One Ringy Dingy

Remember back when it was exciting to hear a phone ring? Every one would clamor to the phone yelling, "I'll get it! I'll get it!"

The first phone I can remember in our household was one of these bad boys that hung on our kitchen wall.

Dialing someone's number seemed to take forever - especially if they had a "zero" in their phone number. You'd poke your finger in the hole and wind the dial all the way around to the metal bracket and then let the dial go and wait for it to roll back into place. Here's a little video to help some of you young whippersnappers understand what I am talking about.

There was no quick dialing back then. If you needed to dial 911 you'd be better off just standing on your front porch and screaming "HELP!" (Oh, yeah, they didn't have 911 back then, either!)

You could take your time dialing, too. You wouldn't get any funny or annoying buzzing sounds for over a minute. And answering machines? Never heard of them! If you weren't home, the phone just rang and rang. Even if you WERE home, and couldn't get to the phone right away, it rang and rang till the person on the other end gave up and hung up. Sometimes if you'd call someone and let the phone ring for 20-30 times, the operator would break in and say something wise like, "There seems to be nobody home at that number." Thanks for THAT newsflash!

"Call-waiting" wasn't invented either, but if you were trying to get in touch with someone, and they were yaking on the phone, you could actually call the operator and say you had an emergency and have her break into their conversation so they end their conversation and talk with you!

Our rotary dial wall phone had a 6-ft. long cord attached to it, which each of us kids would stretch to the limit. It wasn't an unusual sight to see the cord stretched across the kitchen, and one person or another either ducking under or pulling the cord up to get by. Sometimes we'd hold the phone in the crook of our neck and gab, all the while washing dishes, or sweeping the floor, or some other household chore in the kitchen.

If we were having a private conversation, we'd stretch the cord and sit on the stairs that led to the bedrooms upstairs. If it was a really, REALLY private conversation, we'd shut the door to the stairs, and it became like a confessional -

dark and quiet, while you confessed your sins to your friend over the phone.

From all that stretching, that cord was a mess! Every so often we'd have to dangle the receiver and let the cord unwind. I sat transfixed as the receiver twisted first one way, then the other.

Speaking of private conversations, that was hardly possible if you had a party line. And I'm not talking about those 1-800-call-me numbers they advertise now for college kids. I'm talking a party line where people SHARE one telephone line. Jim's parents were on a a party line in their small town in Minnesota. It wasn't that long ago, either - in the 80's! If you wanted to make a call, you lifted the receiver and listened to see if anyone was using the phone. If someone was talking, and if you were a courteous person, you would hang up and try again later. But if you were nosy, you just might listen to the conversation and see what little pieces of gossip you could pick up. Just don't breathe too heavy or they'd know another person was on the line!

The times, they were a'changing, and we went right along with it. Out went the rotary phone, and in came a spanking new PUSH BUTTON Trimline phone.

Hoo-hoo! Talk about speed dial! This was great! We could dial people up in a quarter amount of the time that it took us before! And boy, my memory was great back then. I could retain so many phone numbers in my head. Family members, friends, associates. Now? I don't even know my own kids' phone numbers - they are programmed in to my cell phone.
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