Back in Time
Back in Time
Until I was 9 we lived in suburban communities with regular telephones. While most telephones in the 40’s were bulkier and had rotary dialing, they can still be recognized as telephones today. When we moved to the country in 1949 we stepped back 50 years in telephone technology. Instead of dialing a number we had to get the attention of an operator who made all the telephone calls. We also had a party-line which meant that eight other households shared the use of our telephone line. If they were talking, then we had to wait until they finished. Basically it was the same as if each of us was an extension in a very large house. It wasn’t a big problem for a 10 year old but it was often a big nuisance for adults. Of course if there was an emergency, you just asked the person talking to let you make a call. Sometimes there might be a disagreement about what determined an emergency. Then too there was always the concern that some nosy neighbor was eavesdropping on your conversation. In those days, in the country, you didn’t have choices. If you didn’t like party lines, it was just too bad.
Rapid Change in Technology
We did see a rapid evolution in telephone service during the 50’s. First we got an actual telephone receiver instead of the wooden box on the wall with bells and a crank. There was still an operator and we still had a party line but using it was simplified. You just lifted the receiver and waited for the voice of the operator. We moved from one farm to another in 56 and sometime shorty thereafter we were given a telephone with a dial so we could actually place calls ourselves. Instead of our old number 875-J-2 which meant that we were the second line on the 875 circuit we got an actual number with an exchange just like in the city. Our number was Madison 3-3269 and we could actually dial local calls ourselves. We were also able to get a private line so we could always make a call. It was like dying and going to heaven.
Then we got to dial long distance.
In the late 50’s, they introduced Area Codes which didn’t mean much at the time because long distance calls were regarded as a luxury. Our farm was in the Greater Kansas City area which spans two states and therefore two area codes. In the beginning, we could dial numbers in Kansas from our Missouri farm without the area code but when the system was implemented, this was no longer allowed. At the end of the 50’s my rural home was in technological sync with the big city. In ten years I had gone from cranking a handle to connect with an operator to direct dial long distance. It was amazing.
I would never have dreamed that 6 years later
virtually everyone would have their own telephone to carry with them. Of course, in those days, I wouldn’t have wanted one. How times change.