The other evening I was watching a TV program and they showed a hideous green telephone with the old dial on it. First off, I really detested the color but also remembered the telephones of the 40’s and my youth. My father owned the Pontiac and Philco franchise for town so he felt we needed a private telephone line both at home and at the shop. Mom was the Executive Secretary for the Red Cross in Rush County, so she felt a private line was needed too. One must remember at this time it was usual to have what was called a party line. This would consist of 3 or 4 different individuals actually being on the same line. As one could guess, privacy was something not guaranteed on a party line. If you were talking and someone else on the line picked up, they were part of the conversation if they cared to be and you could not do anything other than ask them to please hang up which was not usually done.
If you wanted to use the phone and someone else was using it, you were out of luck. And private lines were more expensive and harder to get because of the need of more switching equipment and physical lines for them. We were on a private line, and as such, could not be interrupted by someone else coming on line at the same time. I do know that many of the older ladies of the town frankly enjoyed party lines. They could keep up on the gossip much better with four others helping out. The local phone company owned the phone or phones in the home, the lines to the house as well as the lines in the house and all service needs were the responsibility of the phone company. You only rented the phones and all of them were black and of the same design.
At this time the phone company was owned by those using it, much like Rush Shelby today. They had a building on Main Street where the Chamber Of Commerce is today. It was a two story building and full of switching equipment as well as a garage and store room in the back off the alley. The city owned the electrical generating plant and helped with the phone company and water and sewer too. I remember one friend of my families who had to wait for almost six months before they were able to go from a party line to a private line, and then only after someone else either moved or opted out of a private line.
My aunt lived in rural Dearborn County and she at this time had one of the older type phones. It was a large wooden box on the wall with a crank on the side of the phone and a large round battery hooked into the phone to allow it to work. Her phone number was three longs and a short ring and there were five other individuals on her line. When her phone rang her three and ones it also rang into all the others homes on the line. So if things were quiet and the gossip line was down one could listen in on all the other conversations going on. Or you could have a conference call by having all those on your line there when you called and talked with someone else. To call anyone not on your line, you had to go through an operator who would plug you into another line, usually party type. If you wanted to talk to someone on your line, you used the crank to crank out their phone numbers and waited for them to pick up. I have often wondered just where that phone ended up it would certainly make a conversation piece today.
Phones had to have lines no cell phones, nor were there any cordless phones. You didn’t own the phone itself, so you took what you could get and was happy with it. In no way at this time would any one I knew even think we could have phones like we have today. Probably no one would be happy with having to purchase their own phone.
Today, you generally are responsible for all the lines in you home unless you pay additional for the phone company to work on them. You have to pay for the lines being placed where ever you want them in you home today and a connection fee to get them to connect you to their switching machines. Where you pay for several different services today we just paid one bill for all time and the phone company took care of what repairs were needed without a charge. That part of the deal I liked and am sure many of you would too.
I remember our first cell phones, large bags with a telephone receiver like you have on your home phone connected to a radio set to go to the nearest tower. If you used the cell phone in a car you needed an outside antenna that was either pasted to your windshield or plugged in on top of the car. Then they went to a phone that looked a lot like a WWII walkie talkie and it was large and cumbersome as well, but much more portable than the bag. Now you have a phone that is smaller than a pack of cigarettes, light, takes pictures, sends text messages, plays games and can even get on the Internet too. Interesting in things have progressed this far in only 70 years and so many things we would never considered in my youth are today common place.
I am on a cell only telephone system now no land lines that are active to my home. I would never in my wildest dreams thought in my youth I would ever be able to have something likes this, let alone use it. My children more or less talked me into it and in reality I did not care to pay two different telephone bills each month and cell service was getting better so reluctantly I was shoved into the 21st Century cell system. So far I am happy with it, but find me forgetting to charge up my cell phone, which at times causes a problem, old age you know.