Thursday, May 14, 2009


Communications have really changed in rural America. Our phone system has always been South Western Bell. They were always thought to be the best up to date service and equipment available but in later years the local companies have newer and better equipment like fiber optic. Our phone was the old crank type phone. The reason they called it a crank phone was because it had a small crank on the side to crank out the ring you wanted. You could crank the operator and the people on your line. The operator was one long ring and each person that was on your line had a different combination of rings. Ours was two long and three short rings. Our number was 22F3O.

There were 11 other people on our line plus a long distance operator which served a local farmer owned company. We would hear all their long distance calls ring. With one telephone line you would have to wait on people that were talking to finish before you could use it. It was good and bad. The good was your neighbor could watch out for you. If you needed help you could do a line ring (a long ring) and every body that heard the ring would come and help. When Pearl Harbor was bombed, leading us into WWII, someone heard it on the radio and gave a line ring so everyone knew about it right away. Also, if someone called you and one of your neighbors knew you were gone they would answer it and tell them you were not home, or where you went shopping.

One bad thing was that you had no private call because there was always someone listening. I remember that we had two women that listened to all the calls, and they would butt in when you were talking with someone else. They might say 'no that's not the way it is', or 'did you hear....? Most of the time when you would answer your phone you would hear click, click and you would know people were listening in on you. I guess that's why they called it a PARTY LINE, you always had a 'party' listening. Most of the time when you wanted to use the phone it would be busy, they would get on there and visit for hours. Every time you listened to see if you could use the phone they would know it because it made a click sound. They would say 'someone wants to use the phone', then keep right on talking! If they didn't stop you would have to ring in on them and that would make them mad and they would hang up. We had two neighbor women that didn't care much for each other. They would ring in on each other or tell each other 'get off the line I need to use the phone, you have been on it all day'.

The long distance line for Lamar was always busy in the evenings. Sometimes we had calls ringing all night long on our line. The operator could hear every thing that was going on in our neighborhood. Lamar Telephone Co. was a poor company. They had one wire and they hung it on fence posts, trees, and any thing to keep it off the ground. The poles they had were cut from hedge trees. They were short and not too big, but they had a telephone and that was better than n0thing.

My sister Donna worked for Bell in Minneapolis and Salina as an operator so we got to go and watch what the operators had to do when some one used their phone. They had several operators in our small town because they had to keep the switchboard open 24/7.

We kids had our own private phone company. We made 'phones' like the one pictured above. We would use them between two hideouts. Don't laugh---they worked!!

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