Time and Temp-A brief History

1943 Miami Telephone Directory

Buy a Boat….Pay while you float!

As a child growing up in Miami in the fifties and sixties, I have lots of memories of a more innocent time.  Ingrained in my mind was the telephone number that always brought me the time and temperature, 379-8811.  It was probably the first telephone number I knew and dialed.  I called a lot!  “Buy a boat, pay while you float, at the Central Bank, the Yes bank on 36th Street.”  “Don’t feed the meter, bank with the leader, the Yes bank on 36th Street.” “Don’t put it in your sock, sock it in the bank.” “Metropolitan Mortgage Company, dial ‘FREEDOM’ in Miami and ‘JUSTICE’ in Broward.”

   Over the years, several telephone numbers were used in Miami to bring the time and temp to hundreds of simultaneous callers.  In the 1940’s, it was 3-8761(that’s right, you could dial five digits and the call would connect)!!  By 1954, the number had been changed to 9-8811.  By the end of the 1950’s, seven-digit dialing came to Miami and the number then became 379-8811.

   At some point in the 1960’s, the number was again changed and the answering equipment moved so that the calls could be answered in an updated Southern Bell telephone facility.  It became 324-8811 and it has stayed that way ever since.  Sometime later, ten digit dialing was instituted and  the number was expanded to 305-324-8811.

   Time and Temperature was operated by the local telephone company, Southern Bell, for many of its early years.  In the early 1980’s, the government breakup of AT&T required all local telephone carriers to divest themselves of so-called “information services.”  Time and Temperature was then placed into the hands of Dudley Powell, who was notorious for calling out local and state politicians on the recorded messages broadcast by Time and Temperature.  One of his stinging messages declared that the Chairman of the Florida Public Service Commission “wouldn’t qualify for dog catcher.”   All went well until Dudley decided to go “on strike” against Southern Bell by refusing to pay the phone bill.  Whoops!

   After a few months of non-payment by Powell, Southern Bell reactivated their old motorized time and temperature announcement system and ran the number temporarily while looking for the next lucky operator.  That was me!  I won the telephone number in a lottery and began operating it a month or two later.  I installed my equipment in a small abandoned house across the street from the Department of Health in the Civic Center area.  We installed 62 telephone lines and waited.  On April 28, 1987 at 5PM, the calls started pouring in.  Our equipment, which was state-of-the-art at the time, FROZE after taking calls for a few minutes.  I begged Southern Bell to “reverse the cut,” which they promptly did and I solved the equipment problem a few days later.  Since then, that equipment(and its successors) has answered in excess of 100-million telephone calls!

   Today, Time and Temperature uses modern digital answering equipment that monitors the temperature by the tenth of a degree and deduces the precise correct time from GPS satellites.  The telephone service runs over the Internet with VOIP technology.

   I was a Miami radio personality on WQAM, WINZ and I-95 in the seventies and eighties.  I have been the “voice” of time and temperature for the past 33 years and have the unique distinction of being heard, oh, about a hundred million times, making me the most overexposed voice talent in history.  No wonder my throat is so dry!

Dave Ryder