Sunday, April 22, 2012

Hello, this is the Operator...

Uh oh. Those words could not only mean you were getting a collect call, but they could also mean somebody was in serious trouble. The time I most clearly remember hearing them was when my friends and I had been making some prank calls and the operator called later that evening to tell our parents. I'm not even kidding! Boy were we we surprised.

Our phone was a white version of this little beauty. This one, which I picked up at a garage sale in Palm Beach Gardens for $2.00, is serving as a cool retro kitchen prop and won't be getting me in any trouble, unless I whack into it as I pass by.

When I bought it, the box it was in said, "Old wall phone from Grandma Lucy's house in N.C. - Given to Kelly." So I wrote that on a piece of paper and taped it to the back of the phone. I imagine Grandma Lucy probably had many a conversation on this gem.

I just love it. You can't imagine how I'm compelled I am to lift the receiver and listen for a dial tone; only, sadly there is none. The first 4 or 5 times I went by after hanging it here, I had to pick it up and say "hello" anyway. It has not been adapted to today's jacks and since there is no jack right there anyway, it's purely for looks and kicks. And I do get a kick out of it. 

I had to laugh because without knowing that I had been picking up the receiver and saying "hello", Casey came home, saw it hanging there, and as she went by she instinctively did the same thing. She didn't even grow up in that era. Cael refused to acknowledge he might even remotely consider doing something so inane and was disturbed that I would admit to having done such a thing myself.

 To each his own, as my mother used to say.
Kinda takes me back.

Before I hung this on the wall, it was sitting propped up on a little chest of drawers under the window in the kitchen. Some little ones were over for a family gathering, and it was funny how drawn to it they were. Each one stopped to pick up the receiver and twirl the dial... repeatedly.

Oh gosh, remember the agony of having to dial a number with a lot of 9's back in the day? Our number was a killer: 848-9969

That number got changed probably sometime in the 70's. It's been 40 some odd years and I still remember it like yesterday. Then there was the cord that would get all tangled and became nearly impossible to make right.

Not long before cordless phones came along, we started getting longer and longer cords so we could enjoy the freedom of talking and cooking and wandering, all while having a conversation. Novel idea.

We could only dream of going cordless back then, forget having "car phones". I say "car phones" because I don't think we ever once considered having a phone with us all the time. It was having a phone in our own room and in the car that we dreamt of. Now we wish people would just hang up and drive. Go figure.

And then there were the often heard words that rang through the house, "Mom, it's for you!", or "Mooooom! Telephone!", and then we'd set the phone on the counter or hang it on the side of the housing or let it dangle to the floor until the recipient of the call came to pick it up. When we were kids,  we'd leave it and run off to our own adventures, out through the screen door, hardly noticing that bang that drove our mothers crazy as it slammed behind us. 

"Mom, it's for you!"

So many memories. And I won't even get into those prank calls, party lines, busy signals (no answering machines - oh blessed days!) and trying to call our own number and hanging up fast enough to have it ring. We were fascinated by the phone as kids and back then we all ran to be the one to answer it. My, how things have changed!

So while I do so glory in man's latest technological advancements, I have a certain place in my heart for the earlier technology that brought us stages of those achievements, such as this sweet telephone. You have to admit, a rotary phone is some serious "cool". If only we'd known how much all that old everyday stuff was going to mean to us one day... I sigh to think of the items we sold at garage sales for a song, or worse yet, tossed in the trash thinking they were passé.

Even today, there are some things I just cannot imagine will ever be considered treasure, especially since everything is made so cheaply anymore. Just about the time I decide an item is finally and definitely outdated and beyond the realm of ever possibly "mattering" or being of any use again, and when I have held onto it as long as I possibly can, sometimes over 20 years, I've found that in about 5 years from that day, I will want it. That's about how long it takes for the things I've thrown away to make their way back into vogue as treasure. Seriously, I've repeatedly held things for eons and then one day up and decided it was useless and tossed it. Within a matter of a few years I always want to kick myself for getting rid of it.

So with limited space and patience for holding onto junk in the hope it will become meaningful in the future, I will just have to trust that someone more savvy (and who is a more dedicated long-term pack rat than I) will carry on the work of ordinary junk preservation. I sure hope so, because I'll be out there hunting, hoping to discover it all anew. After all, the treasures of the past come complete with nostalgia and the pitter-pattery heart stuff inherent in finding a memento like this old wall phone.

So keep your eyes peeled...there are everyday treasures and the stories to go with them all around. If you let them, they can bring those black and white memories of the good old days back to living color.


  1. Boy I must be a lot older than you because I remember the big black rotary phones long before these pretty ones.
    It always seemed like our fingers slipped on the last number when dialing and we would have to start over waiting between each number for that dial to chug its way back to the starting position.

  2. Ha! I forgot about the slips. You're right. What a pain. I'm not sure the big black phones were that long before me, we just didn't have one. Never had more than the one wall phone in our house growing up.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Can you remember being really posh and using a pencil to save our nails!!! Lol...good times!

  4. You're right! I'd forgotten that. So many memories in such an everyday slice of life, aren't there?

  5. Love the post, we still have a rotary phone in our bedroom and the grand kids love it. I'm in my 50's and I miss having a party line, met them at my school once, I knew their name, my mom didn't like that. Great post !

  6. I love hearing the stories. That's too funny about meeting the "party line". Thanks so much for stopping by and reading. I'll have to come by for some quilting advice. My mom and I started one in the 80's that we never finished. It's huge. I have often thought of taking it up again. I just love quilts.
    Come by again sometime!

  7. MMMmmm... this brought back good memories. I certainly enjoyed reading your blog this evening.
    I came here via PriorLives.... I saw you left a comment there and came here.
    I've read several of your long and wordy posts...(as though I were reading through notes left to myself!) and have enjoyed them very much. I tend to be long and wordy myself-- so I'm not picking on you, just noticing the similarity ;)

    I too remember our first telephone no. I even remember when there were alphanumeric phone numbers...but right off hand can't recall my Granny's (must be getting old!)

    have a great weekend- Pat

  8. Great post. I'm from that era and I have to say, those phones were so well made we never had to replace them because they no longer worked. Love how you have it displayed!
    Mary Alice

  9. Spooky. I'm looking for one on Ebay as a decorating "prop" in my soon to be Guestroom. I have everything possible for communication and I miiiiissss these! I miss hearing the sound. from when you're dialing the number to the silly bell ring. My kids think it's from a land when fire was discovered. haha. Thanks for sharing. I don't feel so weird now for wanting one just for decoration.

  10. My daughter who is 10 found a phone just like yours in her Grandmothers attic. It was the perfect light green to match her room. Our family has been in the phone business for many years and my MIL has kept all the old rotary phones that she has used throughout her life. This particular phone like yours was to be hardwired to the wall but lucky for us a family friend wired it for today's plug in. I'm sure hers will look just as cute as yours does!Just FYI but all rotary phones can be repaired, unlike today's cordless phones. They truly will last forever!


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