A Family Telephone History

It was a few years after the end of WWII, when we got our telephone and we were the first family on the street where we lived to get one.  My father liked to “fiddle around” with little “handyman” jobs, and was drawn to the telephone gadget that was starting to become popular in the neighborhood.  And it gave him an excuse to “fiddle around” with making a small shelf in a corner near the stairs going up to the 2nd floor, on which to place the new telephone.  I can still see that picture in my mind.

I can remember my reaction to the weight of that huge, black phone, which seemed to have weighed too much for a little girl to hold for very long.  I also can recall that I never used it to call anyone – just might have answered it and told my Mom she was “wanted on the phone.”

Some years later, when I was 12 and a half, we moved.  That all-important phone was installed right away, and seemed to have taken on a life of its own.  All my parents’ family members had one, except for my Grandma.  She lived on the third floor of a walk-up apartment building, and couldn’t afford a phone, but that wasn’t a hindrance to communicating with family and friends.  The store below had a public phone booth, and the owner was nice enough to let my Grandma know that someone was on his phone who wanted to talk to her.  His method of communicating this message was to shout up from the sidewalk below the bedroom window, “Mrs. Blacker, there’s a phone call for you.”

The telephone changed color and placement.  My Mom got a phone installed on the wall between the kitchen and hallway and it was YELLOW!  And it had a VERY LONG CORD!  Privacy was no problem.  The cord extended all the way into the living room, and the adolescent me could talk for hours to friends.  Mom would get impatient, especially if she was expecting a call.  There was no beep signal to advise a call was coming in.  The caller would get only a busy signal.

There was no telephone extensions needed; however, I don’t remember if they were available then.  The house was small.  The phone was easily within reach, and I remember spending hours propped up against the living room wall, stretching the phone cord until it was ready to shout, “Help.”  Over years, it was stretched out to double its original length.

That same yellow wall phone was one of the main reasons why I fell in love with my first husband, Dan.  He had a deep and expressive voice.  I’m sure that was a strong part of the reason for my attraction to him.  We spent days of hours on the phone, even though he lived just down the block!

When Dan and I and our children moved to Long Island, NY, phone installation was high on the importance list, AND we had an extension in the bedroom!  And we were the first of our family and friends who got an answer machine.  As it was ’round the world, our personal reliance on the telephone was fast becoming the most important aspect of communication.  We found it important that, if we weren’t home, callers could leave a message!  BTW, that answer machine was humongous.  It also had two tapes – one for the greeting and one for messages.  If the message tape ran out, later callers couldn’t leave a message.

We took that answer machine with us when Danny and I moved to Florida.  It served its purpose beautifully.

I lost my Danny.

Time passed, and I moved on with my life, and the answering machine disappeared.  Next came the cellphone.

I purchased my first cellphone in 1997, and the only available plan was for 15 minutes a month!  I bought it for “emergency” purposes.  It was big, heavy and cumbersome and didn’t come in colors.  But it sure came in handy when needed.  It was literally a lifesaver.

Several styles went by the wayside – flip phone, small display windows, and finally, the SMART PHONE with the huge display.  I love my mobile phone (notice it’s no longer just a cellphone),  It is not only my mobile phone; it is also my mobile computer.  My whole life is on that precious gadget.

We’ve come a long way, baby.

Header Image from:  https://freewebheaders.com




5 responses to “A Family Telephone History

  1. This brought up so many memories of phones from my life. Particularly how long that cord got! Ha! Another was my Mother’s screeching owl voice letting me know I had a phone call. LOL!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Remember the “party lines”? When 4 or 5 families could “accidentally” eavesdrop on phone calls meant for others?


    • Joseph, thanks for commenting. I remember there was such a thing, but I don’t recall my parents had that when I was a young girl. I lived in Brooklyn NY, and the population was dense, to say the least. I do recall that, in smaller communities across the country, party lines were the “norm.” The “party line” was popularized and normalized in early TV shows where the characters lived in small communities, and sometimes the story line focused on the telephone operators who were an integral part of the social life. I’m glad we don’t have party lines anymore – I wouldn’t want people listening in to hear my personal conversations. I’m a friendly person, but not that friendly!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The way the “party line” worked was each household had a certain number of “rings” when someone called. Maybe your house had 2 rings. Of course, you might “accidentally” pick up a call with three rings by mistake ! And ,not wanting to disturb the conversation just listen in and not hang up.


Make the day brighter with your comment!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s