We had graduated to a single party phone line. Hooray! No more would mom have to wait for that party- line person to finish her endless conversations.
Now, having moved from an apartment to a house, Grandpa had also invested in a real phone booth. Well, not the kind that stood on every streetcorner, with the folding doors and the scratched graffiti and religious pamphlets inside.
This was actually a bench with a handy half top for the phone to sit upon. The squared off black phone dominated the top half circle of stained mahogany/plywood construction, while a convenient shelf beneath, in a little cubby the Cleveland White Pages and Cleveland Yellow Pages were placed. It also held a small address/phone booklet of about 20 pages. We had filled only about 5 pages. We didn't know a lot of people. Or perhaps it was that we didn't call a lot of people.
And best of all, the bench had a padded seat. This was very nice for Great Grandma, who could call her sisters whenever she pleased and in comfort as well. Great Grandma's phone calls were a weekly event. She would seat herself at the bench, remove the little address book, adjust her glasses and thumb the pages with arthritic fingers to find the magic number. It was SWeetbriar, I remember.
Her usual conversation was something like this: "Hello? Hello? Are you there, Minnie? Yes, I can hear you just fine. Isn't that something? How are you? Oh, that's good. I am too. Well, goodbye and take care." There-- all done until next week.
The adults generally controlled the telephone world: Grandpa with his calls about work and who was coming to Thanksgiving dinner, Mother with her phone calls to her sister and brother about who was sick. There wasn't a lot of "jawing" as Great Grandma used to call it. The telephone hadn't yet become the conversational- media-of-choice just yet. Appointments were confirmed and plans made, but the conversation would take place later, face to face. It seemed a good way to do things back then.
I didn't get calls. Occasionally a phone receiver would be thrust in my face for me to mouth a "hello" and "I'm fine" to a distant relative, but it was a hasty meet- and- greet at best; long distance was expensive!
A Teenager and a Phone
Then I became a teen. Oh, the glory of having a small address/phone book of my own to carry in my newly-minted purse, and to add the information of my girl friends to each page. RAndolph, CEdar, and other user-friendly phone numbers began to accumulate in my little black book.
And of course having their names and numbers to arrange events, to lament over homework or to just "gab" about that dreamy new Football coach or the latest sale downtown where we could spend our Saturdays window shopping---well, it was great.
Having the telephone ring and hearing a voice calling upstairs to me , "It's for you!" made me feel so important and grown-up.
Waiting for His Call
And then there came upon the scene that Certain Someone. His phone calls were infrequent. Usually a letter preceeded him, announcing his imminent arrival on a weekend pass. A night's worth of traveling/hitchhiking from Norfolk brought him home with a dawn arrival, thanks to the generosity of truckers and travelers heading towards Cleveland. A uniform and a thumb on the highway was still a safe and acceptable way to get from one place to another. But that was long ago.
The phone would ring about 9 a.m. A shout came up the stairs, waking me, "It's for you!" And my weekend was planned when I heard his voice.
Goodbye Phone Bench
Well, we have graduated from many kinds of phones since then. The old phone bench was given away, and telephones became more compact, came in colors and shapes, and eventually cordless. No more RAndolphs, SWeetbriars or CEdars. Instead, there were longer series of numbers to memorize. But you can store them and select from your own index on the cell phone now.
I have a cell phone. It can take photos, connect to the Internet, do math and navigation, and many others things I haven't figured out yet. I call it my Smarter Than I Am Phone.
What a world. Now I can identify the caller, answer or not, give and hear a voice message, delete what I want. I know who it is and who it isn't. It seems everyone wants me. They want to sell me things, warn me, question me. I can ignore their plaints and press delete, or I can pick up to become engaged with the world.
When I think about it, the phone company has become my Great Grandmother. No need to wonder anymore who to call to the phone. They are ALL for me.
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