THE OLD PARTY LINE

Do you remember phone party lines? If you’re old enough to remember how could someone easily forget? If you wanted to make a call somewhere you didn’t just pick up the phone and start dialing. You picked up the receiver and listened first to see if anyone else was on the phone before you started dialing. Today I simply push a button on my phone and a voice comes over and ask me what can they help me with. I would say call so-and-so and it would say, “Calling so-and-so.”

I used to be a walking phone book. I could remember phone numbers like the back of my hand. Those days are slowly slipping by though. Now we look for a persons name and hit the call button. I have to constantly ask my wife and son what are their cell phone numbers when I have to write it down on something.

I’ll never forget in my younger years when I was much more mischievous than I am now. Err, I mean when I used to be mischievous. I would pick up the phone and if I heard anyone on it I would put it back down so they would know that I’m not listening in on their conversation then I would ever so slowly and softly ease it back up and listen in on their conversation.

You could learn a lot eavesdropping on a party line. I was never so sure that someone was ever eavesdropping on me and my friends as well as we talked about what we were going to do over the weekend or who was going to spend the night with who. Or how good-looking Becky Thatcher* looked in her outfit that she wore to school that day. But I definitely heard more than what I should have as a youngster.

One thing we learned about the party line at one place we lived; after every hard rain if one person was getting a call then every one on the line was getting the same call. If one phone on the party line rang then they would all ring. My father had to learn that the hard way when old “Mrs. Johnson” was calling one of her children. She wouldn’t hang up after a few rings she would let the phone ring and ring until someone answered. Finally daddy would pick it up and answer it. To his dismay “Mrs. Johnson” wasn’t really calling any of her children, she just needed someone to talk to and daddy was always the first one to pick up the phone after it would ring fifteen or twenty minutes. After about thirty minutes or so of Mrs. Johnson talking and daddy listening he would finally tell her he had something on the stove and he had to go. That would pretty much be it. She either forgot about calling any of her children or she just changed her mind because the phone wouldn’t ring again for the rest of the day.

Kids and young adults today will never get to enjoy the perils of being connected to a party line. I remember one time I was talking to a friend on the phone and he not being raised as Christian as myself was using his choice words in the conversation. A few days later mama and daddy wanted to remind me that we need to set an example for others to follow and if one of my friends just happen to be using ugly, slang curse words then I should remind them not to be talking like that over the phone.

I’ve always wondered if it was brought up in one of those long conversations that daddy and “Mrs. Johnson” were having. It also made me wonder if someone had been eavesdropping on me and my friends conversation. Why else would mama and daddy pull me aside to scold me for something my friend had said over the phone line. Or should I say the “party” line.

I’m a lot like my father. Even today I still don’t care much for talking very long over the phone. My loving wife has to constantly remind me to call someone.

Now I know what my daddy always said about the “Good Ol’ Days”. There wasn’t too much good about those days. We had some good times and we had some good days but them days don’t compare to the comfort people have today. And of course I’m enjoying more comfort than my father and mother did and they enjoyed more comfort than their parents. People today are living in the good old days, and another generation from now if the good Lord tarries, this younger generation will be telling the next generation the same thing.

There are a lot of things I do miss about those days but the party line ain’t one of ’em.

Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?” For it is not wise to ask such questions. Eccl. 7:10 (NIV)

*If you were wondering who Becky Thatcher was I would suggest reading Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. April McCoy
    Apr 26, 2018 @ 08:51:05

    Uncle David, I really enjoyed reading this. It took me back to being at Paw-Paws and Maw-Maws after school. He never wanted to answer the phone. Now I know why!

    April McCoy, MA April.mccoy.rma@gmail.com 334.833.2627 334.833.5150

    >

    Reply

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