Do any of you remember the telephone party line. That is what we had when I was growing up. There were four parties on our telephone line - Grandma, who lived next door, Mrs. G., who lived one road over, and us. I believe there was one other party but I don't remember who it was.
When the telephone rang, the rings were distinctive. Ours was two longs and a short; Grandma's was one long and one short and Mrs. G's was three longs. I remember Mrs. G well because she was the most difficult person who every shared a party line.
When our phone rang and we answered it, we immediately heard a click, which meant someone was listening. At certain times you could hear Mrs. G's children talking in the background and this is how we knew it was her. The kids, one boy and a girl went to school with us, so we knew their voices well.
When we went to use the phone, we picked it up and listened. If the party line was in use, we gently placed the receiver back on the cradle, which was proper telephone etiquette in those days. Dad demanded only the best from his children and wouldn't tolerate us listening in on the party line. I only did it once, when I was about 12 years old and my butt stung for a couple of hours after I was caught. That was a lesson learned for me - no eavesdropping. It was a lesson that Mrs. G never learned the entire time that we had the party line.
If an emergency arose and you picked up the phone to call for help and it was busy, proper telephone etiquette demanded that you inform the parties that you needed the telephone for an emergency. They in turn were to bring their call to an end and clear the line. I only remember Dad asking for the party line once and Mrs. G was the talker. She had been on the phone for almost two hours and Dad finally asked that she clear the line so he could use it. She refused. He was furious and reported her to Bell Telephone. (Nowadays it is Bell Canada.) They gave her a good talking to and phoned Dad back to tell him if it ever happened again to let them know. If the line was not cleared for an emergency, the subscriber could lose their telephone privledges.
Dad got along with everyone, except Mrs. G, who hogged that party line as if it was her own private sanctuary. She talked and talked for hours at a time. Business couldn't be done by other parties on the line because she was always on it. Grandpa and Mrs. G had a few squabbles over the party line as well.
Today there aren't many party lines left in Canada and the ones that are still in use are all in remote wilderness areas of the country. There is also a place in California that still uses party lines. I'm glad that today we have private lines. I can't imagine having to share a telephone line with the nosey neighbors across from my back door. They watch our every move, so I'm sure they would be listening to all of our phone calls to learn more about our business.
The party line was fun when I was a kid. The community was closer knit and even though Mrs. G spent most of her day on the party line, we were blessed to have a telephone. Today, we take our telephones with us wherever we go. Although I don't carry a cell phone, most people do. Hubby has one for work and we do use it sometimes. Cell phones ring in stores, theaters, doctor's offices and other places where they shouldn't be. Drivers talk on their phone as they are driving and don't watch the road. They are distracted by the conversation. What ever would these people have done if they had shared a party line. Food for thought.
If you ever used a party line, I would like to hear your memories. It was a different time and a much slower paced lifestyle. ~Blessings, Mary~