Thursday, December 3, 2015

The End of an Era

post signatureI cannot believe that I'm "old" enough to say this, but it's true. What ends today (for us) is the era of the "home phone." 
I've lived just about every era of the telephone in my 60+ years---from our fist "party line" in the 1950's to my iPhone today.

The first phone I remember was the box hanging on the wall. You were tethered there with about 3 ft. of cord. We had a "party line" which meant that any given time, you could pick up the phone and hear other people talking on it. I still remember my very first phone number---TUrner 6-2209. Like every good little girl, I memorized it in case I ever got lost. Where I'd get the dime for the pay phone is anyone's guess. You only dialed the first two letters, then the number.

We got rid of that "party line" and had our own private line. That number was SHerwood 1-5105. We had that number all growing up until the exchange was changed to numbers---741-5105---sometime in the mid-60's. We had very specific instructions for taking phone messages.
There was no such thing as an answering machine. Whoever answered the phone was the answering machine. 
I have no idea how I wound up with one of the legal pads we used for messages. I'm so happy to have this record of how things "used to be." There is so much here---the way phone numbers were, a sampling of everyone's handwriting and even the detail of the messages. We took message taking seriously in our house!

There was no such thing as "call waiting." If someone was on the phone, another person calling got a "busy" signal. It got to be pretty frustrating for our parent's friends. With 7 kids in the house, someone was always on the phone. We had an extension phone in the basement. And those same kids would listen in on your conversations. If you were on with your boyfriend, they would make kissing noises. Annoying to say the least. They were brats!

Finally, mom decided that we girls---who had the whole upstairs to ourselves---should have our own line---provided we PAY for it. The deal was---each time you made or received a call, you were to put 10 cents in to a jar. That worked for about 2 seconds. At the end of the month, there was nothing in the jar but IOU's. And I will admit---most were probably mine. Considering our allowance was only $2.00 a week, which had to also pay for all things social, it was never a realistic goal. Add to the fact that back then---a 15 minute car ride away---put you on the "toll call" list, I was doomed! My cousin Chrissy was a toll call away. We didn't talk on the phone much because of that---luckily we were together just about every weekend.

Boy, did we fight over that phone. And I'm not just talking screaming and yelling. We got pretty physical. Then again, the twins and I we were always physical fighters. I still have the fingernail scars to prove it!

Someone was always "hogging" the phone. Jennifer slept with it under her pillow at night so she could talk to her boyfriend at all hours. I got myself in to some trouble one summer by talking to my boyfriend who worked at a resort---a long distance call away. Long distance was waaaay more expensive than a simple toll call. When that phone bill came in, my best friend, Reenie, loaned me the money to bail me out. It took me a lot of "head cashier" hours at Target to pay her back!! My mom never knew---or if she did, she never let on. Actually, now that I think about it, she HAD to know. I was never good with my money. I was the type that if I wanted to do something and my friends didn't have the money, I'd pay. I never had much money for long. One drive through Steak n' Shake could wipe me out for a week.

Anyway, the phone has changed over the years to many different styles---from rotary dials to push buttons. Somewhere along the line, area codes were added---but only used when dialing long distance. Sometime in the 1990's, long distance was cheap. By the 2000's it was free. 2010's brought the use of area codes in big cities for every call you dialed. That just happened here in Nashville in the last six months.

Pretty soon, everybody had cell phones firmly attached to their person. I never wanted to get rid of the home phone because I didn't want to have to carry my cell around the house. We have/had six extensions all over the house. But, about six months ago, we realized that the only calls coming in to the home phone were "junk" calls. You, know the ones---annoying recordings. I don't get those. Who actually listens to them? Someone must or they would have been deemed ineffective. At least they are in this house. Or, we got lots of calls regarding our credit, ("don't worry, there's nothing wrong") requests for charitable donations, and now the political crap has started. I'm over it.

Once I had my surgery I couldn't really get to the home phone, so I quit answering it. Every one that calls me knows my cell number and would reach me that way. Finally, we made the decision to get rid of the home phone. Butch tells me we'll be saving about $400 a year.

Hmmm, money in my pocket. But for how long?

An end of an era. Boy, that sure sounds old. Now we don't even have to memorize phone numbers anymore---Siri will dial it for you with just a voice request. Besides, should I get lost today, there isn't even a payphone to find. They are long gone too! It was good while it lasted. 

Hello 21st century.  I guess the next thing to go will be my rolodex:

A few months ago, Mindy couldn't resist posting this on Facebook: 
Spotted at Butch and Barbara house: a real life Rolodex. What's more is that my mom still uses this-- like actively keeps it up-to-date. This thing has to be worth some money, right? I can picture the eBay caption now: "the last current Rolodex IN THE WORLD!"
Doesn't everyone have a rolodex? I couldn't get along without mine.


  1. Wow: that's quite a moment to record! I think I've probably told you this before; but we used to love to see teenagers in American movies talking on the phone because our phones only had little short cords and were so expensive that a phone call to a friend was a rare treat.

    But I do take your point. The only person who phones our home phone now is my Mum

  2. This post has me smiling, Barbara. We had ONE wall phone in the house and my sister and I would set the timer in the kitchen. When the timer went off it was the other one's turn on the phone. Doug and I actually requested to have our home phone disconnected when we moved recently but were told that it was part of our "bundle" and that if we removed it our monthly rate would go up. Lame. And like you, the only calls we ever get on the house phone are recordings and/or political calls. Annoying!

    Anyway - it was fun to read your phone history memories. Great post! :o)

  3. This is funny! We still have a copper-wired land line. Jay won't even switch to fios because he's worried we wouldn't have a phone if the electric goes out. But I've never gotten to the point of having my cell phone on me 24/7 and people who know me still call the land line. That includes my sister, my kids, work, my doctor's offices, etc. We do get a lot of the annoying charity and political calls since they are exempted from the Do Not Call list - but we only answer numbers we recognize. I figure if they really want to talk to me they'll leave a message.

  4. This is such a wonderful story of your life with telephones, so many little details captured as you end the era! We still have a home phone, but recently changed to VOIP & may get rid of it eventually as I keep my cell phone on me more now even around the house.

  5. We have a home phone but don't use it much. I still have my rolodex for recipes and another for quotes/inventory. Such a good journalling story too - ready for a page I think.


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