The snake-like diagrams in our filing cabinet

February 15, 2022 | Jen Higgins-Newman

An image of the beeper system at Beacon Hill Friends House. The beeper is a black box with a button and a speaker that is used in the house like an intrahouse telegraph audible throughout the house
One of the beepers we have throughout the house. These are like an intra-house telegraph audible on every floor.

Last Monday, February 7th, BHFH had its electrical circuit panels (main and sub-panels) replaced and upgraded, maybe for the first time in 50 years.

There were a few side-effects to this work: our power and WiFi were out intermittently, and then on Monday evening, we realized our beloved beeper system was down. Residents were thrown.  

Dating back to at least 1962, residents used these little beepers to signal to each other with designated beep codes (as in “Jen, your guest is here”). In modern times we use them to announce that dinner has started, or that someone has gotten the door.

But by far my FAVORITE part of the beeper system are the diagrams. It’s better to just show you. Here they are (You should be able to click on this to enlarge them):

Two hand-drawn diagrams of the BHFH beeper system, dating from the 80s

These snake-like, hand-drawn diagrams on decades-old paper in our filing cabinet, drawn with care by staff and residents, show so much of what the Friends House is. Our building holds stories, some that we don’t even know to look for. The beeper system, lovingly placed throughout the house with phone cables and a little transistor off the main panel in the cellar, tells a few of those stories. Residents of decades past cared for us by maintaining this system, which is most definitely a part of our community in its own right.

These are the little quirks that make 6 and 8 Chestnut street our beloved home. The unique and storied place that now has a shiny new set of circuit breakers (and a functioning beeper system), that I’m excited for residents to enjoy for another 60 years. 

Skip to content