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Friday, September 26, 2014



A recent post and comments got me to thinking about how phones have changed since the days of my youth. 

In the olden days, when moms stayed home and dusted the furniture while wearing a fine dress and pearls, when children played outside until the bell rang for dinner and when dad sat at the head of the dinner table in a jacket and tie with the big piece of chicken; our home had only one phone.
We had one of these

That’s right, one phone.  A black one with a rotary dial, it was attached to the end of a cord on a small table in mom and dad’s bedroom.  We only had one phone because we didn’t own it, it was rented from AT+T for $2.35 a month.  It was an extra dollar a month for a different color and lord only knows what rich people paid for touch tone when they came along.
Grandma and Grandpa had one of these.
When the phone rang, there was no caller ID, and the ring was the same for every caller.  The ring was also impossible to ignore, it was kind of like a fire engine.  When the phone rang and no one was expecting a call, the youngest family member was chosen to answer it.  That would have been me.
Hey! How Friggin old do you think I am?

“Joe, get that will ya?” (That was not a question.)

There was no reason to run for the phone, it would never shut off and go to answer machine mode, it would ring until the caller decided you were not home.  If the caller knew someone must be home, he would ring forever.  It was traditional to talk to the phone on the way to answering it.

“I’m coming, I’m coming!”

There were occasional wrong numbers, but no annoying solicitation calls.  If the caller was Aunt Eleanor from California, mom was summoned  post haste…long distance cost the caller big bucks.  You could always hear both ends of that call from the Aunt in California because old people were convinced that if you did not yell into the phone there was no way the sound could travel all the way across country.

As a teen, no caller ID made it possible to call a girl and hang up multiple times while getting up your courage.  For some reason when you called a girl, the father always answered, probably the multiple hang up thing got the father riled up a bit.


“Ah er is Jane home.” (In the olden days girls were named Jane.)

“Who is calling?”

Ah…Joe…from school.”

“JANE, some boy from school…says his name is Joe…calling for you.”

I always wonder why they called out “says his name is Joe” why would I lie? 


“Ah hi Jane, its Joe from school…the Joe in the third row behind Alice.” (In the olden days there were lots of Joes; girls were also named Alice.”)

“Oh yeah…waddaya want?”

“Oh umm did you get the answer to number seven in the math assignment?”


“Ok then, thanks, see you tomorrow.”

Oh my god, (in those days we talked with full words) what have I done.  I think I may have to miss school tomorrow.

Ring Ring, Ring Ring




“It’s Jane, the answer to number 7 is twenty-six.”

“Oh, ok, thanks, see you tomorrow.”

Oh my god, I can’t wait to get to school tomorrow.  


  1. Yeah, that call back showed promise.
    We had a party line, you remember those? One ring meant it was for us, two rings the other family on the line.
    I lived in Alaska pre-satellite phone days, the calls had a lag time, a second or so, you had to adjust your conversation accordingly.
    When I was in VN I called home a couple times, linked through a radio operator in the south someplace. I had to say 'over' each time I finished a sentence. "I love you, over."

  2. Clever. You are definitely showing your age. LOL Then you could just pick up the phone and ask the operator to get you "Joe." She always knew everything that was going on in town. I still have my iPhone but I also have a cord in the wall land phone and that is where I carry on most of my phone conversations.

  3. In my son Joe's third grade class there were four Joes...Joe, Joey B., Joey K, and Joseph. So much for the olden days! They were born in 1999.

  4. I see our childhoods were very much alike except I was Sandee not Jane or Alice. Yep, we came from the same era.

    Have a fabulous day Cranky. My best to Mrs. Cranky. ☺

  5. Omg.. I used to call just in hopes that the boy I liked would answer the phone, then of course I'd hang up floating on air because I'd heard *his* voice.. Lol.. The days before caller ID were the best because we'd call and order pizza for the people across the street and then watch to see what our crazy neighbor was going to do, sometimes he'd pay for it and take it, sometimes he'd just yell at the delivery guy. - I know. I was mean even way back then. - :)

  6. We didn't have a phone but my girl friend's family did so I had to find a public phone box and put in the four pennies just to hear her voice.

  7. You have a wonderful way of making me recall things I've long forgotten. Do you remember "party lines?" I tried to explain to our son that there was a time when you could pick up the phone and hear a stranger talking and he thought I was pulling his leg.

  8. I remember the party line, long cords, and rotary dial. I also remember fighting to get to the phone first to answer, always thinking it was for me. Now, my kids just ignore the landline, knowing it's never for them, and too lazy to answer it.

  9. If they said Is Joanne Home when my dad answered the phone, he'd answer Yes and hang up.

  10. too cute. we had a party line when i lived in the old farmhouse as a kid. we'd try to lift the phone off the receiver and cover the mouthpiece so the neighbors couldn't hear us breathing as we listened in.

  11. A bit before my time, but I definitely remember rotary phones- especially the princess ones!

  12. We must have been uptown folks-we had 2 phones just like the one in your first picture, one on the counter in the kitchen and one in its own little cubby hole in the wall in the hall. When I was a teenager I would stretch the cord and take the one from the hall far enough to get just the receiver into my bedroom for a little privacy.

  13. You nailed the time, the equipment and the awkward conversations but al least they were conversations.

  14. Hahaha...I remember rotary phones. And I felt really old when we saw one in a Smithonian Museum and my youngest son stared at it and asked, "So what do you do with it - stick your finger in that round hole and press down?"

  15. Oh yeah, I remember party lines, too. We had one for a while, then dad sprang for a PRIVATE line. We felt like one of the Rockerfeller's! My peeve was that tightly wound up cord that connected the receiver (?) with the base....I could just look at it wrong and it would kink in 9 places. And they were darn near impossible to un-kink. Good memories. Thanks,


  16. Sheesh joeh, what fishy said .... were you folks like rich r something? We didn't get off the party line until I was a teen and I think we was the first in the family to get that affluent.

    And in those days if that phone stopped ringing before you got to it there would be hell to pay. Run or come back and get your whooping 'cause that's the worst thing you can do is leave the phone hanging.

    My aunt and uncle had an old wooden phone as their only one until long about 1978 when they gave in and got a 'conventional' phone. but they kept and used the old woody until uncle passed round abouts 1986

  17. Dating myself, but we had a party line when I was growing up. I remember we had a distinct ring that we knew the call was for us. I also remember as young kids picking up the phone and listening to other conversations of the others on the party line and them then telling us to hang up.

    Kids these days don't know how much fun it was to have an extra long phone cord so you could go into the other room and talk to someone you didn't want the whole rest of the room to know what you were saying.


  18. I didn't get a phone until I was married and expecting my third baby! it was a more modern version of the rotary dial, cream coloured and installed in the corner of the hallway, so we could watch the kids down the hall, the front door and the tropical fish aquarium all while talking on the phone. I never got the hang of talking on the phone, still don't like it.

  19. These comments are as funny as your post is! I remember it all, exactly as you described. I'm just glad there was no caller ID back in the day my sisters and I were masters in the fine art of the prank call. Damn we were good! Our best work was calling the neighbor lady as soon as she sat down on the porch with her lemonade and paper after a long day at work. As soon as she reached for the phone all the way back through the house on the kitchen wall (we could see that too!) we hung up. Watched her return to porch, pick up paper and lemonade and repeat, repeat, repeat!
    Best fun of my childhood!

  20. I loved the sound of the old rotary phones as you dialled. But I hated the sound when the phone rang - such a din. There'd be a tiny sound like a bit of a click before it rang and my heart would always jump. (I've always hated noise).