Monday, October 1, 2012

Mag 137 — It might be time for lunch but I have to take this call first.....



How different then from now, with smartphones connecting wiseacres fertilizing the minutes of their young lives.

I back then lived long days with folks who forked over all they could for sustainment, and not for entertainment.

Way out in the country we had a party line — so hard to imagine now — but we simply had to share. My sis and I learned tricks to listen in on calls: hold the button down, unscrew the mouthpiece to mute our end.

Our one-and-only phone was on a kitchen block above the silverware drawer, right near the old china hutch. That black phone had a cord with ample length for me to take my calls while sitting beneath the kitchen table. An ironed tablecloth seemed privacy enough to share and gossip and laugh, with a view of my mom's shoes.

When a call was ended I materialized beside her with cloth in hand to dry silver she had washed.


Written for The Mag: Mag 137 that inspired with the above photo prompt
(It Must Be Time For Lunch Now, 1979, by Francesca Woodman).


I cannot believe how much things have changed since I was in middle school! This image brought back a powerful memory of something that hardly seems real....

We didn't have the party line for long because city service came our way, and I wonder if party lines still exist. For those of you who have no idea what I am talking about, find info here.



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18 comments:

izzy said...

Oh Nice! Sustenance- right you are.
Gossip would have been easy to fall into with a party line! I had a certain time I could call out as a teen -including: " After finishing your homework!"

Fireblossom said...

That's the second time Tess has used this woman's photography; remember the naked gal being sort of hatched out of something? That was her, too.

What a blast from the past! We never had a party line, but when I was very young, we still had an exchange. Our number was MIDWEST 2313. We had two of those clunky black rotary phones, one upstairs and one down. When my mother finally moved out, in the 1990's, the guy from the phone company said he hadn't seen one of those in years. I'm wondering if they still had the little circle of paper in the middle of the dial, with the number on it.

Remember a long distance call being a freaking fire drill cos it was LONG DISTANCE!!! ?

I read in the Sunday paper that phones themselves are passe now, even cell phones. The kids text. I can't imagine not wanting to hear people's voices. There are a couple of my blog friends I like to call, just cos it's richer, better, than emails.

Did your mom yell at you to get off the phone? Mine liked to listen in on the other phone...she was a total snoop.

Fireblossom said...

PS--I'm so happy that you dropped by my anniversary post. I was hoping that you would. :-)

Berowne said...

Very effective mini-memoir; well done.

Rob-bear said...

How grand a party did you have on the line?

Helen said...

OMG ~~ I thought we were the only girls (my sisters and I) who knew that trick!!!!

rosaria williams said...

I remember when electricity first arrived to my hometown, then phones, then radio, then television, transistor radio...
We played outdoors, most days, and helped with chores, many chores. Silver was nowhere in sight; but polishing shoes and scrubbing pots were daily chores.

After hours on our feet, we were happy to sit and do homework!

Brian Miller said...

ha, def takes it back a bit....was just thinking the other day about having house phones, much less a party line, we have not had one in 10 or 12 years...and trying to get a little privacy in making a call...lol...good luck there...so much in your words....memories...

Amber Lee said...

I've never had the experience of using a part line, but I imagine I would love it - I love listening to people's conversations :)

This is so sweetly nostalgic. Thanks for sharing with us.

Lydia said...

izzy~ Absolutely I remember the schedule being after homework was finished. If we'd had it then, I know I would have been a hugetexter!

Fireblossom~ Interesting about the photographer and I do remember that other prompt (can't remember if I wrote something for it, however).
Your phone-and-mom memories sound familiar! Long Distance ranked up there with Air Mail, which you, as a postie, well know.
Soooo happy about your anniversary, Shay. It was a powerful post!

Berowne~ Coming from you I take that as a compliment. Many thanks.

Rob-bear~ Not so much a party on the party line. I do remember one crabby lady who screamed at us to "get off the phone" and she was no fun at all.

Helen~ I loved your comment!!!!!

rosaria~ Wow, what a memory timeline you wrote here. Fascinating to think how many changes in so short a time. :)

Brian~ Thanks, Bri. You have not had a land line in a decade and I still have mine! My cell is a stupid pay-as-you-go and I despise it. I think I'd fall in love with a smartphone, but......

Amber Lee~ I don't often get "sweetly nostalgic"....what's happening to me?!!!

mythopolis said...

When I was a kid, I lived in a small coal mining encampment with my grandparents. I remember there was only one well for all those who lived there to draw water. And I remember the stink of the outhouse. Being a kid, I dropped a cat down the hole in the outhouse. My grandfather wanted to chase me around the barn with a switch, but my grandmother stood up for me and said, "That cat had no business in our yard!" I vaguely remember a phone.

susan said...

Do you remember knowing who was being called because of the ringing pattern? Ours was 2 long and a short.

Lydia said...

susan~ I remember there being different ring patterns, but heck if I can remember what ours was. I am impressed that you can!

Kutamun said...

This is cool, Lydia, do we ever lose the party line. I especially like the sound of middle school, as though it is held somewhere in middle earth . Cheere

~T~ said...

Fun memory!

Tess Kincaid said...

I think maybe I am the only one who still has a cell phone that's just a phone...

(Yes, I've used Francesca Woodman's photos twice for Magpie. She's one of my favorite photographers.)

Lydia said...

Kutamun~ I agree with you about middle school! I'm used to referring to it as that, in spite of it having been called junior high school when I was in those grades. :)

T~ Yes and no!

Tess~ I hope you use her work again! btw, I have a "dumbphone" too.

Lydia said...

mythopolia~ Just realized I missed commenting on your amazing comments, more a story than a comment. Wow, no wonder your stories are so rich with that kind of background. And one more thing: poor, poor kitty ^o^

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