Thursday, October 21, 2021

Isn't Telephone Nostalgia Wonderful?

Part of the fun of blogging, especially if the blogger is extremely introverted, is the chance to connect with readers and - yes, to learn from them.  Another part of the joy of blogging is the chance to engage in nostalgia.

I learn a lot from my readers, perhaps more than they learn from me.

Tuesday's post was a learning experience.  It was also a surprise  When I was writing it, I said to myself, "No one is going to be interested in this."  Was I ever wrong.

Sometimes, the posts that I don't think will generate much interest are my most successful ones. 

What's a blogging success, after all?  Isn't it about exploring the connections we have with each other?  Sharing common experiences, and ones one generation may have experienced, but not everyone?

Tuesday's post talked about how I had dialed (not that I physically dial anything, anymore) phone numbers in a certain way for my entire life, and how that was about to change.

Turns out many of my readers were already inputting phone numbers the new (to me) way, and had been for years.  Lesson learned!  But not only that: 

One of my readers mentioned ring down phones.  I had never heard of this.  I learned something from that, and now, you can, too (although I'm not 100% sure that this is what my reader meant.).

That same commenter (thank you!) mentioned how we tell Siri now to call someone (if we have an iPhone.)  That reminds me, I can remember my childhood phone number (which started with two letters) so well.  But I sometimes forget my cell phone number.  I still haven't learned my spouse's cell phone number.  I just ask Siri or go to my contact list, after all.  How about you?

One of my readers mentioned telephone party lines.  I don't remember ever having a party line in my childhood Bronx apartment, but they existed. In fact, my original draft post devoted a paragraph to party lines.  I took it out because I didn't think anyone would care.  Wrong! (Hint, it's not how we held parties in the old, prehistoric days).

Writing this post  has generated even more memories.  If you want to dial N for Nostalgia, this article will do it for you. Turns out those old fashioned phones had a number of adventages.

Remember dialing phone numbers with a rotary dial?  It took a bit to learn how to dial, and wrong numbers were a lot more common than they are today.  You can still buy phones with dials, by the way, in case you want to go retro.  But the system that replaced rotary dialing was actually introduced in 1962.  Some automated systems will still ask you "if you have a touch tone phone, press 1 now", although so many young adults use cell phones and have to use a virtual touch tone keyboard.

One of my aunts, who died nearly 20 years ago, had a rotary wall phone in her kitchen until the day she died.  She also declined to use cell phones.  Her sons had bought her one, and, after her death, they found it in the trunk of her car.

Do you remember dial tones? (the tone that told you the line was available to make a call)?  I was amazed to discover that the dial tone was invented in 1908.  Now, there are a couple of generations of people who may have never heard that common sound of my youth and most of my adulthood.

Remember when you practically needed a bank loan to make a long distance phone call? (One of my readers brought that up). 

 Remember person-to-person calling and how you could circumvent the huge long distance charges?   This GEICO ad might remind you.

I could go on.

Isn't nostalgia a wonderful thing?


  1. Oh my, yes, I do remember collect calls. And waiting until evening to call home from college because it was cheaper.

    And with no caller ID, you couldn’t screen calls …though kids could make prank calls so easily.

    1. "Collect call for Janet" meant "safe on campus, no need to call back." "Collect call for Rosemary" meant "problem, want to talk to my mother now."

      I wrote a longish AC article once about how stressful a trip was, *all* because cell phones hadn't been invented yet. If the people involved had been able to communicate it wouldn't have been a bad two days at all.

  2. We didn't have a party line, but my aunt did around the corner. We used to prank call people when we had babysitters as we got older. That is thing of the past now too!

    1. Did you prank call, or call and hang up on your crushes? No caller i.d. so they never knew! Just to hear their voices... One time the father of one of mine asked my name. I didn't answer, and it was Easter, so he said he'd tell his son the "Easter Bunny" called! Another time it was to play a Cher song to him!

  3. I enjoyed that post and could have rambled on about our party line and how thrilled we were when we got rid of it. I still get a dial tone on my landline. And I remember all the old Detroit area exchanges and my home phone number as a child.

  4. ...when I was a kid we had a party line.

  5. I Live for nostalgia! My very frugal uncle called Daddy in the middle of the day once (Lethbridge to Milk River, a distance of 50 miles) in the middle of the day. He called person-to-person so he could avoid payment if Daddy wasn't home. When Daddy answered my uncle said, "If I'd known you were home, I'd have dialled direct."
    Daddy said,"Well, I'm home!" and hung up the phone.
    We laugh about it to this day!
    I loved your phone article and all the responses.
    We all have such a relationship with phones!

  6. Collect calls! Long distance was so expensive, and no one wanted to accept them. So... once in the late 70's my husband and I drove to his parents in the mountains for a few days (big mistake, long story), and my mother wanted to know we got there safely. We were to call collect, and she would refuse the charges! I still remember her pretend anger voice telling the operator that if I wanted to call I could pay for it myself! I accepted a collect call from "Carol" once, and it was a stranger. The phone company had a hard time believing me, but Carol was the name of my sister-in-law, so thought it was her. I don't even have a landline wire to the house. A garbage truck ripped it out of the eaves when the street was being widened. They "told" the road workers the road was too high!

  7. Yes, I remember our number from New Rochelle but have yet to memorize our son's cell phone number, fortunately, hubby and I only differ by the last digit so I remember his. Rotary phones, Push Button Phone and Bag Phone used them all!

  8. We had a party line when I was growing up. Went private when I was eight or nine.

  9. About a decade ago I was covering a middle school theater class. One of the props was an old rotary phone. The kiddos had no idea how to dial the thing. Their guesses were rather entertaining. I showed them how it actually worked. They were stunned.

  10. Alana, I just read an article that four area codes in Michigan will have to start ten-digit dialing. Funny how I thought it was something everyone was already doing. And if it wasn't for your posts, I likely would not have even noticed the local story.


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