Seventies TV #4: Tearing Telephone Directories

Before we had Britain’s Got Talent, we had Tearing Telephone Directories.  As a pinnacle of human achievement, tearing telephone directories was right up there with the space programme in the 1970s.

Roy Castle was overseeing the wilful destruction on Record Breakers; Lindsay Wagner was flexing her muscles as The Bionic Woman; and Britain’s Strongest Man, Geoff Capes, would rarely be seen without a full set of the London A-Z clasped between his hands.

And, I for one, was impressed.  As someone who sometimes has trouble tearing an envelope in two, the ability to bisect a phone book seemed eminently TV-worthy.

It’s hard to remember now just how ubiquitous was the telephone directory at the time.  Every household had one.  In London, people had four, because the directory was divided into four sections: A-D; E-K; L-R; and S-Z.  Each volume was a different colour: A-D was yellow; E-K pink; L-R green; and S-Z blue.

Amazing to think that they were delivered to your door, too. That must have been a tough gig. You’re not going to fit a street’s worth of telephone directories into one Deliveroo box.

And then, suddenly, they were gone.  Not because Geoff Capes and Lindsay Wagner had destroyed them all.  But as a result of the move towards mobile phones and digital directories.

It is still possible to order a printed telephone directory from BT but, with all the efforts to preserve the earth’s resources, it seems rather wasteful to request one simply to try and tear it in half.

© Beery Sue

Beery Sue auditions for the next The Bionic Woman remake.

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