Monday, November 21, 2016

The Telephone Party Line

A show of hands ... how many remember telephone party lines? 
Okay, how many have heard of a telephone party line?

The Old Farmer had an 8 household party line at the farmhouse.
If anyone in another home along the road was on the phone you could
listen in on their conversation, very impolite, and if they thought
they heard you pick up and not politely hang back up 
you would be called out on it, "hang up". 
or "is that you ......, hang up the phone or I'll tell your mother."

The phone would have a double ring or one long ring so you would
know if an incoming call was for you or someone else.
Eventually the house was updated to a two party line.
Then you knew who else was on the phone listening in! 

And of course you couldn't make a call or receive a call if the line was tied up
by another person on the party line.  
Long distance calls were very expensive and rarely occurred.
And when they did the clock was carefully watched...
Unfortunately a long distant call likely involved bad news.
If you accidentally picked up the phone when a neighbor
had a long distance call it was a matter of intense speculation
in hushed tones.

Sometimes Santa would call us on our phone. We got the old
have you been good this year, what do you want for Christmas,
if you have been bad I'll know it when I check my list and
you will get a lump of coal in your stocking! 

Then The Old Farmer's Children discovered the Beep Line. 
This would often involve young teens who discovered you could
dial your own number to get a busy signal, then you could hear
others talking between the beeps of the busy signal.
This was an early dating line, getting to know someone whose
voice you liked, getting on the beep line at the same time each day...
I don't know how many actually arranged a meet, it was a much
simpler time and certain standards were maintained,
it was innocent flirting. 

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Paul (aka Sirocco) said...

Yes, I certainly do remember the party line. I lived in town, but, many townspeople also had party lines. We had two neighbors on our line so we had a total of three. We rarely encountered each other on the line. People generally only used the phone for essential communication.

To make a call, I would pick up the receiver and an operator would come on the line and say “number please.” Then, I would give the number of the person I was calling. In my area the phone numbers were four digits long followed by a letter. I wonder how many remember their first phone number. The operator would connect me.

My aunt worked for the phone company. She was one of the operators. I always recognized her voice when she came on the line and we would chat for a few seconds before she would connect me to my party.

Yes, I certainly do remember the party line. Thank you for bringing back the memory.

Jens Mains said...

Oh, the operator, who remembers Ernestine?