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Wednesday October 22, 2014
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Telephone Man

 

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Blanshard is explaining why a phone interview just ended abruptly-and making it clear that the vintage phones he restores weren't at fault. Although he has a cell, he finds them vexing and short-lived. A typical cell phone lasts only a few years before the battery weakens and it starts to fall apart. In contrast, he points out, the 1926 "candlestick" phone that hangs in his home still works perfectly.

After years as a sales rep for various phone companies, Blanshard, sixty-one, now repairs and restores "vintage" telephones-those manufactured between 1890 and 1950. He recently changed his little business's name from "Timeless Telephones" to "Crank Call Antique Telephones." He's a little worried people might not get the pun in "crank"-early phones used a hand-cranked generator to start a call-but the whimsical part of this serious-seeming man took hold.

''He's the only one I know of in southeastern Michigan" who can repair old phones, says Karl Lagler, owner of Antelope Antiques. "He probably does ten or twelve phones a year for me and my customers." Most of his buyers, says Lagler, "are young professionals. They like the look."

Unfortunately, there aren't that many young, retro-minded shoppers with landlines. And Blanshard's original clientele-people who remember early phones nostalgically from their own childhoods-has dwindled in recent years. "Prices started to go way down" about five years ago, he says, prompting him to sell off about 100 "candlestick" phones-most of his inventory. He says that today the collection would be worth just half of what it was then.

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