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Alan David and his Audichron Collection

By Randy Rundle

As you travel thru Kansas and meet people, you learn about some pretty interesting hobbies and collections. Alan David of Elmdale, Kansas, has one such unique collection. Alan collects and restores antique Audichrons. Most people do not even know what an Audichron is. Alan David certainly knows one when he sees one, and has gone out of his way to preserve a little bit of telephone history.

“An audichron is like and industrial sized telephone answering machine that provides the caller with the correct time and temperature along with a commercial advertising message usually from the sponsor of the machine. The audichron machines have been around a lot longer than most people realize,” David says.

audichron

An Audichron is a machine provides telephone callers with the correct time and temperature along with a short advertising message. The Audichron Company was started in 1934 as a way for John Franklin, an Atlanta, GA, beverage owner to advertise his Tick Toc Ginger Ale. Prior to 1934 John Franklin had used billboards along the highways in the south to advertise his ginger ale. All of his billboards had working clocks to tie in the name of his ale with the outdoor advertising.

Tulsa audichronThen in 1934 the Western Electric Company developed a technology that allowed a recorded message to be attached to a drum in a loop fashion so the message could be played over and over through an amplifier. Franklin learned of the new technology and modified it to play an advertising message along with a time of day message over a telephone. When the local number was dialed, the caller received the correct time and a short advertising message for his ginger ale.

The concept proved so popular that Franklin began building extra machines and leasing them to local merchants so they could promote their own advertising message and time of day service. Eventually that led, to the establishment of the Audichron Company.

Barbe
You can watch a 1982 live interview
with Jane on YouTube.

Then in 1963 Jane Barbe was hired as a professional announcer for the company. Jane would remain with the company for the next 40 years, until her retirement in 2003. Jane’s voice was unique in that it had no regional accent and it was very clear and easy to understand. Those traits kept her in high demand during her career.

Besides working for the Audichron Company Jane did recordings for most of the telephone companies, and the Federal Government. If you made a long distance call and forgot to dial a one or a zero, chances are it was Jane's voice that was used to remind you to “please dial a one or a zero then the number…”

If you called “information” and asked for a number to be looked up, chances are it was Jane who would come on the line and provide you with the number. If you called the atomic clock in Bolder, CO, to get the exact time of day, it was Jane's voice that gave it to you.

In addition most of the chain motels during those years also used Jane to record wakeup call messages. Jane who would greet you first thing in the morning with the correct time and a reminder that “a continental breakfast is now being served in the dinning room.”

It is said that Jane spoke to 20 million people a day throughout her 40-year career. At the Audichron Company, she made what were called master tapes that could be transferred onto the new machines. To record a master tape, Jane had to announce each segment of time, for example “the time is one fifty two PM…. the time is one fifty three PM" for every minute of the 24 hours, making sure the pause between the words was exactly the same for every time.

She also did the same for the temperature starting at 20 degrees below all the way up to 110 degrees. In addition, she recorded master tapes for remote locations like the desert in California and the cities in Alaska, were the temperatures were more extreme.

She also kept busy recording all of the advertising messages for clients. Some machines had up to six different messages that rotated throughout the 24-hour period. Often the messages were changed weekly.

As part of the Bell Telephone System breakup in the 1980’s, telephone companies were no longer able to lease or sublease devices like the Audichron. As a result, many of the machines were sent back to the company where they were scrapped. Others were abounded on site and ignored.

In 1989, the Audichron Company was purchased by the ETC Corporation, which has revived the concept.

Birmingham audichron
The Birmingham, AL, Audichron installation was one of the first in the country. Note the 10 candlestick phones on teh table used for listening to the machine.

” As part of the Bell Telephone System breakup in the 1980’s, telephone companies were no longer allowed to lease or sublease devices like the Audichron. As a result, many of the machines were sent back to the company where they were scrapped. Others were abounded on site and ignored,” David says. Eventually, the Audichron Company was purchased by the ETC Corporation, which has revived the concept and it is now more popular than ever…

“My interest lies," David notes, "in the original mechanical machines built during the 1940’s and 1950’s. I have restored quite a few of these machines to like new working condition making a lot of the missing parts myself, that are no longer available. One of my oldest machines is now a working display at the Seattle Washington Museum of Communication. My most recent machine restoration is scheduled to become part of a working display at a history museum in Lincoln Nebraska.”

Alan went on to say, ”I enjoy making my collection available to museums so visitors can look at the machines and see how they actually work. I have just recently compiled a CD containing the history of the Audichron Company and their machines, along with my collection of pictures, showing the early machines.”

(To order a CD you can e-mail Allan at 1rattlesnake@kans.com for details.)

In case you are wondering, here are the 26 locations in Kansas with local Time and Temperature services…
Hutchinson
Iola
Wichita
Newton (english)
Newton (spanish)
Eureka
Liberal
Topeka
Ottawa
Larned
Scott City
Colby
Oakley
Pittsburg
Arkansas City
Clay Center
Coffeyville
Leavenworth
Ulysses
Hugoton
Lakin
Independence
Syracuse
Holton
Salina
Fort Riley
Wellington

Today, 26 cities in Kansas provide a local number to get the current time and temperature. The modern machines are much more high tech today, with the time and temperature both being provided via GPS satellite.

In Clay Center, a town of 4,500 people, more than 700 people a day dial 632-5681 to get the current time and temperature. Clay Center received their first machine in 1972, sponsored locally by the Peoples National Bank.

The same bank location, now known as United Bank and Trust, continues to sponsor the local service. The number has been called more than 8,820,000 times since the service began in 1972.

A time and temperature service machine located at a bank in Salina has received 3,000 calls a day on average. There are also a Spanish, speaking machine in Newton sponsored by the local hospital. And, finally, there is a machine at a hospital in Ft. Worth, TX, that averages just over 900,000 calls a day.

So each time you dial up a time and temperature service keep in mind that you are dialing up a little bit of history. Jane would be Proud.

Thanks to Randall Hinton and Alan David for their help in completing this article.

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Last Updated April 6, 2009-
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