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  1. #1

    Default Detroit Police call boxes

    In a different galaxy, far away................no, wait. I'm actually talking the City of Detroit from around 1880 to 1980. One hundred years. In that century, the C of D Public Lighting Commission (PLC) installed over a thousand Gamewell police call boxes in needed areas. These boxes were the only connection a beat officer had to his precinct station. Each box had a separate number which identified the location. Beat officers had to call in and make a pull (pulling the trip handle to activate a tape that punched out the box number) once every hour. They were even given the precise quarter of hour that had to 'pull'; 1st quarter, ad nauseam.

    Up until the 1970's patrol cars also had to make an hourly pull. Although Detroit led the nation in two-way radio communication, even up until the '70s cars could not call back "in servce" with dispatcher via radio; they had to find a call box and telephone the dispatch via land lines. I always thought this was quite stupid in my own experiences, but frankly, some of the DPD leadership in the 60's and 70's were not all that sharp. I'm not gonna name names, although Superintendent Eugene Reuter was probably the dumbest SOB I ever came across in my days. Ray Girardin was okay as a Detroit Times reporter, but his insight into police work as Commissioner was sadly lacking.

    Anyway, eventually the call box became a dodo. The Public Lighting Commission (PLC) who maintained the system began systematic removal of the call boxes as enhanced radio communication made them obsolete. At one point they had hundreds of removed call boxes stacked up along a wall behind the Detroit Fire Academy at Warren & Lawton, and I suspect more that one police officer managed to acquire one for his memorbelia collection.

    I eventually acquired one, and have it here in my garage in Henderson, NV (suburban Las Vegas). I did Jury-rig it to hold a wireless phone so I can answer my land line in the garage. First, an early officer looking for where he stored his bottle, and then two shots of my call box here in Nevada. Enjoy!
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  2. #2

    Default

    I think you did a thread on this a while back, or one similar.

    Do you remember the split boxes along the Southfield Service Drive? Typical red firebox, but the (yellow) bottom half of the front door housed a public emergency call telephone.

  3. #3

    Default

    Although Detroit led the nation in two-way radio communication, even up until the '70s cars could not call back "in servce" with dispatcher via radio; they had to find a call box and telephone the dispatch via land lines. I always thought this was quite stupid in my own experiences,
    Early radio systems had a problem with being able to handle multiple conversations. 'Simplex' could only handle one transmitter. If another keyed up, the first could be interrupted. That could be a problem if Radio needed to put out a run. DFD central had similar issues and you can hear it in some of the recordings of major fires like the Briggs factory. Even later on once full duplex came into use, too many units trying to talk made a mess. During the Usher Oil fire (late 70s sometime), Central can be heard repeatedly telling everyone to stay off the air.

    I don't know if that was the basis for the DPD policy or not, but it makes sense to keep non essential traffic to am minimum.

  4. #4

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Meddle View Post
    I think you did a thread on this a while back, or one similar.

    Do you remember the split boxes along the Southfield Service Drive? Typical red firebox, but the (yellow) bottom half of the front door housed a public emergency call telephone.
    I remember them. They're long gone, too.

  5. #5

    Default

    Yeah, I've got one in storage in my garage.

  6. #6

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Meddle View Post
    Early radio systems had a problem with being able to handle multiple conversations. 'Simplex' could only handle one transmitter. If another keyed up, the first could be interrupted. That could be a problem if Radio needed to put out a run. DFD central had similar issues and you can hear it in some of the recordings of major fires like the Briggs factory. Even later on once full duplex came into use, too many units trying to talk made a mess. During the Usher Oil fire (late 70s sometime), Central can be heard repeatedly telling everyone to stay off the air.

    I don't know if that was the basis for the DPD policy or not, but it makes sense to keep non essential traffic to am minimum.
    Still called in and out of service in the '70's

  7. #7

    Default

    I was an Animal Control Officer (dogcatcher) with the Health Department from mid 70's to mid 80's, working out of the old dog pound on West Jefferson and 24th Street. We had keys to the police call boxes and had to make a "pull" every 45 minutes, either by callbox, radio, or land line.

    We shared a radio frequency with Wayne County Air Pollution Control, and heard their inspectors receiving complaint calls, mostly about Zug Island, the Herrud meats processing plant on Frederick, and a company called Wayne Soap. Ring any bells?

  8. #8

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by pjbear05 View Post
    We shared a radio frequency with Wayne County Air Pollution Control, and heard their inspectors receiving complaint calls, mostly about Zug Island, the Herrud meats processing plant on Frederick, and a company called Wayne Soap. Ring any bells?
    I called about a job ad once for 'machine repair'. Talked to them on the phone for a while, they told me the name of the place and address but not what type of machine or what they did. I drove to the address along Russell somewhere and as I began to detect the stench or a meat packing plant, I decided to keep on rolling.

    Wayne Soap was disgusting.

    Almost as bad on a hot Summer day was the incinerator at Southfield and Fullerton.

  9. #9

    Default

    Anyone with a Detroit call box that they would like to sell, let me know thanks. Detroit police call box keys too.
    [email protected]
    Last edited by oldtvsandtoys; August-19-19 at 06:53 PM.

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