TOUGH TIMES AND PARTY LINES
Growing up in a small town, most people heard the local news about their neighbors “through the grapevine.” Call it gossip or rumors but, without fail, every little tidbit of information was invariably-linked to someone’s telephone.
Of course, there was a time when almost everyone shared a phone number with one or more families. It was called “a party line.” Sometimes as many as six families shared the same phone number. This was certainly—very long ago---when a real person (always a woman)--- called a “telephone operator”---hand-connected every phone call.
If you wanted to place a phone call--you’d pick up the phone, the operator would say “number, please”-- you’d say the number---and she would connect you with the desired phone number. The phone would ring and the operator would say—to whomever answered the phone--“this is a call for Mr. Miller from his daughter, Sally”. If the call wasn’t for anyone who picked up the ringing phone---except Mr. Miller--- everyone was expected to hang up. Of course—without fail---many people stayed on the phone--- “listening” to other people’s conversations--- and heard more than they needed to know.
As a very-young child, I remember our family sharing a party-line with six other families. There were times when I watched my father pick up the phone several times to make a call--- and politely-ask someone to hang up so he could call the railroad about his work orders. Numerous times, the person on the other end of the phone was rude and-- rather than hang up the phone so my father could make a business call—they often were nasty or cursed my father. Those were the times I marveled at my father’s classic manners—his patience—and his always- respectful attitude.
Finally the day came when the telephone company installed a private phone line in our house—and it didn’t happen because my family suddenly-became wealthy!
Our one-party-phone line was an absolute-necessity. My father’s railroad job depended on him receiving his daily train orders/assignments--- by telephone.
Sometimes---It’s not just “the times” that are tough but---all-too-often---it’s the nasty people who make “times” tough.