Call Me ~ Surprised

Young Janet not only worked for General Telephone in 1967, she was recruited to pose for one of their ads. Here she is as a natural blonde and in a dark wig. Ad copy read: “Janet can change the removable insert on her telephone to match her décor, her mood, her wardrobe or even her hair color.”

...by Janet Hall Rich

When I went to work for General Telephone in Everett in 1967, I was 23, married, and the proud mother of a toddler. Who would have guessed I would be the inspiration for a telephone advertisement?

In the 1960s, most telephones were shiny black desk models with a rotary dial, until the introduction of the Princess Phone. In the late 60s, a popular model was the wall-mounted telephone with an extra-long coiled cord.

One day as I was focused on the task of running the IBM 1402, a high-speed card reader, I looked up to see a gentleman in a dark blue suit and flashy red tie enter the computer room. The scent of Aqua Velva announced his arrival.

“Hello beautiful, I don’t think we’ve met. Who are you and wherever did you come from?”

I peered at him suspiciously as the noisy card reader zipped through 800 punched cards per minute, sorting them into hoppers.

“I’m Janet. Is there something I can help you with?”

“Welcome. I’m Bradley Preston from Marketing. I’ll stop back when you aren’t so busy.” Bradley flashed a mischievous smile and left just as my supervisor walked in. Victoria handed me the day’s schedule and chuckled. “I see you had the honor of meeting Mr. Preston. He has a reputation for checking out every new female.”

Several weeks passed before Bradley returned, thrilled to see a new employee. In fact, on that day I was wearing a dark brunette wig over my short blonde hair.

“Hello beautiful, don’t think we’ve met. Who are you and wherever did you come from?”

“Mr. Preston, don’t you remember me. I’m Janet, same girl, different color hair.”

No way, you’ve got to be kidding!” Speechless, Bradley left; probably embarrassed about using the same line on the same girl. To my surprise, he returned the next day.

“Janet, you gave me a great idea. Seeing you as a blonde and then as a brunette was just the inspiration I needed. I’m working on a marketing campaign for GTE’s new phone and would like you to pose for the advertisement.”

I didn’t know how to respond. Far from a model, I was quite shy and figured he had to be joking. He had already talked to my supervisor, Victoria, who thought it was a great idea and agreed to accompany me on the adventure.

The following week, Bradley picked us up in a metallic blue Camaro. Our first stop was at Everett’s Lemon Tree where Mr. Preston selected two dresses, one white, one black. He then drove us to the Van Winkle Furniture Store.

Victoria and I made ourselves comfortable on a leather settee as Bradley wandered throughout the store. Victoria chuckled, “That man’s search for perfection drives me nuts, but what a great experience for you. I will insist that Bradley give you a copy of the advertisement, otherwise you will never see it. Once he wraps this project up, you’ll never see him again.”

Bradley had me pose in a fabric wing back chair, wearing a white dress with my blonde hair. Next, I sat in a dark velvet swivel chair wearing an elegant black dress and my dark wig. Bradley snapped numerous photos until he was satisfied. I was nervous and unsure how to pose, but Victoria’s friendly banter helped me to relax and enjoy the experience.

The advertisement, published in August 1967, featured two photos side by side; one of me as a smiling blonde and the other a somber brunette. The ad read: Janet can change the removable insert on her telephone to match her décor, her mood, her wardrobe or even her hair color. As for the contrasting phone panels, only Janet’s installer knows for sure.

One thing I knew for sure is that no one knows what tomorrow will bring. Life is filled with unexpected surprises and I was grateful Bradley had checked out both Janet’s – blonde and brunette.

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