“Stay Off the Phone!”

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Some while ago I introduced younger readers to the pay phone booth and its features. Today, I am remembering the ever present home phone from my childhood in the 1950’s. It came in black. It weighed a ton and survived much abuse. Once a sibling even threw it into the wall. The wall got a hole, but the phone was intact.

The phone had two features. It rang and you could dial it. Today’s phones have so many options that many of the negotiating skills needed in my childhood are no longer needed. One common need was to stay off the phone because a parent was waiting to hear back from the doctor. Doctors didn’t appreciate a busy signal, the noise heard if someone was already on the phone. We all complied with that request. One that rarely was followed was a sibling waiting to hear from a boy friend or girl friend. I guess we figured a persistent friend would keep redialing.

Although we had a party line (shared with another family)  when I was little, by the time I was seven, we had our own phone number. But we still might be chastised for staying on the phone too long, especially if a parent was trying to call home and kept getting a busy signal. There were no answering machines, so whoever answered the phone was expected to WRITE DOWN a message. Needless to say, we often forgot and heard about it later. “How come you didn’t tell me ….called?”

There was no such thing as caller i.d. either. So it was not possible to avoid phone calls except by not answering the phone. However, that was not really an option and was sure to be met with “how come nobody answered the phone?”

The phone lasted forever. You always knew where it was. It was repaired by the phone company for free. Sometimes the old ways, though simpler, were better.

 

16 thoughts on ““Stay Off the Phone!”

  1. The phone that sat in my parents room the entire time I was growing up looked just like the picture above. You didn’t mention that you had to begin dialing again if you messed up a number along the way. I totally understand about the having to stay off the phone thing. My father is a veterinarian and you never knew when a client was going to call with a down cow–we really weren’t allowed to be on the phone to just talk (no matter how important we thought our own phone call to be) for longer than about five minutes (maybe ten if Mom was feeling generous and Dad wasn’t on call). Very frustrating for a sixteen year old.

  2. I still have a phone just like that but the wiring is the old-fashioned original kind, so I have not tried to see if it can be made to work with modern systems.

  3. I remember getting in trouble because a friend who didn’t have phone restrictions kept calling and calling. I guess that is why call blocking was invented.

  4. We had a party line with 5 families, each with our own ring that we could recognize. We weren’t allowed to talk to our friends on the phone at all growing up, it had to wait till we saw them at school 🙂
    Jennifer

  5. Wow! You’ve brought back all kinds of memories with this. I forgot about phone conversation limits. In the 1970s I remember it was a big deal when we got an extra long chord, which allowed me to take the telephone where my mother couldn’t see me whispering into the receiver for a few extra minutes.

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