Rushville Republican

Columns

February 11, 2014

From party lines to cell phones...big changes

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.

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