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Tuesday, September 9

The Party Line


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~

34 comments:

  1. I remember party lines. at one time there were 15 people on our party line.

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  2. We had a party line until I was about 9. There was only one other family on our line, but they had teenagers and it seemed they were always on the phone. Another thing about our phone at the time was instead of being all numbers - ours started with TW, then came the numbers. Another fun memory!

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  3. Yes we had one family on ours and it would drive me crazy!! Wow that was a long time ago. . . .

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  4. Oh yes!!!!!!!! When my sweet grandmother moved from Ada to Roff in 1957 they had a party line... I think that her ring was two short and one long!!! I remember her hollering at us when we would pick it up just as it rang and make us hang it back up.... She three people on her party line and one of them was a very very nosy little lady...... She was such a trouble maker and would listen all the time...... We would sneek in there and listen to others when we could get away with it......hahahha My my....... I had forgot all about that....... Thanks for the fun memories!

    Miss talking to you and this week I will get caught up..... How is Aunt May?

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  5. I'm too young I think to remember party lines but I'm sure my mother would remember them.

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  6. Oh yes, I do remember the party lines. We had that at home too when I was a little girl and I remember my mom being ticked off every time she wanted to use the phone and someone else was already talking on it! lol I can't even imagine how terrible it must have been to have nosey people listening in on the conversations. I'm just soooo glad we now have private lines. I had no idea that party lines were still in use in some parts of Canada!!

    Mary, I received your card today with the pictures...thank you SO much:-) xoxo

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  7. I heart the new banner. It is awesome. As you well know fall is my favorite time of the year!!!

    No we did not have a party line, but I remember we were not allow (as Children) to talk on the phone for more than 10 minutes at a time. We were also as teenagers not allow to phone boys ever.

    This was a wonderfully fun post...m...

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  8. It's very interesting to read how it was in other countries. Nobody had a phone in the 50th in Germany but there was one booth for several flats standing in the middle and you had to use that. Sometimes people had to line up. We had our first telephone in 1959 when my parents moved to Brussels.

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  9. O Mary!

    I do remember lines - my paternal grandmother had one. I never used the phone that much back in those days except to speak to my parents or something. A few times I did pick up the phone to call home and eventually overheard a most scandalous conversation! I didn't get caught, my grandmother was outside. But I admit, after that, I eavesdropped a few more times - until my Mom caught me - I got in bad trouble. Back in those days we had to pick our own switch..

    37 years later my mouth is once again hanging open, remembering THAT conversation.

    Phones were/are a blessing and a curse.

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  10. I think that is a time I missed out on....it sounds great. Again....the thought of community. We have lost much with all we have gained.

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  11. Oh yes....in fact while reading your post from yesterday while I was here Monday, I was thinking of all the 'good stuff' we endured. LOL

    And party line was one of them! Of course, I was a kid then, and I DID [I confess] love to listen in on others' conversations. I wouldn't do that now if they paid me, but back then.....youth!!!

    Happy Tuesday dear lady. Thanks for the thoughts on IKE! I'm anxious for the next update. LOL

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  12. Mary, I remember having a party line when I was in 4th and 5th grade. Just the time when I wanted to start talking to my friends on the phone. I recall people would pick up and slam down the phone to let you know you better get off! I didn't have a nosy neigbor on the line-but a cousin who was in my grade at school. I remember he listened in and then went to school and told all my 5th grade secrets!! Thanks for the memories today.

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  13. When I was really little and lived on a farm in Iowa we had the old crank style phone. It was a part line. When we live near Chillicothe Mo. when I was 12 we had party lines and I still remember the phone # 1720 W3. I think it was three short rings! When I was married and lived out in the country about 5 or 6 miles from where I live now we had party lines and when we moved to town in 1968 we got a new phone and it was a private line! You have brought back some fun memories!! Love and hugs Grams

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  14. Oh I remember so well! I like you got a whipping for listening in. Never did that again! It was always so hard to get to use the phone growing up cause of a couple ladies on our party line using it for gossip they had overheard! Thanks for bringing back such a fun memory.

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  15. We did have party lines, and I admit, I did listen in sometimes.. and probably hogged the line too..LOL You just knew better than to say anything too personal..

    Unlike today... people on the cell phones talk so loud ... seems they want others to hear what they are saying.. and some of the cell phones work like walkie talkies and you can hear both sides of the conversation.. So now what with speaker phones and so on... We're back to being very careful not to talk about anything too personall...LOL

    Personal things are texted or emailed...

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  16. Mary
    We did not have a phone, too poor but within our area, there was one lady, none other than Al Gore Sr.'s sister and VP Al Gore Jr's Aunt who was nortorious for listening to other peoples call. I remember as ladies got together to do different things, quilt,can whatever and she would invarible be a topic of conversation. I think she and Mrs. G would have had a hard time sharing a line. LOL Speaking of quilting do you remember the quilts coming down from the ceiling for the ladies to work on them? As a young child I thought this was wonderful way to store work. LOL

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  17. yeap I so remember party lines. It was just exactly how you described it to a T!! WE had many on our line but I could not tell you them now...We had to ring the crank one long two shorts just like you!! I remember it well. When I got in high school we had more modern phones but they were still party lines. The reason for us was because it was cheaper. My family was just farmers so we had to be careful. In high school though I knew that on our line was a friend of mine. He and I were in the same class at school..bookkeeping!! We both had trouble with it. Another friend from bookkeeping class would call me then he would pick up on our party line. We tried to figure out our homework. The only problem was the next day at school...We 3 had the same answers and of course they were wrong!! Ha!! Sandy

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  18. When we first got a telephone we had to give the operator the number we wanted to call. Years later, on the Waltons television show, it showed the operator listening in on conversations. I remember 8 party lines. Only 4 rang into our house but there were 4 more who shared the line. It was hard to use the phone. Years later after I married and had children, we had a cabin on the lake. Our phone there had a party line and I have to confess to listening in occasionally. I didn't know the people who were talking.
    Now, for the past 5 years, we've had no land line phone, only cell phones. Since I hate to talk on the phone, I try not to use it too much and I have no solicitations on it.
    I do dislike being in a store and having to listen to people carrying on a conversation as if they were in the privacy of their own home. And I hate drivers talking while driving, especially HOney Bear,ha. It scares me.
    Mama Bear

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  19. Hi Mary,
    We had party lines here too until I was about 10. There were also private lines, but they were quite pricey.
    We shared a party line with a family down the street. The girl and I were friends and if I wanted to call her there was a special number to call since we shared a party line.
    Fun memories!!
    hugs))

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  20. My Grandma used to have one. I don't ever remember having one myself.

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  21. Reading your ‘party line’ post brought back memories of my childhood. We shared a line with 3 other families when I was a kid. I wasn’t allowed to use the phone much until I was 12 or 13, but I do recall having to lift the receiver and make sure no one was talking before placing a call … and being ‘interrupted’ by others who wanted to use the phone.
    Hugs and blessings,

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  22. Hi. I came here from Hootin' Anni's. I love the look of your blog, and I see it is from Anni. I've enjoyed reading down through your blog and when I came to this one I decided to comment. I'm 71 years old so I remember the party lines very well. When you picked up the phone to make a call you never knew who might be on there talking. Sometimes it was interesting for me as a kid to listen in for awhile. I remember when in rural Oklahoma you had to listen for the ring to know if it was for you. Two longs and a short? A long and two shorts? Everyone on the party line had their own combination. My goodness how times have changed. A computer couldn't even be dreamed up even in the wildest imagination. Of course somebody did eventually dream it up and here it is.

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  23. Mary,

    This post brought back a lot of memories. My mother, who was a talker and another lady on the line, who also was a talker, did not get along at all. Yes, I do remember my mother complaining that the other woman listened in to conversations. It was a grand day when we got a private line! LOL

    hugs,
    Tina

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