Ring! Ring! RI-I-I-NG! Ring! Ring RI-I-I-NG! Two shorts and one long ring. That was our ring.
In the 50’s, at our house, the telephone was still a fascination. It appeared to be nothing more than a shiny black box with a rotary dial and long cord running into the wall. Each hole of the dial, except for the one and the zero, had three letters and one number. Our number was LA2-1309. I couldn’t understand how the telephone knew if mother was dialing LA or JB.
We were on a 4-party line. Recognizing the ring was important. Not everyone had phones in those days and if you did, it was common to share a line with two to four other homes. Occasionally Mom would pick up the telephone and have to wait to make her call because the line was busy. However, in the 50’s telephones hadn’t yet become an external part of the body. She seldom had to wait long.
The phone in our house had a special stand. It sort of resembled a school desk with the chair attached sideways. It was shiny dark walnut and had a cubby-hole to hold the telephone book. The top of the desk area was just large enough for the phone and mother’s desk calendar.
Although our telephone was fascinating, when we visited my grandparent’s in South Dakota their phone intrigued me even more. It was a wooden box that hung on the wall. The mouthpiece was black with a brass ring behind it. It had two bells on top that you could watch vibrate when the phone rang. It had no dial. Grandma lifted the earpiece, cranked the handle on the side and the operator answered. She would say something like “162W”. Well Grandma wouldn’t usually say that because that was her number. But she gave the operator the number she wished to call and waited until the desired party answered.
Telephones were treated differently then. In our home the telephone was a tool for adults. As children, we seldom used it. If mother was there, she would answer it. We answered it only when she was away. And we never answered the telephone at Grandma’s house.
One evening, however, when I was nine, the phone rang while Mom and Dad were grocery shopping. “Answer it!” my older sister commanded. She was a very meek 13-year old and didn’t want to answer the phone. “Answer it!” She commanded once more.
So I carefully slid onto the vinyl seat of the telephone stand and gently lifted the receiver to my ear. I expected to hear the voice of one of Mom’s friends. But I didn’t recognize the voice at all.
“Is the LA2-1309?” inquired the stranger.
“Yes it is,” I replied.
“Do you have your television on?”
“Yes,” I replied.
“Does it fit?” with that comment from the stranger, hysterical laughter filled the air.
I quickly hung up and told my sister about the call.
She thought it was pretty funny, but we decided we wouldn’t tell Mom and Dad about the call because they might not agree.
It wasn’t long before “Ring, Ring, RI-I-I-NG. Ring, Ring, RI-I-I-NG. The phone once again began to ring.
“Answer it,” my sister once again demanded.
Now I wasn’t a very worldly nine-year-old so I picked up the phone.
“Hello,” I chimed.
“Hello,” again a strange voice on the line. “Is your refrigerator running?”
“I think so,” I replied.
“Well you better go catch it!” Again hysterical laughter filled the earpiece.
“Who are you?” I demanded.
The phone went dead.
My sister thought it was pretty funny. When we told our folks– yes we told our folks– they found it annoying. Yes annoying, not harassment as it would be called today–just annoying. But in the 50’s the telephone was a tool not an attachment to our bodies. Six-year-old children did not carry them to school. Telephones did not sing and show movies. They had no ability to send a text message. They simply transmitted one voice to another. It was a much simpler time.
The nuisance calls of the years have gone downhill. Now the callers are freaky, not funny. Some of the pranksters don’t have a sliver of conscience to control them.
(Three word Wednesday: freak, downhill, sliver.