Today we all use our watches or cell phones to give us the time, but in the past many people used to regularly call the time/weather/temperature phone line. The messages were sponsored by local churches or businesses, and included ads for their products and services. As early as the 1920s, the Coke bottler in Nashville, TN, had its own time-telling phone line, and it was amazingly popular!
By 1943, Nashville had a bit more than 167,000 residents. Of those, 30,000-40,000 called the Coke line each day! It had its own listing in the phone book (as "Coca-Cola Time Service”), and word obviously got around town!
I found an article about the time service in one of our employee magazines. The article (from 1943) focused on the modern technology used on the phone line. (Not so modern today, but think of the 1930s and 40s!) Here’s a bit from the article in The Red Barrel:
“Time service" (enclosed in a metal box) is on the second floor of the building. It is, of course, entirely automatic and contains two rolls of sound-film. One roll is changed each month and it “gives out,” in a very pleasant feminine voice, the advertising message of the month and the hour.
This roll is timed perfectly so that it changes each hour. The second roll gives the minutes of the hour and changes each minute. Both rolls of film operate continuously, even though no one might be calling in at any given time.
When you dial the number you are connected to the machine, but you may wait a second or two as each caller gets the entire message, starting at the beginning.
Here it is:
"Give to the War Fund. 'Coca-Cola' time is now THREE ... (and while you'd never know anything was happening, the machine switches over to the second roll and you hear) SIXTEEN.”
Though it may seem quaint today, this is a great example of a way Coke reached out to people and gave them something really useful for their everyday lives.
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