Saturday, October 20, 2007

Party line

My Gramma Ruby had an old hand crank Telephone. Her ring was one long and two shorts. She would set a chair in front of the phone so the kids could stand on it and answer the phone. Then she would head outside to do her “garden chores”. We would answer the phone, then we would go out to the garden to get her. I remember that we would stay in the house and wait for the phone to ring, so we could talk on it for a little bit before we had to go get Gramma. Looking back on it, I think that she probably left us to listen for the phone so she could go out to the garden for a little peace and quiet. It’s amazing the things that one realizes when looking back with a little older and wiser eye’s.

The phone was a form of entertainment in the evening, after supper and the dishes were all washed and toweled dry and put back on cupboard. At family dinners at Gramma’s house, my cousin liked to wash, my sister liked to dry, and it was my job the stand on the chair, that was normally left in front of the phone, and stack the dishes in the cupboard. That was the only chair that anyone was allowed to stand on. Her dishes were those Chinese Willow Ware dishes, Can you imagine letting children handle Willow Ware nowadays? I guess the were nothing special about them back then. I wish I had them now!

I digress. After dinner, Gramma would lift up the phone and listen for conversation, if there was conversation she would announce that she was there, if there was none she would ring the operator to connect her with someone. Usually it was someone on another party line. Then, the long conversation about nothing in particular would start, and usually went on for hours. Who ever got to the phone first got to decide which other party line that they would be connected to. Sometimes Mrs. Sutherland, the Operator, would tie several party lines together. That was real entertainment! Sometimes the family would sit in the living room next to the kitchen where the phone was mounted, and listen. Every now and then Gramma would cover the mouth piece and bring us up on the other end of the conversation. They had a Blog-site where they didn’t have to do all this darn typing. And we think that we’ve made progress. Sometimes we would close the kitchen door and turn on the radio, The Lone Ranger came on at Eight, and The Amos and Andy Hour came on at nine.

The phone was a long oak box about 16 inches tall by eight by eight. The front opened and there were two big volt-and-one-half dry-cell batteries about the size of a twelve once beer can in the bottom. There was a row of horseshoe shaped magnets, with an armature in the center that was spun by a train of gears that was driven from the hand crank on the side. There was a switch on the top left that was shut off when you put the “reciever” back on the hook. The front had two bells at the very top that made the phone look remarkably female. The mouth piece was mounted on the end of a bracket that stuck out the front about eight inches. It was adjustable up and down to accommodate the variance in a person’s height, because the whole assembly was mounted solidly on the wall at about mouth level. The phone had a shelf at the bottom that angled out and down at about forty-five degrees, with a stop to keep things from sliding off. Gramma always kept a pencil and writing tablet on that shelf.

Bye. My wife says that I have to go clean the pepperwood nuts out of the driveway.

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