Before Present Times – Telephone

Before Present Times – Telephone:

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I do not remember the first time I answered the ringing telephone. Nor do I remember what it must have been like to attempt and hold that heavy handheld ear piece in my little hands. Nor do I really remember the color of the device. I'm sure it was one of those neutral colors – black, beige, or green.

What I do remember is that the phone was in a solitary, and public place. The living room, dining room, or in the hallway. They used to make little alcoves built into the wall for the phone to sit in. It was a public place and most every conversation was publicly listened to by anyone in the room.

It was nearing the teen years that I remember the cord connecting the phone to the wall could be extended so the device could be carried into a nearby place of privacy. If not the cord, then at least the ear piece could be carried as far as the curlicue cable would allow.

During the same years, phones started trending to push buttons instead of the rotary dial. You were special if your home had upgraded!

I guess what I remember most is that you could never hush it up. The ringer could never be turned off, just down. Even opening the device, the best you could do was to mute the clanger so that the phone would clatter instead of jangle.

Back in my younger days, phones numbers were zoned by some neighborhood designation, and the first one I remember was GL, which stood for Glendale. And Glendale must have been some neighborhood! We had phone numbers that began with GL2 and went all the way to GL9, if my memory serves me correct. We lived in GL2 and my bride lived in GL3. Eventually, GL was replaced by their numbers on the phone dialing pad – 45. So, a GL2-4098 became 452-4098, and GL3-9053 became 453-9053…

All of this was back when long distance calls were special! I seem to remember a time when you required an operator to finish the call for you. Back before area codes were so populated!

I'm a little fuzzy on this because I didn't pay the bills, but it seems like long distance calls were expensive! You called at certain times of the day that gave you the best rate. This was even true in the 90's before cell phones took over the world. I received numerous calls after my bedtime just so someone could save a few dollars!

I worked for a company who had a WATS line and they let employees come to work at night and schedule time to make long distance calls on their special long distance line. What was WATS? I had to go look it up. It was popular with corporations to have a special connection with the phone company that allowed them to make long distance phone calls at a "flat rate". Wide Area Telephone Service… My bride and I used this service several times back in 1976 and 1977.

Do any of you remember how unique it was when you could finally leave a voice message? I never owned a recorder/playback machine until I had been married several years! We used to rush to the device if it were blinking to listen to the playback. After a while, we grew tired of the experience!

Did you ever call someone who was on a "party line"? Several households shared the same phone connection and you were distinguished by a certain style of rings. Long rings. Short rings. Now, count how many and the order of each and you would know if someone was trying to reach you! And if you were good enough, you could lift up the receiver ever so gently and listen in on someone else's call!

And every household could only have one number, but I remember when it became easier to add a second line! For the kids, home office, or other personal reasons! Mostly, we used it to fax, or dial into the internet connection. Remember AOL or CompuServe? Juno?

Now. I could reminisce all day long about the good old days of telephones, and some of those days were not too terribly long ago. I am thankful we are no longer connected to a fixed location with all the restrictions those good old days portended, but I also miss the disconnection of the past and this constant feeling of needing to be connected every moment of the day! Now we are tethered to sleek, portable device that connects to wireless cell towers, satellites and other fancy ways of keeping us constantly available.

Get out of range and you feel like you are simply lost!

Last Saturday we spent several hours finishing up our chicken coop. Without having our cell phones handy. It was a blessed time without worrying about calls, social media or any other connection to the public world. War could have started. Someone could have gotten sick, or in a terrible accident.

I'm sorry! It was bliss. No connection. Back to primitive times, almost!

Well. Recent primitive times!…

The older I get, it seems I simply want to revert, for a while. Go back to those 50's and 60's and be like a kid again. But wait, my phone is vibrating… Better check in!