Party Lines.

As I mentioned in my last post, I come from a very small, rural community where gossip was a way of life and a favored pastime of most of my neighbors.

One of the best ways to keep up on community gossip was through the party telephone line.  I'm not talking about 1-977-HOT-BABE kind of party lines, I mean the ones where you shared a phone line with your 3-5 closest neighbors.

And... dead silence, since most of you probably don't have a clue what I'm talking about, right?

I Wiki'd it just to make sure I hadn't created a backwoods backstory that didn't really exist, and sure enough, there it was.  Since we lived in a very rural area with few actual lines running to some of the more outlying areas, it was much cheaper to share a telephone line with several neighbors, which was referred to as a party line.  Here's how it worked.  Somewhere between two to six houses would be on the same line.  Only one person out of all these houses could actually have a phone conversation at a time, since the line was actually being shared among the household.  But here's the kicker.  Say I'm on the phone at my house and my party line neighbor picks up the phone at his house.  Well, he can then hear and even join into my conversation.  It was understood that when you heard someone pick up once it was time to wrap up your conversation, and if they picked up two times, you usually just told them to hold on and you'd be off in a minute.


I promise.

That's really the way it was.

It was always Big Conversation at out house when someone might move on or off our line.  It was possible to pay for and to obtain an private line, but it was deemed an unnecessary expense by most of the folks who were my neighbors.  Occasionally someone would move into or out of the area, and that would also result in a party line change.  Big News.  Always.

I had a bad experience once with a party line call.  I was maybe ten or eleven, and I was talking to my friend Amy.  We were likely talking about boys, and school, and boys, and hair, and boys, and clothes, and boys...  Anyway, I don't remember exactly what we were supposed to have said, but at eleven it couldn't have been too terrible considering there was no cable tv in those days.  But Ms. Peg, who was on Amy's line, not mine (see how complicated and rumor-breeding this is?) decided that whatever we had said was dirty and proceeded to pray for our immortal souls out loud in church the next week.  That was, of course, AFTER she had told the whole community what dirty little sluts we were.

It was quite the talk of the community, at least until something better came along, but it always left a bad taste in my mouth for gossip of any sort.

Anyone else remember (or ever heard of) a party line?

1 comment:

  1. I remember party lines. Fortunately never had one, though! I remember begging my mom for my own phone line. Begged and begged and begged. She explained I could have one when I had my own house. *sigh* And now I'm contemplating a cell phone for my 8 and 6 year old? The times they are a changing...and if you thought party lines dated you, try identifying that song ;)


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