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In My Day…We Had Party Lines | Lynn Ruth Miller


In my day, everyone shared their telephone line with their neighbor. When I was small, my momma would say to me, “if you ever need help, call the operator and stop complaining!” When the kid next door spit at me, I called the operator and she said, “Tell your mother.” I guess you had to be there.

You gave the number you wanted to call to the operator and she connected you from a central switch board. Those operators got to know everyone and they really cared, whether we liked it or not. Sometimes, I’d pick up the phone and she’d say “Lynnie Ruth, take off your mother’s high heels, she’s on her way home.” And sometimes she’d say, “Lynn Ruth, what are you doing?”

Nowadays, it’s the FBI that picks up. You have the internet but we had the party line.

I shared a party line with my high school Latin teacher, Henryetta Stateker. She was a heavy smoker with a nasty disposition. When I’d pick up the phone and she was breathing heavily, I knew we’d get that sweet subsitute the next day because Ms. Stateker’s asthma had kicked in.

That party line gave us access to everybody’s dirty laundry. I knew Mrs. Berlin was getting a divorce before she did. I knew they were taking bets in the backroom of the meat market and I knew the real reason Laura Hopkins had to spend that nine months out of town. Mr. Berlin knew too.

In my day, you could have alot of fun with the telephone. If we did this once, we did it a hundred times. We’d call the drug store and we’d ask “Do you have Prince Albert in a can?” And if he said yes, we’d say, “Why won’t you let ’em out?” Ahh, the memories.

Nowadays, the operator is gone, the FBI answers the phone and Prince Albert came out of the can. I’m Lynn Ruth Miller with another edition of  In My Day.

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