IMPERIAL — Ayden Saldaña, 5, smiled when he heard the familiar voice of his mother on the opposite end of the telephone line. Huddled next to him were his sisters who giggled and placed their ears close to the vintage hand set he was holding. They took turns holding and listening to the black and heavy handheld receiver.
Saldaña said it was his first time to see a rotary dial Bell telephone with a hand-held receiver connected by coiled wire to the handset cradle. The children took turns placing their tiny fingers in the little round holes of the dial. Each hole had a corresponding number, 0-9. As the dial turned around, a mechanical sound could be heard. It was old, and yet so new to Saldaña.
Merry Lee Lotti, a volunteer at Pioneers Museum, sat on a chair with several vintage Bell telephones displayed on the table.
“I am demonstrating vintage telephones, the rotary, and also the antique phones,” Lotti explained. “They love the old rotary phones. The kids are just really enjoying calling their parents (who respond with their cell phones). The technology is different, so it’s kind of fun for them to do.”
The older people recognized the phones too. According to Lotti, many remembered their grandparents having one of these vintage Bell telephones.
The Bell telephone, now a museum piece of yesterday’s technology, is a stark contrast to today’s modern smart cell phones. The rotary dial telephone has a single purpose, to call and receive calls. Saldaña and his siblings have grown up in an age of smart phones capable of a multitude of functions, that is, in addition to calling and receiving calls. Plus, it can fit in a pocket and can be taken anywhere. The children were evidently mesmerized by the older contraptions.
The next booth table was manned by Edgar Bernal Sevilla and had several vinyl playing records. Bernal Sevilla said, “We are showing off the stereoscope and the gramophone, which is the music box.”
“Children love this. Even to the very old people this was a fond distant memory,” Bernal Sevilla said.
Along a designated path outside of the Pioneers Museum, children and their families could see rusty tractors and other agricultural machinery, as well as a 1912 manual clothes washing machine, railroad trains, a commercial water pipe machine and saddlery.
There was a long line of children waiting for a hands-on experience at the Smith Saddlery booth. Volunteer Beverly Smith was ready to help the boys and girls make keychains or hair barrettes. The children used a mallet to hammer the metal stamp design on the surface of a water-softened piece of leather.
Marlene Salazar, 13, said it was her first time to create a leather design. And it took her several minutes of beating the metal with a mallet, to transfer the design onto the hair barrette. Once finished, her father helped put it in her hair. “It was fun and exciting. This was my first time to smash at something and not getting in trouble,” the girl said.
A distance away, kids and their parents climbed onto the stationary trains. Children, dressed in era costumes, played games on the grassy section, and elderly people talked about a familiar piece of machinery.
Al Cardoza, a recent retiree who had worked with a well maintenance crew in the ’80s, stood next to a rusty machine stamped with the words Magma Power Company. “We used this rig to install water pipes to pump water out from deep under the soil,” he said.
His wife, Karen, said she was familiar with the machine. During those times when Al worked three full days in a row, she would visit him and see the machine in the field in the north end of Imperial Valley. “I just made a trip out to the site and took them goodies or food or whatever they needed. I’m glad he is retired now so we can have fun together,” she said.
By noon, many of the children and their parents went to the open food area of the campus where they joined a long line leading to the antique hot dog stand. Each hot dog was individually skewered on a metal stick and attached to a rotating chain. There were about 30 hot dogs rotating above the charcoal.
As children, their parents and grandparents had lunch, they got to listen to old fashioned blue grass music provided by the Signal Mountain Sidewinders band.