Long before there was a World Wide Web for getting
the latest weather report and the local time for setting your clocks, there were
phone numbers set up with recordings of the sought after information. As a kid in
the 1960s and 1970s, I called the weather forecast number, WE6-1212 ("WE" for weather†),
multiple times daily during the winter in hopes of hearing a forecast for snow,
and during the summer in hopes of favorable conditions for flying model airplanes
and launching Estes rockets. An obsession with time and watches and clocks had me
calling the time phone number, TI4-1212 ("TI" for time†), so often that my
father used to refer to the lady on the recording that updated the time every 10
seconds as my girlfriend.
Those two phone numbers, even though it has been many decades since I've called
them, will be forever emblazoned on my mind. I lived just south of Annapolis, Maryland,
and it never occurred to me that the phone numbers might be something else for people
in other parts of the country. It turns out that the same two numbers were reserved
in many cities for the same purpose; that way, you never needed to dial an area
code to get the information.
A search for information on WE6-1212 and TI4-1212 turned up a story from The Baltimore Sun reporting that both the weather and time
numbers were being discontinued as of June 1, 2011. The Verizon representative interviewed
stated, reasonably, that there was no good reason to continue the service. Of course
everything was part of Bell Telephone when I availed myself of the service. Alas,
the services have gone the way of the buggy whip and the hand crank starter for
automobiles. Can I really be getting so old?
Still, for some inexplicable reason, like tonight, the two phone numbers come
to mind. Does anyone else out there remember this?
† This holds over from the early days when city names or parts of
them were used as the prefix for a phone number, like COlumbia-1-234, which was
referred to as the 2L5N (2 letters and 5 numbers) system.
watching an old episode of the Dick Van Dyke television show the other night, Rob Petrie's home
(also here), was mentioned. You
can watch it - at least until the copyright owner demands removal - on
below). The link I use starts at the point where the prank phone call begins,
but the entire show is available. When researching the 2L5N format (see here
1 and here
for this article, I discovered everyone refers to the Ricardos' phone number of
Murray-Hill 5-9975 (MH5-9975), from
I Love Lucy. Now,
there is a second example.
Update 6/20/2016: This note was received from Steve G.:
In Kanas City dialing ANY three numbers followed by 1212 would get you the time
and temperature, precede by a short commercial usually for a bank. The service was
free. I moved to the Chicago area in 1997 and called the time and temp number many
times and then got a huge phone bill. They were charging me about 50 cents for each
call. I called the phone company and explained that I was new to the area and that
it had always been free before. The nice operator took mercy on me and erased the
bill. --- Steve G.
The voice of Jane Barbe when dialing TI4-1212 for the local
Posted July 20, 2022 (updated from original post on
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