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There was a time when phone books were thick, heavy

Updated: Feb 15, 2022

By John Toth / The Bulletin

The stereotypical booster chair for little ones of our generation used to be the phone book. You put the yellow and white pages together, and Junior was ready to eat at the family table like a big boy.

The phone books were massive. If you owned a business, it was part of the course that you paid for a listing. It was expensive, but monthly payments were accepted. The bigger the listing space, the more it cost, much like newspaper advertising.

I remember placing the ads with the sales reps, signing a bunch of forms, and then signing off on the faxed final proofs.

When the listings came out, and the books were delivered, we walked our fingers through the Yellow Pages.

Same with the white pages. Everyone who had a phone got a free listing in those. If you wanted a number to remain private, there was an extra charge. Those were the unlisted numbers. We paid AT&T more not to have them printed.

Those were the heydays of the phone books. If we needed a number, we reached for one of the mammoth books and looked through the small type as we searched for the name. Even phone booths had phone books in them. Before the Internet and cellphones, phone books were indispensable.

I got to thinking about the way things used to be because recently I found copies of “The Real Yellow Pages” for Angleton and the Greater Brazosport area at convenience stores.

They’re not massive anymore. Junior would need a bunch of these to be able to reach the dining room table. The Brazosport issue is 81 magazine-sized pages. The Angleton phonebook is 72 pages, and it is the size of the old “TV Guide.”

After a couple of years, I stopped paying for Yellow Page advertising. I didn’t mind paying, but I kept missing the deadlines. They were supposed to still provide a small listing in the publication, but never did. They pulled the paper out of the Yellow Pages. We called a few times, to no avail. The listings never appeared.

Just out of curiosity, I turned the Brazosport Yellow Pages with 81 pages to “N” for newspapers. There are two listings, one for The Facts, and another for the Brazoria County News, which closed several years ago. No Bulletin, no Source.

I’m not complaining, but this is our 28th year of publication. Maybe we had to fill out, sign and initial a bunch of forms to get the listings. I really don’t know because It has been many years since I have done that.

The Angleton Yellow Pages didn’t have a category for newspapers. Angleton is where the Bulletin headquarters are located. Granted, we’re not a traditional newspaper operation, but we have survived all kinds of trends that killed off a bunch of papers.

They used to throw the Yellow Pages in our driveway. It made a really big thumping sound as it hit the ground. Now they are stacked anywhere they could find an empty shelf - like on the bottom of our Bulletin wire racks (and on other newspaper racks) at several businesses.

Thanks, Ma Bell.

It’s running late, and I still have to call a restaurant and place an order. What is that number, anyway? “O.K. Google…” Sorry. I don’t have time to flip through the Yellow Pages.

(John looks forward to hearing from you on this subject. Send comments to You can even send an old-fashioned letter to: The Bulletin, P.O. Box 2426, Angleton, TX. 77516.)


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