The other day a friend remarked that she still has a working 1940s Western Electric telephone in her home. It's as heavy as granite. The rotary dial is metal, not plastic. People under 40 ask, "Does it work?"
This phone shouldn't be considered an antique but a status symbol. It takes its place with our lump-meat crab cakes and shad roe suppers as some of the things that make Baltimore the town it is.
If you look around the town, you can spot other things that serve for status symbols on the shores of the Patapsco:
Your name on an outdoor homestretch box at Pimlico not far from the finish line.
Bailey Goss's autograph. The late broadcaster was the Jerry Turner of the 1950s.
A working set of Lionel model trains. Triple points if you have a super-rare Voltamp model electric train made in Baltimore 80 years ago.
Saying (in truth) you were present the night Fats Waller played piano at the Royal Theatre on Pennsylvania Avenue.
A man's suit made by J. Schoeneman.
Active membership in the Baltimore Colts Marching Band.
Pickled onions bought at the Panzer Goetze stall at Lexington Market.
Ticket stubs to any Colts championship game or to the 1966 World Series. They should be framed and hung in a place of honor. Also worthy are ticket stubs to the Elvis Presley, Judy Garland and Beatles shows at the old Civic Center.
Table linens from O'Neill's department store.
Being recognized at a local supermarket by an Orioles usher who knows your name in the off season.
Serving a legal rock fish dinner.
A jar of Grauel's Market mayonnaise or ham salad.
Sending out dry cleaning to the shop where Mayor Kurt Schmoke has his trademark Oxford blue shirts washed and starched.
A fifth of Maryland rye whiskey. Mount Vernon, Hunter or Wight's Sherbrook will do nicely. The second part of this status symbol is being enough of a drinker to down a shot or two.
A diploma from Cathedral Street's Public School 49.
McCormick spices milled in the Light Street plant.
A rose that Blaze Starr once used in her act.
A summer place on Frog Mortar Creek or in Sherwood Forest.
Knowledge of the ingredients in Marconi's Restaurant's fabled hot fudge chocolate sauce.
Owning an end-of-row rowhouse. End rowhouses are especially prized in Rodgers Forge.
In your beer can collection, there's a 25-year-old can that the National Brewing Co. had made to cash in on the James Bond "secret agent" craze. A movie company claimed infringement and National had to stop making these 007 cans.
Stores like the Sharper Image don't hold an ironclad patent on what's in and what's out. In an old, rotary-dial town like Baltimore, status is probably stored away in your basement.