During my earlier years, growing up and staying some of the summer with my grandmother, our telephone or communication device was feet. If they needed help from a neighbor, my granddaddy would just walk to his house and tell them. If time was allotted, then a postcard would do the trick.
My grandmother used to say she used “hoot owls” to communicate with others. I lived in the town, and in the sixties, we finally had a telephone installed into our home. I was so excited because I could now talk to my friends from the inside of my house. Unbelievable!
I don’t exactly remember how the “party line” worked. I do remember that we had a special ring that was ours alone. Of course there were about six or seven others on this particular line. Each customer had a certain ring. When your ring was used, then you answered.
Mama always said ours was two long rings and one short. But, tell you the truth, I picked up every time the phone rang. And, I am sure everybody on that particular phone line did the same. There would always be a short jingle every time someone on the line got a call. Boy, I really had to fight the devil not to listen. (Most of the time I did if mama was not around.)
The women in our community and on the same phone line would pick a time for them all to visit. They would all pick up their phones at that particular time and everybody got to talk to each other. The need for face to face fellowship had ceased somewhat. Of course, it was not always possible to be inconspicuous as you listened in on someone. If you breathed into the phone, coughed, cleared your throat, or if your little brother made noise so you would be found out.
Most of the time you would hear lots of recipes, who was sick, what the ladies thought of our preacher, or one of the women disparagingly shaming her husband about something. Come to think of it, I rarely heard men talking on the party line. Wonder why? I can remember being able to keep up with all the news just by listening in to all my party liners. Then as time progressed, we were given a two party line with a real number. Only one other person could listen in to you. That sure cut down on all my news.
We were given the number 915-R. I have no idea how I can remember this number so clearly, but I do. My husband, then boyfriend, would call me from a pay phone across from the Tuck-A-Way Diner every night when he got off work at the Phillips 66 station nest to Tuck-A-Way. The call would cost him ten cents and we could talk forever, or until my mama made me hang up.
You know sometimes it feels as if we may be back to that six party line phone. The way everyone tells all their business on Facebook, everybody is privy to everybody else’s business. We can find out who is mad at who, who went deer hunting, who is proud of her children and their accomplishments, who went to church and what the sermon was about, what we’re having for dinner, and where we are at any given time. I just now realized; I don’t only get to know the business of six people but I can realize the business of 946 friends. Isn’t technology great.
(A recipe for delicious gossip)
1 cup pride
¾ cup hearsay
½ cup evil suspicions
¼ cup grumbling
1 Tablespoon bitterness
¾ teaspoon slander
2 teaspoons yeast of exaggeration
3 teaspoons of slurring the situation, pinch of flattery, just a dash of unfaithfulness
Mix all ingredients in a bowl of betrayal. Pour into a saucepan and bring to a boil, constantly stirring. Prepare in a dark kitchen. Simmer overnight. Barely sprinkle with truth. Serve hot to itching ears, warm to those mot minding their own business, and cold to those fearful. Serving size – unlimited!