The Way It Was Before Facebook

Bertha Doolittle owned the telephone company where I lived my early youth. The switchboard was about the size of a school desk and probably was wired to two lines which serviced twenty phones.

The phone in my grandfather’s house must have had a number. Thought I didn’t know it, the livestock broker rang the house each time he sold a herd of cattle or hogs. But numbers weren’t necessary where I lived. Though I was not allowed to use the phone I could have if I’d had a chair to stand on.

The telephone was housed in a wooden box that was fastened to the east wall. Whenever my grandmother decided to call her brother, Floyd, she lifted the receiver, held the hook down, and spun the crank which rang a bell in the beauty shop. Then she released the hook and waited while Bertha rinsed the chemicals from her hands before answering.

“Hello, Willia.”

“Hello Bertha. Please ring my brother.”

Grandma’s ring was three short rings. Other folks on the party line – twelve in all – had their own unique ring because all twelve phones rang.

Grandpa subscribed to “The Drover’s Telegram”, a Topeka, Kansas weekly newspaper that published current livestock and grain prices. And a little of what Truman or FDR were up to.

But I thought the weekly was a waste of money. Grandma had listened in and already knew everything worth knowing before the publisher could get to his press.