Saturday, March 06, 2010

sunday Favorites #46 --The party Line

Sunday Favorites is a meme hosted by Chari at Happy to Design. Chari asks us to drag one of our older posts out of mothballs and repost it. After all, only so many posts can be on the first page and once they move down the stack they are seldom ever looked at again.

You can check out this Sunday meme by visiting
Happy to Design. Heck, you might find some great stuff and be inspired to join the fun and repost some of your favorites that have been long forgotten.

My repost for this week comes from the same abandoned blog as my post from last week. It was originally posted on August 28, 2008 and is another memory from my childhood.

The Party Line
While flipping through a Time Magazine today I came across a story about the last of the old time telephone switchboards that was being converted into direct dial. Here is a excerpt from the article.

“The telephone company has been accused of being the stereotype of impersonal corporate power. But for the 1,800 folks of Avalon on Santa Catalina Island, 25 miles off the coast of Los Angeles, Pacific Telephone had always been downright neighborly. Almost everybody recognizes by voice the 19 operators who handle Avalon’s manual switchboard, which is the last one in the Bell system. Not for long. Because of increasing hordes of summer tourists and hard-to-replace parts, Santa Catalina will join the computer age this week when its switchboard is replaced by a direct-dial system.Many of the locals are upset by the prospect. A human voice at the end of the line instead of an electronic buzz has heightened Avalon’s sense of community. A direct-dial system means no more neighborly gossip and no more baby announcements over the phone. People used to ask questions like “Where can I reach Lucy’s sister?” or “How long do you broil a steak?” Now they will have to go elsewhere for the answers.”

Boy does that bring back some memories.

Before my sixth birthday, my parents decided to leave the small farm in Alabama where we were living, and return to the St. Louis area where my father was raised. I would be starting school that fall and my parents wanted their children to have a parochial school education that was not possible in a small southern town.

They settled on a small suburban town near my grandparents and after several years in a rental, they managed to buy a brand new tract house located in the low income area on the back edge of town near an industrial park. My folks moved their 5 kids into that 4 room house with one bath and attached garage. It was a cute white house with green shutters. It was the third house from the railroad tracks on Garfield Street and already outgrown before we moved in.

When I was about 8 the first phone wires were being run into our part of town. It was all anyone had to talk about for weeks. The first two questions in every conversation were “Have you ordered your phone yet? And, “When do ya think they will be installing the phones?”

I came home from school one day to find all the neighbor ladies congratulating my Mother on our new phone. I was surprised that we got a phone. Many of our neighbors didn’t, and we seemed less able than most. But, there it sat; a brand new shiny black rotary dial telephone sitting on a small table at the end of the hallway outside my parent’s bedroom door. I even remember the number. Jackson 5-6632. We shared the line with three other families and our signal was two long and two short rings. Every time the phone rang we all ran to the table, and counted the rings only to walk away disappointed when the call was not for us. It also seemed that every time we lifted the receiver we heard voices on the other end and had to wait for what seemed ages for our turn.

I will never forget several incidents that occurred during those first few months of having our own telephone. One involved our next door neighbor and my mother getting into a heated discussion over whose party-line was monopolized most. Mom and Mrs. Placker had to finally agree to disagree on that subject.

Then one night little Bobby from across the road came running over to ask my mother to call the doctor. His Daddy had suddenly taken bad sick. The line was busy and my mother asked politely if they would give up the line for an emergency. They refused. So my mother being a genteel southern lady repeated her request twice more over the next ten minutes. My mom may have been a southern lady but hot tempered Irish blood flowed in her veins. The Irish side of mom finally won out and she ran down the block, walked into Mrs. Hank’s kitchen, snatched the phone from her hand and disconnected the call.

Regrettably, the doctor had just gone out and it was hours before he could be reached to call on Mr. Jamison. My Daddy carried him to the hospital in our car but by then Mr. Jamison’s appendix had ruptured . He died a week later. I don’t recall anyone ever having a problem with Mrs. Hanks giving up the line after that. The poor woman was just never the same.


  1. Love reading about your mom's "genteel" nature! LOL Nowadays, kids would think of a party line as a chatroom!

  2. Hahaha! I love Diann's comment about the party line being a chatroom. I remember party lines and listening in. But I was just a kid...I would never listen in now. Great post, thanks for resharing it.

  3. Oh does this bring back memories for me. I remember as a child having a party line for our first phone. Luckily almost everyone that was on the party line was a family member. So it was like having conference calls even back then. LOL.

    I have to say I love your mother's genteel nature. Bravo for her!!

  4. Hi Rita...

    My friend, what a great story to share with us...although I was saddened to hear about the death of your neighbor! Hmmm...if only! I'm sure that your mother's neighbor lady wasn't ever quite the same! Ohhh my! Well, Darlin'...I'm really not that old but remember having a party-line phone! Hehe! That was in 1985. Ohhh yes, I also remember having to use the phone many a time! Hehe...and always listening for the sound of the rings to see if it was mine! Wow...I hadn't thought about that for a long time! Hehe! Great story...thank you so much for sharing it with us for Sunday Favorites, my friend!!!

    Warmest wishes,
    Chari @Happy To Design

  5. For YEARS after the rest of us had gone to direct dial, my aunts and uncles "down on the farm" in Wisconsin STILL had party lines and they even had the kinds of phones where they cranked out the ring themselves, holding the little black receiver to their ear and talking into the black "cup" that was stationary on the LARGE wooden phone box.


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