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library, old-school, PI biz, research

How To Be A PI – Lesson 3 (circa 1974) Directories

P.I. - pre-Internet.
We’ve touched before on some of the things TV/movie PI’s rarely address.  Obviously, modern technology:  cellular telephones, GPS units, and the Internet have revolutionized investigation.
But, back in the day, none of these things existed.  And, much PI work consisted in tedious research, in government records offices, and public libraries.  Legwork.  Shoe leather.
The library with which I was most familiar was on the N.E. corner of McDowell Road and Central Avenue.
(the new library is a multi-story facility a block South of this location, on Central Avenue).
They had a large collection of city directories (still do), published by Polk and Cole’s.
The Polk City Directory and Cole’s Directory were readily available.  If one didn’t monopolize their time, one could call the reference librarian and perhaps pose a question regarding information in these volumes.
My understanding is it’s much more difficult today by telephone to do this, fear of stalkers, perverts and such.  Liability.
A personal visit is time consuming, but always informative.
If you’ve never seen city directories, they can be revealing.
The Polk’s Directory lists addresses, telephone numbers and names, both of businesses and individuals.  In the olden days, they actually had surveyors do a house-to-house-to-business survey, asking questions, names, telephone numbers-sometimes getting confidential information like non-published telephone numbers.
And the business listings had names of company corporate officers, sometimes linked to their residence information, as well.  The older volumes even had maps showing the Rural Route addresses.  I imagine today, it’s all compiled from data mining.  The Internet suggests they focus now more on business and automotive data.
Cole’s Directory was/is a volume, much like a telephone directory.  Except printed out in reverse.  Of course, back then, people just had land-lines.  And didn’t move as often.  And no cellular telephones!
But one could utilize both directories to find out who lived at what address, and when.  They were generally published yearly.  And if you purchased a Cole’s. you could call them for updated information, post-publication.  They seem now to sell both the bound volumes, and provide Internet access to their directories.
The public library also had telephone directories for the city and the State.  As the telephone company is now many telephone companies, I suspect they no longer do this.  But, usually issued yearly, these too, can be revelatory. 
Many folks became tired of certain kinds of harassing telephone calls, and paid extra for ‘unlisted’ or ‘non-published’ service.  The difference being one simply didn’t get published in the telephone directory, the other wasn’t even available through directory assistance.
But many times, they’d just keep the same number, more anonymously.  That’s why old telephone directories have value.  Five years earlier, they might have been published!
When there was just one telephone company, I had a standing order for all the city and town telephone directories in the State, as published, for my PI business.  And had City of Phoenix proper back eleven years on my shelves.  You never knew what information treasure lurked therein.
As an investigator, I suspect now much of this data is available on line, or DVD, for a fee.
As a private citizen in a world with no privacy, I hope not.

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About guffaw1952

I'm a child of the 50's. libertarian, now medically-retired. I've been a certified firearms trainer, a private investigator, and worked for a major credit card company for almost 22 years. I am a proud NRA Life Member. I am a limited-government, free-market capitalist, who believes in the U.S. Constitution and the Rule of Law.

Discussion

2 thoughts on “How To Be A PI – Lesson 3 (circa 1974) Directories

  1. I have all sorts of databases and tools at work but have found more people that didn't want to be found through Google than any LEO tool. Great post!

    Posted by Brigid | October 28, 2011, 6:00 am
  2. @Brigid – Thanks! 'The times they are a changin'.'There are some genealogy sites that are helpful, as well.I think it was Borepatch who said privacy is in the past.

    Posted by Guffaw in AZ | October 28, 2011, 6:54 am

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