Just thinking offhand that old rotary phone could still be rented from
the telephone company. Your bill would show this if it were so.
It's been a long time since phone company customers could use their own
phone and I believe options were to give the phone back to the company,
buy it or continue rental.
I had heard of someone continuing rental.
For several years following the 1984 breakup of The Bell System, I
occasionally encountered a residential customer that continued to rent their
Then, some years ago, AT&T stopped billing for the relatively few residential,
single-line phones upon which they were still collecting rent. They simply
"walked away" from them - "abandoned (them) in place".
As far as I know the phone companies universally abandoned all rental phones
A wall phone of your vintage probably has a modular connector. This makes
things easy if it does. Hold the bottom of the phone and slide it up. If
it slide up about an eighth of an inch the phone should pull straight off
the wall. there will be a standard modular jack on the plate you can plug
in the regular phone into.
If the phone is the older type, without the modular jack, the cover of the
phone comes off (Some sort of catch on the bottom of the phone.) and you
will see where a cable with 4 wires has two of these wires attached to screw
terminals. (Usually a red and a green, the other two are not used.) There
will be a mounting screw or two near the bottom that you remove and then the
phone will slide up and off.
To install a modular jack to the old wire, hook the red and the green wire
from your cable to the red and green wire in the jack and the new phone
should work. If you have a dial tone but pushing the buttons on the phone
does not make tones, reverse the connections and that should fix the
About the time I had mastered getting the toothpaste back in the tube, then
IIRC, the OP said the house was built in 1972. If the phone is of that
vintage, it will probably NOT be "modular".
If the coiled handset cord is "modular" (can be disconnected with the little,
smaller-sized modular connectors), the phone is probably also modular. If the
handset cord is "hard-wired" (no modular connectors), the phone is also
Given the phone has been mounted for so long, if it is modular, a good
"thump", in an upwards direction, against the bottom of the set may be
required to dislodge it. If it ISN'T modular, this modest effort shouldn't
hurt anything: The phone won't budge.
If the phone is hard-wired, there will be a little, recessed "tab" on the
bottom of the set. Using a flat-bladed screw driver, push this tap upwards
slightly while, at the same time, pulling the bottom of the OUTER SHELL away
from the wall.
If that occurs (polarity is reversed) they are using yet another antique:
polarity-dependent Touchtone<r> phones haven't been made in decades.
It depends on what it looks like. In 1972, it was still illegal for
anyone to connect personal equipment to phone company lines. Ma Bell
would have installed a wall mount phone with a plastic case. If it has
a wood case, it's an antique.
For email, replace firstnamelastinitial
with my first name and last initial.
OP never said it had a wooden case. He said it was mounted on a board
fastened to the wall. Not uncommon in older houses with plaster walls,
but a little unusual in a 1972 house, unless installer couldn't find a
stud, or wall was damaged when somebody knocked it off wall or
something. Maybe the board is all that was left of a
chalkboard/corkboard that the builder put the kitchen prewire in. (Until
WWII, they used to put a niche in hallway wall for the phone, since each
house only got one.)
Note to OP- if you can post some digital pics somewhere, and put a link
back here, we can tell you exactly what you have and how it is mounted.
Closeup front and side views, please.
Unless it isn't just a wall-mounted, plastic-cased, rotary _dial_ phone,
it's not worth fooling with the pictures over.
It's what was in kitchen and basement here in '78 installation although
they did use the AT&T mounting plate although it was mounted on a
plywood backing in the basement. The folks were still paying the rental
fee on those same old, worn-out phones (never even turned them in for
new ones that actually would still dial) when we moved back in '99...
I doubt it.
If the dial is metal, the set probably has components dating back to the
1950s. If the dial is plastic, it was probably mostly new in 1972.
If the phone has a metal dial and is in "good" condition (including the
handset cord) it is probably collectible and worth selling.
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