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John Nichols

Society President, Treasurer and Public Officer

Just a short profile on me as I find it very difficult to talk about myself and, at the same time, make it interesting for the reader. Anyway - here goes..

I'm now 63 and I was born and raised in Sydney and have lived here all my life. I did all the normal things as a child, then got married to Jan in 1964 and we had 3 children. I joined the PMG Department in 1958 as a Technician-in-Training on exchange installation and stayed with the PMG (later Telecom and then Telstra) for 30 years before leaving to do my thing instead of their thing for the past 18 years. Unfortunately, all the technology I had learnt (Strowger, 2000, SE50, Linefinder, Crossbar, ARE11, etc.) has now become obsolete and has been scrapped.

I started collecting about 1980 when I was told of a deceased estate sale. I was interested in other items but noticed two 137 phone boxes, which I bought for $5 each. How and where do I get the missing parts? Answer - I advertised in the weekly Trading Post newspaper and was contacted by an ATCS member who invited me to a Society meeting at Strathfield Public School. I joined the Society at the following meeting and have served on the Committee in various positions over the years and now occupy the positions of President, Treasurer and Public Officer.

I have been very fortunate to come across a couple of deals over the years, which have influenced my collection. The first deal was from a deceased estate where I agreed to purchase all telephone related items in an area of a warehouse, sight unseen (no lights in the warehouse and packed to the roof with a variety of stuff). The price - all the cash I had in my pockets ($68). The catch was I had to take it all, good or bad and this related to two tons of broken and part 162 phones plus various other bits and pieces. The deal took three Saturday afternoons to cart away and dump at home. What a mess. My sons sorted it out and they received $90 for scrap brass. All the rest has been recycled back into telephone collecting in various ways.

The second deal happened by accident when I met another ATCS member who had been talking communication over a few months with an antique dealer who has some phones for sale. During these conversations the dealer decided he would sell all his telephone stock but the deal was too big and a partner was needed. As lady luck would have it I just happened to be "Johnny on the spot". I travelled interstate to visit the dealer to complete all negotiations on a "I have this and I have that" basis as we were not allowed to count the stock due to accesses difficulties. A total price was agreed, the cash paid and then the work began. Well, we were told there were 200 box phones but when we counted there were just on 400. Of course some were rubbish destined for the rubbish bin straight away. It took 4 hours to empty his house and load our cars, trailer and my Ford F100 (hence the story of the "Treasure Truck"). It took another day to sort it out and divide the loot. My F100 was totally full of phones and parts so my clothes had to fit behind the seat. Next problem was to store my purchases as home, but that is another story as wives have a habit of getting involved here - if you know what I mean.

I have gradually built up my collection through trading/buying phones and parts ranging from complete wrecks to restored items. I basically collect phones prior to and including the candlestick (prior 1930). I believe this adds more challenge for me and at the same time keeps the size of the collection under control (these phones are mostly wall mounted types).

I have found that being involved on the Committee and in the Society generally over the years has brought my wife and I in contact with a fantastic group of people, both in Australia and overseas. This has often led to great friendships in places you would not expect. Since we have both basically retired (from working) we like to travel worldwide (if possible) and drop into members to view their collections and see a face that has previously only been a name or a voice. I have always found that no matter what collection you see, there is always a phone there that you do not have. This, in turn, keeps up your interest in collecting.

I have picked up quite a number of phones from overseas and my wife and I try to travel every year visiting collector friends. I must say that it is a lot easier visiting antique, second hand and junk shops when your partner also collects things like dolls and toy sewing machines.

Even after over 20 years collecting, I am still able to pick up one or two phones or parts every year to add to my collection and I am grateful for this. The rest of the year is spent restoring and collecting the missing parts to complete new acquisitions. At least my wife is thankful I do not collect army vehicles or even railway steam engines!

Well, that was my life's short story and my hobby. I hope it was not too dull.

Written about 2002.

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