When I was growing up in the Toronto suburb of Willowdale, the community where “Downtown North York” is located, almost all of my friends had phone numbers that started with 22 (as in 226-2174, the home number of my youth, now in use by a real estate agency). My father explained to me, at the tender age of 10, that phone numbers used to contain letters. Willowdale was once known as the village of Baldwin, so the first two letters of anyone with a phone in our neighbourhood were BA, or numerically 22. This phone number practice was reinforced a little later in my life when I watched a number of Simpsons’ episodes in which the characters give out the family phone number (Homer’s Mr. Plow business was KL5-3226, the KL representing TV’s fake 55 prefix).
Last summer, I was walking along Queen Street in Parkdale with the Globe and Mail’s David LeBlanc, the Architourist columnist. He pointed to the store sign of Queen Automatic Laundries: it had one of those old phone numbers still on display (above photo). He noted that it was quite old since the phone number was only six digits (KE-8903) instead of the currently common seven-digit number. The Parkdale phone prefix back then was KE (for Kenwood), which is still in use today as a 53 prefix.
What was even more exciting to discover was that the store’s illuminated sign that hung out over the sidewalk also used the alpha-prefix, but with different letters and seven digits (LE3-8903 — the LE stands for Lennox). According to LeBlanc, this is the only place in the city in which two “historic” phone numbers co-exist on signage. As you see in the photo below, the laundry mat is closed, the windows covered by newspapers. As Parkdale’s commercial strips change over time, this storefront and sign will be most likely be replaced (though, this strip of Queen Street has numerous store vacancies).
Personally, I only know of one other storefront sign, somewhere on Roncesvalles, that still contains an alpha-prefix phone number. Do Spacing readers know of any other store signs that contain “historic” phone numbers?