and small sufferings, eye witness accounts, told by the last generation that is able to tell about it, because the end of the war is 73 years ago.
16 bakelite wall telephones
And how do you make these accounts accessable? The plan was to have old wall telephones play these stories, after dialling a story with the rotary dail. Finding 16 of the same bakelite telephones proved to be not very simple, which led to Pim contacting me. Ahappy coincidence, as there are not many Dutch collector’s web sites and there is only one from Leiden.
Another happy coincidence is that I had 16 bakelite telephone of the same type and it was exactly the model Pim had in mind.
Why this telephone?
Pim really wanted a telephone made entirely from bakelite, as this would fit very well with the 1940s. Even though this model, the Ericsson type 1951, is strictly speaking not from the 1940s, it does have its roots in the decades before 1951. The design of the housing is from 1947 and is based on an older type from 1931.
Also availability is an important factor, of course. Finding 16 of the same rotary dial phones from the late 30s, early 40s is very hard.
About the Ericsson type 1951
The Ericsson type 1951 was specially designed for Dutch PTT by Ericsson Holland in Rijen. The exterior is exactly the same as an Ericsson design from 1947.
The type 1951 was produced from 1951 until the early 1970s. Click here to read more about this model.
Normally I only restore one or 2 telephones at the same time. Certainly not 16 and most certainly 2 to 3 weeks. In 2 big batches I refurbished these telephones and, where needed, made repairs. Normally a telephone would get a more thourough treatment.
This was quite a special occasion, as I had not had 8 telephones at the same time in the sink before.
It was not practical to do a thourough restoration, as there was not enough time. I chose to clean and polish the outside as best as I could, and refurbish the electrical parts and dial in the usual manner. The inside and back were not as nicely done as normal. I my article on restoring this type you can read how I normally restore a phone like this.
I used curly handset cords from the T65. These look, after mounting, exactly like the originals. The originals are scarce, but those from the T65 I had plenty. Please mind that these cords will get plenty of use, in a public space, so there is a high risk of damage, so availability of spares is a real concern.
I used as many original old number cards as I could. Unfortunately I did not have an old one for every telephone, so I had to make some. Many of them I stamped with an old number stamp. Normally I would us, when there is no old number card available, a newly made one printed with the makers logo and printed in a type writer fond the type of the specific telephone. In this case I deemed this not appropriate, with regards to the intended use of the phones.
Working on these phone also gave me an idea the chance of a telephone, freshly from the barn, actually still working.
Of the 16 telephones 3 turned out to have a worn, non-functional, handset cord. 3 had a broken dial, of which 2 had a broken dial spring, 2 phones had a broken induction coil, one a broken ringer and finally one had a loose wire which had to be soldered in place. 2 phones had a combination of defects, so 8 of the 16 phones (50%) needed a repair. I did not take into account bad transmitters and receivers.
Inside each telephone is a raspberry pi mini computer, that listens to the rotary dial and plays a recording corresponding to the number that was dialled.
As you can see most of the old hardware has been removed to make room for the raspberry pi.
Each telephone has its own raspberry pi and hold it’s own recordings.
The exhibition is held the Catharina foyer in the city concert hall (stadsgehoorzaal) in Leiden, from May 4th until May 20th. Admission is free.
Go and check it out, touch one of these old phones again and especially listen to those stories. Please mind the are all in Dutch.
Wednesday until Friday from 12:00 to 18:00
Saturdays and Sundays from 13:00 to 18:00
2311 CS Leiden