Riding Life!

Riding Life!
Life is like a wild horse--Unless you ride it, it will ride you! (from the movie: "Princess of Thieves.")

Monday, April 12, 2010

C: Information, Please!

I am really about to demonstrate my age, here.  Remember that phrase (those of you who are old, like me) “Information, please?”  Do you  remetelephone operatormber calling the operator by dialing “O,” and saying, “Information, please” to get to what is now called “directory assistance?”

Gee, this is stirring up memories….remember calling long-distance with help of an operator?   “Station-to-station” was cheaper because it meant that you would speak to whomever answered the phone.  “Person-to-person” meant that you designated the recipient of the call, and you were not charged if you did not get your person, which meant it was more expensive when you did  get your party.

A long-distance call was reason for urgency.  I can remember hearing: “Hurry, it’s long-distance!” when someone would call from out of town. 

Collect meant that the person on the receiving end of the call would accept the charges.  We still do this today, however, mostly the collect calls we receive at our office are from the jail…

There was a “trick” that was played on the Ma Bell system to escape long-distance charges.  When family members had a journey to make, such as leaving Grandma’s house for out-of-town home after a holiday celebration, it was customary to call and let your family know you “made it home.”  To spare the phone bill, sometimes one could call “person-to-person” or “collect” for an imaginary person back at Grandma’s.  Of course, she would not accept the call, but knew that her family had arrived safely.  Voila!! Free of charge!

And, do you remember “party lines?”  We never had one in my memory, but I knew people who did, and I believe they remained more prevalent in rural areas, where the lines were not so numerous.  I’m not sure how they worked, but it seems that several homes would share the same lines. 


Each number had a different “ring,” so each family knew when a call was meant for them; but anyone else along the line who wanted could eavesdrop on the conversations going on at the other numbers.  There were those I knew who became adept at slowly lifting up the receiver, while holding the button down with a finger.  That finger would then slowly let the button up, so that the listener could hear the conversation going on without being detected.  Privacy just could not be had on a party line.

And, then, came the new-fangled “direct dial,” where you just dialed 1+the area code+the phone number.  No operator required!  In my childhood, our entire state had only one area code, so there was not need to dial the area code within our state borders.  We now have four state area codes.

And, telephone styles!  I’ve been through many in my lifetime.  I remember this black number from my early childtelephone blackhood.  The last person I remember having one was MIL, who refused to pay the premium price for the colored version.  I don’t blame her, really, why pay extra for different-colored plastic.  And, remember, we did not own the telephones….Ma Bell did.  There was no such thing as going to Target or Best Buy and picking your phone up.  The “telephone man” would bring the equipment with him(they were always men in those days… “operators", however, were always women, as I recall) .  I still remember watching an installation man unpack the phones, pulling the curled cords out of clear plastic and snapping them together.

phonewall Our family was even more stylish when we were able to have a tastefully-colored  phone—my mother chose “beige,” but ours was a wall phone, located centrally in the hallway of our smallish home.

Only later did we add a matching “extension” telephone in the master bedroom. 


Extensions were becoming fashionable in the early 60’s—I can recall as a young child being impressed with families who had more than one telephone in the home.  These would be extensions, only, and I knew of no family who had more than one phone line (more than one number) in the home until I was in my teens.  And those tended to be “rich” folks, whose listings in the phone book included the added listing, “Children’s Phone.”  Wow!  What luxury! 

Extensions, however, proved the same privacy danger as party lines.  If one was having a “private” conversation on one phone, it was possible to slowly join in from the extension, sometimes undetected. 

And, by the way, I still remember which phone number “prefixes” (the first three numbers) were the ritzy parts of town.  In my town, if your number began with 2dial25-XXXX, then you were definitely more uptown than that indicated by the numbers V and I had, which began, 565-XXXX which were distinctly middle-class.  

Originally, those prefixes actually had “names” to help us remember them.  These coordinated with the alphabet letters shown on the particular number.  Our 565 prefix was “Locust,” to correspond with the “L” and “O” on the 5 and the 6 of the dial.  225 numbers were “Capital,” while 665-XXXX  would have been “Mohawk 5-XXXX.”

When I was a teenager I was granted my wish for a pink “Princess” telephone in my bedroom (the dial lit up!).  V had one, too, and I can’t recall which of us got her princess phone first.  She and I spent many hours on the telephone.  What did we have to talk about?  Heck, I don’t know, but talk, we did!  It became a lifelong habit.    Because it was only an extension, and not a separate number, we were often shooed off the phone by soprincess phoneme other family member who had the nerve to want to make a call.  I still speak with V most days by telephone, and sometimes we stay on waaaay too long.  She is the only person I really do that with.

Cell phones just pretty much revolutionized life.  In my profession, I spend lots of time on the telephone, so much so that I used to dread hearing it ring when I came home.  I can remember when cell phones first became available for one’s car and thinking, “I’ll never have a car phone…I need to escape that phone someplace!”  Now, of course, it is required equipment—I would not think of leaving my home without my cell phone.

And, on top of that, I require a “smart phone” with internet access. Sheesh! What have I come to?I-phone

And, more and more, I am finding that my clients and friends have only cell numbers, dispensing completely with a land line.  I can’t do that.  In my country home, there is no cell reception, so I remain tied to the land line.  To tell you the truth, I don’t think I really want to give it up, even if I get reception here.  I don’t know what it is, but it just seems like one ought to have a “home phone” number.  And, of course, there is the listing in the phone book that would be missing if you go with cell service only.  At least for now.  I never use the phone book anymore, turning to the internet, instead.

pay phone So, one wonders: Will we still have paper phone books with our friends’ numbers and addresses listed in ten years?  What about pay phones or “phone booths,” which used to be on every street corner but are now disappearing.  I remember in my dating years that it was standard advice that girls keep a dime in their purse just in case they needed to make a call home from the pay phone.  Nowadays, pay phones are few and far between, and a dime won’t cut it—I don’t even know what a phone call from one costs!

And, if you are wondering what spurred this trek down telephone-memory lane, let me just say: “I’m not sure.  It’s in the middle of the night, and this is just where my mind wandered.”  Go figure…insomnia does strange things.  I’m just glad I have this blogging outlet!!  C


Debbie said...

I remember all of that. Thanks for dating me too:)

Mamma has spoken said...

WOW I didn't feel old until I read this! Oh how I remember most of this. Dirty little secret: I remember listening in on the neighbors' telephone calls because they were ALWAYS on the party line making it to where NO ONE could get a chance to make a phone call.

Packrat said...

Hi! I popped over from Vee's blog. Oh my, I had forgotten some of this! When I was in high school, my grandparents moved to a very rural area. There were 12 families on a single line. Made life interesting. We had a party line up until about 1980. It was cheaper than a private line.

Thanks for all the memories (and as Debbie said, "Thanks for dating me, too). Great post.

Jenna said...

ha! I remember my Grandmother had a olive green wall phone that had a cord that was like 20 ft loong so she could walk all over the house with the telephone! I'm only 25 so I've only heard about the party lines! I couldn't live without my blackberry..it makes me wonder...What did people do before cell phones?

carla said...

My goodness, this post sure brought back a bunch of memories for a girl whose phone number was Te 8-8287 (the Te was short for Temple). Our first phone was the black desk model. Later my parents had the black wall phone installed right inside the kitchen door. My bedroom was really close so I could stretch the cord out and close my door for privacy.

My husband lived in a small town and their telephones didn't have a dial. When you picked up the phone, you told Rose (the operator) to please get you Grandma (or whoever you wanted).

We live out in the country and I don't get coverage for my cell phone. But I'm with you, even if I did, I'm keeping that land line. It just seems right.

Sure enjoyed this post.

Vee said...

Wow! You've really thought it all through. Excellent documentation. I don't remember all that you remember. Either I am too old and have forgotten or I am too young and missed it. ;> But I do remember the trick about calling collect to let the family know that one had arrived. And I do remember that my grandparents had a party line. I used to lie on the trestle that went under the telephone table located in the front hallway and listen in. Got myself in trouble that way...

My niece has a smart phone that came in wonderfully handy as we tried to find the lawyer's office yesterday afternoon. Made me covet. Ha!

Immigrant Daughter said...

I know what caused your thinking about it, so Was I and I am annoyed. I remember I kept trying to get in the line and Finally spoke up and said i you were on the line x number of minutes and If you don't allow me some time on the phone I will keep on listening I will keep up picking up and listening and hang up,,I then had no more trouble with too much talking by one person.

Happyone :-) said...

I too remember those old telephone days and we did have a party line!

kath001 said...

Our prefix was LYric. :)

I prefer to keep my home phone, because a) better reception, and b) 911 emergency can tell the location you're calling from. Oh, and I can't get internet w/o my phone service out here in the boonies.

And I wish there was a standard of cell phone etiquette. This morning on my town errands, I came across a man talking loudly on his cell in the doctor's waiting room when the sign on the door clearly said to turn off cell phones. And then at Wal-Mart I was on an aisle where an employee was slowly stocking a shelf while on a personal call on her cell. That more than anything grates on my nerves. We used to never be allowed to take personal calls on the job unless it was an emergency, and then we better keep it brief. Nowadays, you cannot escape hearing people's private conversations. I once had to hear explicit details of a woman's sex life as she spoke of it on her cell in the next stall in a public restroom. People seem to think that everything is anonymous these days, or else they just don't care.

KathyB. said...

I do remember fondly the old days of phones and phone service. I remember even more fondly not being expected to have a cell phone on you at all times making you and any companion you happen to be with at the time available , always!24 /7.

When my husband and I were in Boston a few years ago we needed to phone someone back here in WA. We did not need or desire a cell phone so had to find a phone booth ( we were away from our hotel) , guess what? Phone booths were almost obsolete now. Everywhere we looked and asked for a phone booth we were stared at as if we were from another planet and asked why did we not have a cell phone? We eventually found a booth in a bar.

Just to let you know we aren't the only ones, while in Boston we were approached by a woman/tourist younger than ourselves and she asked us if we knew where she could find a phone booth~ sheesh, in Boston of all places.

My Farmhouse Kitchen said...

love the old fashion phones..i remember..i can't beleive i am going to admit it but, i don't have a cell phone..had one for a while and never used it...

back to the old fashion way here


Paul C said...

Really enjoyed this retrospective on telephones. I'm afraid I am behind the times with the new cell phones.

Linda Lou Rogers Averitt said...

we have sooooo changed!! I love the memories and have them all:)) guess thats is why my hair is gray:)

Linda Lou Rogers Averitt said...

we have sooooo changed!! I love the memories and have them all:)) guess thats is why my hair is gray:) 758 was terrace :) Mohawk 60608 was my number then capitol 225-4047...then first when I married 834-0107 :)))) now cells and texts and email and face book is how I talk:))

Robynn's Ravings said...

This was the BEST trip down memory lane! You made me think of things I haven't thought of in ages!

Do you remember when the telephone installation man would dial those secret numbers and make the phone ring to see if it worked? We tried to watch him so we could do it.

And we used to hold down the cradle button while we unscrewed the mouthpiece on the extension phone. That way, when you let off the button, it picked up no sound. Listened to more than my fair share of conversations that way I'm ashamed (ok, not really) to admit.

And my Aunt's number will forever be AM6-3175 - AM being for Amherst. She changed it a few years ago after an identify theft and I'll never memorize the new one. Can believe the old one's gone!

Thanks for the thorough stroll down memory lane!

Robynn's Ravings said...

P.S. We LOVED the calling home trick to let someone know you had arrived okay. I had COMPLETELY forgotten that.

And I, too, resisted the cell phone in the car for the same reasons you cite. Well, at least we TRIED to hold out! ;)

Zuzana said...

I so enjoyed reading this - I read it already yesterday, but was about to leave work and so I returned today!
I have had similar post on my blog and thus I so loved your take on the same issues.;)
I recall the crank phones and of course rotary dial. I also recall the time before any phone;)
Today when I look at tmy iPhone I just simply get amazed by the speed with which everything has moved forward.;)
Truly excellent post!

Monalisa said...

Very interesting. Brings back memories. It reminded me of my use of public phones when I was 13/14, so I've written a blog about it.

Anonymous said...

Oh C. I don't know how this happens, but every so often I notice one of my favorite listed blogs just disappears from my favorites lists. If you had not made a comment I would not have know that. I searched my list and yes you are gone. I am so thankful I will have to go put you back on. Yes I sure remember those phones and way before that.

Janean said...

girl, we were just talking about this very subject Saturday with a group of friends!!!!! great minds.....

wonderful post!

jan said...

And remember the special little 'telephone' tables for the hallway? They had a place to sit with an attached table with shelves under neath for directories. We never had one, (we never lived in a place large enough for special furniture just for talking on the phone!) but I remember some more well-to-do families had them. I see them at estate sales, now.

Bish Denham said...

I remember much of this, including party lines. We were on one for while. One time something was wrong with the lines because when our phone rang it was for the house across the street. One of us would have to run up the drive way and holler at them to pick up their phone!

We still have a rotary dial wall phone in the kitchen with a looooong cord.

Thanks for stopping by my blog.

Anonymous said...

I remember that too! I have one of those old fashioned phones with the letters on but the line is really bad on it so I reverted back to a modern cordless!

CJ xx

Coralie Cederna Johnson said...

Oh yes! We had a "party" line at home and two of my girlfriends were on that line. I had a bright idea one day that we should all go home from school and pick up the phone at exactly the same time; we could then talk to each other without going through operator. it worked!
Thanks for the memories!

Marion Williams-Bennett said...

Reading this I remember being a teenager on my mustard yellow rotary dial phone in the kitchen! The cord was so long that you could take the phone into that bathroom, where I would chat for hours. It sent my father around the bend!

Wonderful phone memories - yay for insomnia!

Joy said...

Oh girl, you covered it all! I'm from your era too, and I remembered it all. We had the party line along with about 4 other families. We had a certain ring so we would know the call was for us. My mom would listen in on other's calls--and use the finger on the button trick--ha-ha, maybe that was universal! We had the black dial phone, I even remember the metal dial--precurser to the 'modern' plastic dial. And yes, Ma Bell owned that phone, and basically, we 'rented' it--paying several hundreds for it over the years---rip off!! When my parents moved, they took their basic black desk model with them--mistake!! They were informed that the phone did not belong to them! And a long distance phone call---everybody had to hush up and tip toe around cause often the reception was not the best. Long distance often meant bad news... The phone would ring, and and we'd pick it up and hear the operator say, (pinch nose with fingers for effect)"I have a long distance call for..." I wanted a Princess phone! Never got one, though. I remember seeing 'Teen Line' listed in the phone book---rich kids! Our phone number prefix was 'Th' for 'Thornwall'. Yes, you knew what part of the city people lived in by the prefix. We can laugh at all of it now, but really, wasn't it a simpler time in life? Constantly changing technology makes me weary to have to keep learning it. Great post. Why don't I think of these things to post about?? I'll try. Thanks for the stroll down memory lane.

Joy said...

Oh, so funny what 'Jenna' said, "what did people do before cell phones?" I'd say, we got to escape from being constantly connected! A person would say, "I'll call when I get there." or, you left a iteniary and you didn't talk with someone till you got back home. You made plans---"I'll be there at such and such a time". Believe me, Jenna, we did just fine without a cell phone.

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