Yesterday, I was at Oakbrook with my girlfriend and we decided to check out the Lands End area at this old school Sears which has been in business since 1962 when Oakbrook Center opened.
What’s very interesting, is this store still heavily relies on these older digital ROLM RP-120 telephones. I heard constant overhead paging from these phones and they were ringing all over the store. It’s great to see such a reliable explosion proof ROLM system still in operation. I believe most Sears stores in all of the USA use these ROLM telephones or the newer Hi-Com euro looking sets. Sears Canada is all Meridian1.
I can still remember when these sets were introduced in the mid 1980s. Frizz hair, Coca Cola T-Shirts, Memorex cassette tapes, Pretty in Pink the movie, the Full House TV Show, and Generra Hypercolor T-shirts were all of the rage then. My parents shopped at Dominick’s Finer Foods in Chicagoland, and all of their new stores opened in the mid to late 1980s installed these ROLM telephones in their stores. I also saw these phones at my sisters first job out of college at a large firm in Chicago and many other places around downtown Chicago. They were popping up like wildfire. Their distinct low pitched warble ringer along with futuristic sounding dialpad key clicks, made these phones light years ahead of the 1A2 phones on the market.
Even though the phones now look slightly dated with the beige color, they never really yellowed. The phones are solid, durable and heavy. The buttons are easy to read and the dialpad has clean labeling. The handsets are a dramatic departure from the standard G round style so popular in the 1980s. I personally though that these were the most futuristic telephones I had ever seen in the late 1980s, until the release of the sleek Nortel Meridian 1 M2000 series digital phones in 1990.
So back to the Dominick’s stores. I can distinctly remember the paging noise on these phones in the Dominick’s Omni Stores, particularly the Orland Park location in 1989. The ROLM phone system was tied into a large PA system consisting of warehouse Atlas sound oval shaped horn speakers. The mix between the high quality horns and ROLM telephones created for a very clean and crisp sounding paging system. (not to mention the interior store design was so modern compared to anything else before) I used to go and look at the magazines just so I could stand under the speakers and heard the young cashiers paging “someone in back shop please come to register 10 for a perishable pick up….then clunk clunk” of the ROLM handset being hung up. These phones were really hard to disconnect as they didn’t have a physical switchhook button under the handset. They used a magnetic connection in the handset paired with the phone base. That could make paging hangups quite noisy on PA systems. The solve was to use a “Disconnect” button programmed on the telephone.
I was at the Sears yesterday and it was like a blast from the past. Everyone was paging and I could still hear the funky sounding ROLM hangup over the speakers after the page. Some things never change.