Does the phone number 303-222-8811 sound familiar? Longtime residents of the Denver area may recognize it as one of the city’s old-time and temperature numbers.
Disconnected since the 1990s, the line recently came back to life thanks to John Lochridge, a Texas telecom engineer on a mission to resurrect the nation’s time and temperature lines.
“It’s something from childhood,” Lochridge said. “For many people, the time and temperature was the first number they learned to call.”
Lochridge has reinstated hundreds of lines around the country over the past several years. He begins with research, he said. He sometimes finds former time and temp lines listed in old phone books and road atlases, but others come from community Facebook groups.
Then, it’s a matter of working with phone companies to obtain the rights to the phone number itself, many of which have been disconnected for years. Finally, Lochridge uses his engineering and computer programming skills to connect the line to an automated recording that reads the time and local temperature. Some lines also read a weather forecast from the National Weather Service.
He said a woman in New Mexico recently dialed one of his newly acquired lines, simply for the sake of punching in the old numbers she dialed so often as a kid. Lochridge hadn’t yet attached the line to a recording, so it rang to his personal phone.
“I told her what I was doing, and she said she didn’t know why, but it just made her so happy,” Lochridge said.
Time and temperature lines date back to the early days of telephony, Lochridge said.
People used to call operators to get the right time to set their clocks, which bothered phone companies because the calls were taking up operator time but didn’t generate revenue. For a time, phone companies hired employees specifically to stare at a clock and read the time out loud all day.
Eventually, companies developed automated lines that connected to a mechanical device that announced the time and temperature off of a series of electromagnetic drums. As the 20th century progressed, time and temperature numbers proliferated. Many were operated by phone companies, but others were run by local banks.
“Before the internet, and especially before television, it was the best way to accurately set your clocks,” Lochridge said.
In Denver, 303-222-8811 belonged to the Mountain States Telephone and Telegraph Company, which became US West in 1991. The line was unceremoniously decommissioned sometime in the 1990s, and US West became Qwest, now CenturyLink.
The line joins another old Denver time and temp line that Lochridge restored: 303-844-4444. The Denver Post also operates the Weatherline Forecast Service at 303-337-2500.
“I hope it brings joy to people’s lives,” Lochridge said. “We try to offer hope, too. On Sunday I include a Scripture reading in the calls. I want to offer more than memories. A little hope for the future, too.”
This isn't our first article on Lochridge -- we also interviewed him for our 2019 story on the persistence of recorded phone services in the digital age.
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