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Anybody Remember Party Line Telephones?
Old 08-26-2007, 10:40 PM   #1
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Anybody Remember Party Line Telephones?

There was a thread about living in small towns. My grandfather lived on a farm and everybody knew everybody's business since there was this great communication system called telephones with 'party' lines. We are careful about privacy now but there didn't seem to be much then. When I visited I had to be very careful talking to my girlfriend.
Anyone else remember this old phone system? Anything older would have to be telegraph or smoke signals.
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Old 08-26-2007, 10:53 PM   #2
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Yeah, I remember party lines. My aunt lived in the "country" and she had one. She had her own particular ring...(two short ones, I think) to let her know if the call was for her. It was great fun to listen in on the conversations...eh, for a while anyway.

I even remember the good old days when the operator would say "number please" when you picked up the receiver. That was a lot of fun for me when I was around 3 or so.

I'm really showing my age now.
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Old 08-26-2007, 11:36 PM   #3
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I also remember party lines, vaguely. Also notices in the phone books about state law requiring you to relinquish the line if someone stated an emergency call needed to be made. My grandparents had a party line with a special ring sequence to let you know if the call was for you or a neighbor. I wasn't quite old enough to have used a phone with a crank. But my other grandparents had an old instrument in their attic I ran across.

But I also remember:
  • Going to school in a one-room schoolhouse with multiple grades.
  • The bathroom was a little house out back, without running water.
  • The bright/dim headlight switch was on the floor next to the clutch.
Anyone else remember these?
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Old 08-26-2007, 11:55 PM   #4
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There was a party line at the rural house we moved to in 1978 when I was 10. We had to share it with a little old lady. The rates were a lot cheaper than a regular line.

My folks still are billed the party line rate even though they no longer have to share with anybody (the old lady that shared it must have passed by now).
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Old 08-27-2007, 12:10 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by EngineeringMyFinances View Post
I also remember party lines, vaguely. Also notices in the phone books about state law requiring you to relinquish the line if someone stated an emergency call needed to be made. My grandparents had a party line with a special ring sequence to let you know if the call was for you or a neighbor. I wasn't quite old enough to have used a phone with a crank. But my other grandparents had an old instrument in their attic I ran across.

But I also remember:
  • Going to school in a one-room schoolhouse with multiple grades.
  • The bathroom was a little house out back, without running water.
  • The bright/dim headlight switch was on the floor next to the clutch.
Anyone else remember these?
I own a phone with a crank on it, and a car with that dimmer switch style. Both still work well (I did the conversion on the phone for modern use myself). Does that make me old or old fashioned?
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Old 08-27-2007, 12:24 AM   #6
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[*] The bright/dim headlight switch was on the floor next to the clutch.
Heck, some of the readers are wondering what a "clutch" is.

I'm wondering if it's even worth teaching our kid how to drive a stick. I guess I'll leave it up to her... right after I teach her how to "play a record" and "dial a phone".
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Old 08-27-2007, 06:19 AM   #7
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But I also remember:
  • Going to school in a one-room schoolhouse with multiple grades.
  • The bathroom was a little house out back, without running water.
  • The bright/dim headlight switch was on the floor next to the clutch.
Anyone else remember these?
We had a party line for years growing up. For a long time you could have it either way and it was much cheaper to have a party line.
I also attended a two-room school house with 2 teachers and 4 grades.
No outhouse but a neighbor still has one and I think he still uses it.
I hated when they changed the high/low switch.
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Old 08-27-2007, 07:29 AM   #8
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When I was a teenager we had a party line. In those days the phone company charged extra to have a second phone, so I bought one at Radio Shack and hooked it up myself. One day first one phone rings - then the other. I knew this couldn't be good.

I answered and the guy from the phone company asks "Do you have an extra set hooked up?"

Me - "Uhhh.........no".

He said "Well in case you do - it is charging long distance calls to your neighbor".

I ripped the new phone out and didn't hear about it again. Gosh, I miss Ma Bell.
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Old 08-27-2007, 07:52 AM   #9
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I remember party lines so well that I asked some friends about them a couple of years ago, when I was trying to lower my phone bills.

How disappointing when they told me that party lines had been history, for years! Oh well.
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Old 08-27-2007, 08:15 AM   #10
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Whaddya bet the term "party line" conjures up this sort of image to most people under 30:



Want2, I doubt this would do much towards reducing your expenses...
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Old 08-27-2007, 08:29 AM   #11
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I remember party lines, and also the neighborhood phone booth for all to share (not everyone could afford a phone). Got stuck in there once or twice with the "assistance" of my friends.

I taught both kids and DW to drive a stick shift. It was only in the last few years that their cars had automatics. A dwindling club.

Random oddball recollections:

Also remember the trash can being sunk into the ground with a foot pedal to open it. The "garbage men" would lift the old metal can out of its tomb to empty it each week.

The milk box was a newfangled aluminum thing once we sealed up the mild delivery door. The tops of the mild bottles were these thing cardboard/paper deals with a small tab which you'd grab with thumb and pointer to lift up - always a little milk fat stuck to it, despite being homogenized.

During the summer a guy would come around spraying DDT in all the garages for mosquito control. We thought it was great fun to play in the clouds.

Dentist would give a little drop of "mercury" in a paper cup as a souvenir of your visit. You would just roll it around in the cup. Same think they'd put in little plastic toys where you had to tilt and turn the "maze" to get the mercury drop from start to end.

Vaguely - a big blue on white sign with the letter "Q" in homes where a kid was sick with polio, measles, whooping cough, etc.

And, of course, the ever-present fallout shelter, gobs of food and water as well as a few sanitary supplies. Even then, it wasn't comforting.

[/Feeling Old]
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Old 08-27-2007, 08:32 AM   #12
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Yep. We had one for a coupe of years in Atlanta area. I remember that my mom would get very irritated because the lady across the street was always on the phone. When she had the option, we got a private line.

Also remember my grandparents on the farm in SE Iowa used a hand crank phone, where you talk into the wall receiver and hold the earpiece to your ear. No dailer. They were on a first name basis with the operator. That was also a party line.

For several years I was the head of the property committee at church. The new DCE, a recent college grad, returned from a trip with the youth and notified the church office that the headlight dimmer switch did not work. I looked into it. The dimmer switch worked perfectly, but is was a floor switch, something the DCE had never encountered before. It was fun explaining ir to her. I was thankful that she didn't break off the turning signal handle trying to dim the lights.
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Old 08-27-2007, 09:45 AM   #13
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We shared a party line with several other families, including families with teenage girls...

We burned our trash...

My paternal grandparents had an outhouse/chamber potty until the mid-60s...

My g-grandmother had a wood cookstove until she died in 1969...

My first car was a 1962 Belair, 3-on-the-tree, with an AM radio...

My g-uncle, the dairy farmer, had an old 1940-something truck with the starter switch on the floor, and the "crank-start" option...
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Old 08-27-2007, 10:18 AM   #14
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Wow...we are old pharts, aren't we?
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Old 08-27-2007, 11:45 AM   #15
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We too had a party line out on the chicken farm.

Rich, I remember licking that bit of milk fat off of the little paper tops on the milk bottles.

We shopped at the co-op that truly was a co-op owned by the members. It did not go out of business until last year. My sibs and I each received $169 as our share of the liquidation.

My grandmother cooked on a wood cookstove until she died, the same year as HFWR's grandmother died.

I learned to drive a stick before an automatic (on the column no less).

We heated with wood and had a "garbage burner" in the kitchen.

You could get meat butchered at the locker plant.

No homework on Wednesday, it was church night.

Even though I was the best science student in my school, I didn't get the science award because I was a girl. Instead, I got the English student award, even though I was not the best English student.

Grade school mornings started with a prayer and the pledge of allegiance.

Some of my friends used orange juice cans as hair rollers. I tried ironing my hair once to let it to go straight. No luck.

I very briefly wore skirts so short I had to carefully tuck my butt in as I walked up stairs.

To keep dust down on the dirt roads they took some kind of yellow, hot, stinky, effluent from the paper mill and sprayed the roads. I remember walking on the warm wet road in my bare feet afterwards. We called it the "pee pee truck."


We "put up" our vegetables in the fall. Canned peas taste like crap.
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Old 08-27-2007, 11:51 AM   #16
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My grandmother cooked on a wood cookstove until she died, the same year as HFWR's grandmother died.
Funny aside: my g-aunts/uncles pitched in to buy Grandma an electric range, so they'd have one to use for holiday gatherings. I don't think she used it...
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Old 08-27-2007, 11:56 AM   #17
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Anyone remember Fruitana cookies? I've been looking for them for decades without luck.
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Old 08-27-2007, 01:38 PM   #18
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Anyone else grow up with a coal furnace? The delivery truck would dump it down the chute through the window. I remember as a kid, saving a small lump of coal hoping that one day it would turn to a diamond. What ever happened to that lump of coal? hmmm...

How bout "bike shiners" those things that would hang on the hubs of your bike wheels and shine the hubs and make a tinkling sound as you ride?
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Old 08-27-2007, 01:43 PM   #19
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What ever happened to that lump of coal? hmmm...
Want2Retire got it for Christmas.
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Old 08-27-2007, 02:01 PM   #20
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thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you. finally a topic i'm too young to know about.

i'm dated enough to remember online bulletin boards.
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