The police call box, or callbox, is a metal box containing a special-purpose direct line telephone or other telecommunications device. Before the introduction of two-way radios, some police agencies installed call boxes at various street locations as a way for beat officers to report to their dispatch office.
In 1852, Dr. William Channing and Moses G. Farmer developed the first practical fire alarm system, utilizing the telegraph system. Two years later, they applied for a patent for their “Electromagnetic Fire Alarm Telegraph for Cities.”
In 1855, John Gamewell of South Carolina, purchased regional rights to market the fire alarm telegraph. He obtained the patents and full rights to the system in 1859.
During the Civil War, the government seized the patents. John F. Kennard subsequently bought the patents and returned them to Gamewell.
In 1867 the two men formed a partnership, Kennard and Co., to manufacture the alarm systems. The Gamewell Fire Alarm Telegraph Co. was established in 1879.
Gamewell call box systems were installed in 250 cities by 1886, growing to 500 cities by 1890. A new factory was opened in Newton Upper Falls, Massachusetts. By 1910, Gamewell had gained a 95% market share.
Today the company is called Gamewell-FCI (Fire Control Instruments), and is owned by Honeywell Automation and Control Solutions. They develop self-programming, networked, and sophisticated voice evacuation systems.
The main character in three of my novels, all of them about to be released — Shades of Blue, 459-Framed in Red, The Purple Hand — and the forthcoming He Blew Blue Jazz, LAPD cop Mike Montego, drives a sweet Chevy Cameo Carrier. Here’s some background on one of the blue bow-tie’s most interesting vehicles.
Boasting V-8 power, automatic transmission, two-tone paint, and deluxe interior, the 1955 Chevrolet Cameo shortened the distance between car and truck. Although not a big seller, it set the stage for other stylish trucks – Ford’s Styleside, Dodge’s Sweptside, and Chevy’s own Fleetside quickly followed suit.
Stylist Chuck Jordan, later to become GM Vice-President of Design, had originally envisioned a one-piece cab-bed bodied pickup, but engineers were concerned over the sheet metal distorting due to torsion-stress on the frame. It was decided that the clean look could still be achieved with a conventional cab/bed combination. Fiberglass panels were added to Chevy’s existing steel cargo-box, saving the expense of the tooling process required for steel panels. This also allowed the truck to be brought into production quicker. Besides, fiberglass was convenient; Chevrolet had recently given Molded Fiberglass Products Company a $4 million contract to manufacture Corvette bodies.
The tailgate of the Cameo also used a fiberglass outer panel, with latches mounted inside and supported by retractable cables. The middle of the rear bumper hinged downward, accessing the hidden spare tire compartment. Unique chrome-plated taillights capped off the clean, uncluttered bed.
1955 Chevy Cameo
The smooth-sided bed of the 3124 series Cameo seemed to perfectly complement Chevy’s new Task Force Series line of trucks. Its 114-inch wheelbase carried a 6.5-foot-long cargo bed, which shared the same 5,000 pound G.V.W. as the 3100 and 3200 series half-ton trucks. Base motor was the durable 235-cid six-cylinder, with Chevy’s new 265-cid V-8 optional. Five transmissions, including an automatic, were available. Chrome bumpers, chrome grille, and full wheel covers, optional on other models, were standard on the Cameo.
All first-year Cameos were painted two-tone white and red. Inside, the upholstery was also two-tone, and came with arm rests, dual sun-visors, a cigarette lighter, chrome interior door knobs, and a large wrap-around rear window. Priced 30% higher than their standard half-ton truck, Chevrolet sold 5,220 Cameos in 1955.
1956 Chevy Cameo
With the exception of a few minor trim items, 1956 Chevrolet trucks remained the same as 1955 models. Despite low production numbers, the Cameo was carried over, now offered in several two-tone paint schemes. Base price was $2,150, while a standard half-ton pickup listed at $1,670. Cameo truck production for 1956 was 1,452.
1957 Chevy Cameo
Along with Chevy’s other pickup models, the Cameo received a new grille in 1957. V-8 engine displacement increased to 283 cubic-inches, with power output at 185-bhp. Cameo production rose to 2,244 units.
1958 Cameo Carrier
Industry-wide adoption of quad headlights, along with a larger front grille, were highlights of the 1958 re-design for all Chevrolet trucks. Ford’s Styleside pickup, introduced in 1957, had smooth outer bed-walls and sold for much less than the Cameo. Chevrolet countered with their new Fleetside, with an all-steel cargo-box larger than the Cameo’s. With just 1,405 produced for the year, Cameo production stopped in early 1958.
NOTE: Mike Montego’s pickup truck is white with red trim. The interior is red-and-white, tuck-and-rolled Naugahyde, a customized look.