Column: All about cell phone tones and the era of happy horns

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 13, 2005

There may have been a time when all telephones had the same basic ringing tone. Those boring days of mediocre ding-a-linging really changed with the advent of cell phones.

Now we have the rousing &uot;Lone Ranger&uot; theme from the

&uot;William Tell Overture&uot; in a nine-note excerpt to announce an incoming call. This sound almost makes folks from several previous generations holler, &uot;Hi Ho Silver, Away.&uot;

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Another option is the cell phone ring based on the old &uot;Reveille&uot; bugle call which may still used by the U.S. Army. Hey, that’s what we can say is a real wake-up call.

There are a multitude of tunes and musical themes available to customize the ring on a person’s cell phone, It’s just a matter of choice.

One ring I haven’t yet heard is the &uot;Minnesota Rouser.&uot; Yet, I have a hunch this reminder of the state’s university is available for discriminating phone users and sports fans in the Twin Cities and elsewhere in the state.

Hearing these different personalized cell phone rings reminds me of another distinctive use of familiar melodies for vehicle horns.

I can recall hearing the notes of an old Army bugle call known as &uot;Charge&uot; coming from a passing car.

Another tune I used to hear many times in Albert Lea was the first few notes of the &uot;Mexican Hat Dance.&uot; Whoever had this as his personalized theme sure enjoyed playing it. This lively melody could be heard several blocks away.

Still another tune used for an enhanced car horn was the famous bugle call used at racetracks. Maybe this melody was used for drag racing.

One former owner of one of these add-on horns in his pickup said there was a selection of about five different tunes or wild horn signals.

Probably the most familiar reminder of these fancy horns of another era is the red General Lee car in the &uot;The Dukes of Hazard&uot; television shows. This car with the Confederate emblem painted on the roof would go on its wild rides and chases with the playing of &uot;Dixie&uot; or &uot;Dixieland.&uot;

Just for the heck of it, I decided to see if any of these fancy horns could be purchased here in Albert Lea. The answer is basically no, but there’s one exception.

Thanks to NAPA Auto Parts, I obtained two catalog pages which indicate that these happy horns are still available on special order.

One of these loud additions to a car’s electrical system which &uot;attracts immediate attention&uot; is a trumpet-based kit called Musical Horns with 13 fairly familiar tunes.

Another horn system called Juke Box has 34 pre-recorded short songs. Then there’s one called Music Time which goes under the hood and has six melodies in its repertory.

One of these special horn systems is called Animal House. This is a name which could have been inspired by a film title. Anyway, this version is described as having &uot;50 musical tunes, nine animal sounds, and 10 siren sounds.&uot;

I might add right here that law enforcement, fire department, ambulance and emergency response personnel have a very legitimate right to use sirens. Thus, having a siren in a vehicle just for the heck of it, and to gain the right-of-way to pass other vehicles on the road is super-illegal.

There are also other non-musical horns available for discriminating drivers.

One is the Bull Horn which is rather descriptive. Then there’s the two-tone Wolf Whistle guaranteed to impress and excite young ladies. And my favorite is the horn which gives the big rig sound to any small compact car.

As I mentioned earlier, there’s one special horn available at Advance and Karl’s and other auto parts stores. It’s the one intended to give the old time oogah sound to the most recent of car models.

Now, whatever happened to those wild horn sounds of the past? The best answer is

based on the word fad. Also, some folks just didn’t like hearing them. In some localities these sounds and unneeded horn honking may even be illegal.

Could one also say these various horn sounds have faded away like the once popular citizens band radios?

(Feature writer Ed Shannon’s column appears each Friday.)