Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Upon Which I Teach My Grandson How To Use a Rotary Phone

Sometimes I forget how old I am but this week my 15-year-old grandson pointed that out quite clearly. Oh, he wasn't intentional about it! He's too polite and loves his gramma too much to ever say an unkind word to her (me).

Background:: Our house was built in 1965. In terms of house age, that's not old. At least not ancient. Having lived in some "really" old houses, I consider this one "modern".

In the furnace room in the basement hangs an old rotary dial phone. It was there when we moved in. It's so old it's wired in. Even though we don't spend much time in the basement it's handy to have that phone there. So the rotary stayed.

This past weekend we had a great time with our daughter and grandson (thanks for making that 5-hour drive!!!). My daughter spotted the rotary and called DGS to come down and look at it. Then she suggested he call someone. His words???? "I don't know how!"

He's a quick learner, though, and as soon as he completed his call he announced that he wants a rotary of his own.

Then...to convince him that I belong to the age of dinosaurs I told him that when we were kids on the farm our phone was on a "party line". Our phone number (yes, I still remember it) was 45J11. Other numbers on the line were something like 45J12 or 45J21. The "45J" was the line. The last digits represented the number of rings the switchboard operator would ring up. In our case she rang one long and one short. All parties would hear the rings at their home and know that it was our house and not theirs that was being called. We picked up. They did not...at least, not until they were certain we had already picked up...then they might surreptiously pick up their phone and listen in on our conversation. It was wise not to gossip about the neighbors while on the phone!!

And THEN! I told him that in THOSE days we seldom made a long-distance phone call because it was too expensive. The cost? Ten cents.

Today, with our landline and our cell phone, we pay beaucoup bucks.

My grandson is right. I Really Am Old! *tearful smile*



Cat Rocketship said...


We have an old rotary phone, sitting in our house's phone nook. But no landline, so I cut off the 15 foot cord to it.

S. Etole said...

Me, too ... really old ... because I can't remember those old numbers. So many shorts, so many longs ... a mystery as to how everyone knew them.

Mrs. Spit said...

Tell your grandson that I am apparently so old that I remember not all that long ago, in the town I was born in, every night at 6 pm, right after the 6pm news on CBC radio, there would be announcements.

There were (and still are) places around my home town that do not have phone service and will never have phone service.

So, every night at 6pm, after the national, provincial and local news, there would be announcements on the radio.

You would hear things like:

"Mike, Shaun left his hockey equipment in the back of the truck. We'll bring it in to practice again on Thursday"


"Frank and Mabel, we'll be out to Sunday dinner, but we can't make 3, it will be closer to 4"


"James, Mavis had the baby this morning. Baby girl, 7 pounds, healthy. Mum and baby will need to be picked up on Friday"

It was such a wonderful window into others' lives. Perfectly appropriate and sanctioned eavesdropping.

Kelly said...

This post made me smile. My aunt kept a rotary phone for years and my kids loved using it. Quite a novelty for them!

Caroline said...

We have an old Ma Bell Rotary telephone in our basement as well that came with the house. We have kept it for the same reasons as you. It still works so why get rid of it? Glad to know I am not the only one.

Glenda said...

I'm old, too - if remembering the rotary phone is the criteria!! This brought memories immediately - and I thought of the party lines. Our ring was a long and short, too - and yes, other parties listened in! We always knew when a certain lady had picked up because she had a breathing problem and we always heard her!! Good memories!

Persis said...

My parents still had a bright yellow rotary phone in the their kitchen.

Debby said...

Driving through the upper peninsula of Michigan, we heard "The Announcements" on the radio. We thought it was cute, but then we realized, months later, when we were reading the newspaper and discovered that finally the upper peninsula had phone service. We read about people having to drive 50 miles to use the phone to make a doctor's appointment. We read that these announcement programs were the fastest way to get news to remote areas with no phone. Writing a letter to say that mother had died could take days. Announcing it on the radio allowed people to come home for the funeral. BTW: the UP was connected by phone line in the early nineties.

Mary Paddock said...

Heh. My mom recently told the boys about rotary phones and party lines too. I was a kid when we moved to Arkansas and experienced this.

She told them it was like Facebook, only on the phone. :)

Trisha said...

Too, too funny! What a sweet memory this will be. I'd love to be just five hours from my Mom! What a blessing to have your daughter and grandson visit. :)

Relyn said...

I'm jealous. I want a rotary phone. A red one to hang in my kitchen.