Those Department Store "Bells"

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jamcool
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Those Department Store "Bells"

Postby jamcool » 12 Jun 2006 15:28

Remember those "bell" sounds you heard over the speakers at dept. stores in the old days? What were they for?

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Groceteria
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Re: Those Department Store "Bells"

Postby Groceteria » 12 Jun 2006 15:54

jamcool wrote:Remember those "bell" sounds you heard over the speakers at dept. stores in the old days? What were they for?


I think they were to page departments by number. For example, department 213 would be ding-ding pause ding pause ding-ding-ding.

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Dave
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Re: Those Department Store "Bells"

Postby Dave » 12 Jun 2006 16:39

Groceteria wrote:
jamcool wrote:Remember those "bell" sounds you heard over the speakers at dept. stores in the old days? What were they for?


I think they were to page departments by number. For example, department 213 would be ding-ding pause ding pause ding-ding-ding.
You are exactly right.

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Postby Mr. Shopper » 13 Jun 2006 18:00

I wouldn't want to be in charge of the ding dings!!! By the end of the day you were ding dinged out. I do have a memory at 47 of this. It's shown on a xmas ep of "Hazel" from '61. :lol: :lol:

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Postby hushpuppy212 » 24 Feb 2007 11:21

In 1977, when I first went to work at Liberty House in downtown San Francisco, I 'floated' throughout the store, working one day a week on the switchboard. Groceteria is correct about the bells being used to page executives. The store manager was '1', low-level managers had 'longer' numbers. Sitting on the desk, next to the phones, was a console with rows and rows of numbered holes in it. You took your 'stick' and plugged it into the numbered hole which corresponded to the person you wished to page and the system did the 'ding ding' all by itself. When the person answered, you simply removed the stick and the dinging stopped.

Some stores, like The Emporium Stonestown, used call boxes, strategically placed throughout the store, to call managers. They had the advantage of being able to flash multiple numbers in sequence (instead of waiting for the first person to respond, and then paging the second one, and so on) as we did with the bells. The disadvantage was that the managers had to look at the boxes to see if they were being paged, whereas with the bells, they could be in stock rooms, offices, or just about anywhere, and still hear their page.

I hadn't heard the bells for years and years until I was in Macy's Providence Place (nee Filene's) just last month. They still use them.

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Postby justin karimzad » 25 Feb 2007 04:42

Meier & Frank in Oregon used callboxes, such as at their Salem store from 1955.
I'm surprised that Emporium used to use callboxes. They were one of the last department stores I remember that still used the chimes. The former Emporium (now Macy's Womens & Home) in Walnut Creek, CA still uses them. The Macy's (former Liberty House and Emporium) in Hayward, CA used them just after the switchover to Macy's, but have since stopped using them. For some reason, the Macy's in Hillsdale Shopping Center in San Mateo, CA still has and has always had these chimes, even though this has always been a Macy's (the first suburban Macy's, from 1954). They did change the tone of the chime when they remodeled in 2000, though.

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buckhead
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Postby buckhead » 25 Feb 2007 21:18

The bells were okay...I always enjoyed hearing them as a child. But what WAS irritating were the stores that instead used electronic type tones over the public address/speaker system; sometimes it was way too loud. If the speakers were in bad shape or the volume was set too high it sounded all fuzzy and distorted, like on a busted speaker.

The other thing that fascinated me in many of these stores was the pneumatic tube system. I later worked in a catalog showroom (the Athens, Georgia store of Key Catalogue out of Augusta, Georgia) where we had a forced air tube system, which as one would suspect was sometimes a vehicle for pranks. Still the combination of the bells and those brass tube pneumatic systems in old-line department stores was always of interest.

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Postby valleyankee » 01 Mar 2007 10:56

I loved the old "bell system". It was so iconic to what a department store was. In the 80's I worked as a manager at Macy*s in New Haven, Connecticut and my bell number was 2-2. That's ding, ding - pause - ding, ding. I was given the 2-2 bells because they thought it would be easier for me to hear. Generally you really become use to always listening to the bells because when yours went off either it was an emergency or the store manager was looking for you.

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Postby lvkewlkid » 01 Mar 2007 21:33

I was at Mervyns today at the Galleria and they had bells.

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Postby hushpuppy212 » 11 Mar 2007 03:02

Justin,
I should've mentioned that the Emporium Stonestown only used the call boxes from the store opening in 1952 until the remodel in 1969, when they were removed. From then on, they used the bells. Sorry for the confusion.
Paul

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Re: Those Department Store "Bells"

Postby bigbubby » 13 Feb 2008 00:46

When you hear a bell in a department store today, it is to page whatever manager is on duty.
Usually it means "this customer is threatening to kick my butt if I don't lower the price of this item, but I have to get a manager's permission first or else I will be fired". ;)


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