In Milwaukee History

You don't even need a rotary phone to call the time. (PHOTO: Annie Spratt)

Yes, you can still call "the time"

Inexplicably, in 2018, you can call a phone number, and after a long ad about funerals or diabetes, an automated service will tell you the time and temperature in Milwaukee.

The number is (414) 844-1414. The same number it's been forever. Go ahead, try it. We'll wait.

Thanks to Twitter user, @MiltownBucky, who answered my question, "Can you still call the weather?" I was reminded of this amazing throwback service. It still exists, but it's different than it once was.

If you don't have a long time to sit around and wait, here's a transcript of what you might hear when you call:

Goofy announcer voice: "The time and temperature is coming up after this …"

Then:

Serious announcer voice: "If you or a loved one has diabetes and are covered by the red, white and blue medical card, you might be eligible to receive your diabetic testing suppler with little to no out of pocket costs. Delivery is free …"

Or:

"Funeral expenses are rising. Have you made sure you or your family can afford your funeral? Here is a great way to find out …"

Then:

"To hear the time and temperature, no need to press any buttons on your phone. Just stay on the line. To be connected to U.S. Medical supplies, press one now."

And finally, the time and temperature. After 32 seconds. The message is 40 seconds long, and then it hangs up. Can you even imagine spending 40 seconds of your life to figure out what the time is? Based on the ad choices, this service remains in place for the elderly, but hey, when I'm that old, I think I'll need every second I can get.

I have spent a little too much time digging into this, and I just can't figure out where it's coming from. At one point, the service was run by SBC Ameritech, but it isn't now. It might be a company called "Time of Day Announcement Recording," but all my searches wind up in a dead end.

Here are links to what the recording sounded like in July 2003, July 2005 and August 2005. The third link says the service is one of the nation's oldest.

This I do know: The first one was voiced by Jane Barbe, a voice actress who made the recordings for the Bell System. She was the voice of "We're sorry, your call cannot be completed as dialed."

Now the voices are male, but that's all I can figure out.

Maybe some questions aren't meant to be answered.

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