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The Old Country Telephone

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It had to ring but five rings; three short, then two long; our private signal, five rings to connect us with Detroit or London or Miami where the sun was shining. Maybe all the way to Sidney, Australia, or more likely, just down the road and a friend. We could crank the handle ourselves to set loose its magic power, and the hidden magneto would spark the same potential.


We'd get the operator with the velvet voice, saying "Number please: and we stood on the threshold to anywhere our minds or hearts took us. Set in a fancy wooden box that hung on the wall, it waited like well done 3-D art, a sculpture, but alive with unrealized and unlimited possibilities to go with all that unlimited power. alive with intrinsic and grand possibilities, waiting...just waiting. Waiting and holding forth an unknown present or a future yet unseen.

Some days, it came alive and rang; mysterious as a wrapped and beribboned gift, untouched, hidden to the eye, but still exciting while we waited to hear from my Father who was on the road. Would he be coming home this weekend? Would he say we'd be going fishing? Should we pack a lunch? Potato salad maybe? So powerful a thing, that box which contained the magic of communicating.

There remains a certain excitement when I think about that old telephone, and I realize now that it really wasn't much when compared to all the ways we use today to communicate with those we love or maybe to the man who will be coming next week to paint the house. That old phone really was such a simple thing, but it added a world of extension and so very much to our lives back in 1940.

By pookarina from Boca Raton , FL

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September 11, 20100 found this helpful

Back in early '50s our ring was four short; official number was 7F22. My Mom may have listened in on calls not directed at her. Fun.

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September 12, 20100 found this helpful

I remember those well. Our ring was three longs. My dad forbid anyone in the household to listen in on our party line. He always said we should respect people's privacy. Back then, they were very hard to hear on, so people hollered when they got a call. Even after the crank phone was no longer in use, I can remember the people in the area hollered on a phone because they still thought nobody could hear them. To this day, it is not easy for me to use a phone because I was never allowed to call anyone on ours! I always felt like I had to see body language before I could communicate well.........funny how things stay with you that way.

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September 12, 20100 found this helpful

Great post, pookarina; thanks! Those old phones back then were nicer to look at too. These phones nowadays--especially the cell phones--are ugly, I think; all black or beige, boring!

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September 12, 20100 found this helpful

Pookarina, you've got a wonderful gift with words. Have you ever considered submitting this, or anything, to a newspaper or magazine? I enjoyed it so much I read it twice, and I think I'll save it to my computer in a Word document to reread from time to time.

Btw, hubby's descriptions of those old phones are nowhere near as poetic! Thumbs up for you.

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September 12, 20100 found this helpful

Thank you ALL for the great and encouraging feedback. I am so glad that there are others out there who remember some of these older subjects that I just love to write about.

I also hope that they will help to keep alive some of the memories for our children and grandchildren. So

much of their lives today are vastly different from the way mine was, and my own children and grandies love hearing about "the olden days".

Your feedback is very inspirational and you are so appreciated.

Best regards to you all,

Pookarina / Julia

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September 14, 20100 found this helpful

I just want to say that I agree with Just Plain Jo's suggestion. Thank you for sharing another good story Pookarina.


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September 14, 20100 found this helpful

We never had a phone like yours, but my grandparents did. My grandfather was a real farmer, and when he heard on his radio about a bad rainstorm coming their way, my grandmother said he would start cranking that thing to alert all the other farmers around them just in case there was hail that would or could ruin an entire crop.

Thank you for sharing that interesting story.


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September 14, 20100 found this helpful

Love your story and the picture brings back so many memories for me. When I was growing up, we didn't have a public phone but did have the old crank phone on the wall. There were 4 phones on our line, my grandparents, uncle, his store and us. Our ring was 4 turns on the crank.

I didn't inherit a phone but I do have the inside makings of one that happened to be an extra part that was laying around. It weighs approximately 10 pounds.

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September 14, 20100 found this helpful

I wish I could remember all the old things the way you do. My own children never seemed very interested in hearing about the childhoods of me or my parents, but my grandchildren sure do ask alot of questions. I'm going to print your story out and read it to them and let them know I remember an old phone just like yours.

They're not going to believe it. Ha-ha.

Thank you Pookarina. You'll be getting my vote.


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September 19, 20100 found this helpful

Loved your story and remembered my cousins phone and the stories they used to tell relating to events brought into their lives by that old wall crank phone with the many different rings for each household. Great memories! Thanks for sharing.

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March 2, 20150 found this helpful

I remember when we had one of these, back in the 50s, and I remember the day the telephone man was carrying it out after replacing it with a dial phone. He asked me if I wanted the old one, and <sob> I told him, "No."

I was only about 5, but I've regretted not keeping that old telephone.

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