Depression Era: Private Line to Grandma

Colorado woman recalls the telephone on her farm as a child, which was wired as a private line to her grandma's house.

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The telephone of my childhood in the depression era was mounted on the dining room wall of our farmhouse. By today's standards it would be considered an antique. Encased in a rectangular shaped lacquered box, it appeared almost life-like with its two round bells for eyes and a long adjustable snout that became the mouthpiece. Below that was a small hinged shelf.

It was the exact replica of the ones in the homes along the party line. There was one big difference, ours was a private line!

It was so private that no one could call us except Grandma. Because she lived alone, Dad knew it would give her a sense of security to be able to contact us whenever she wished.

Since we were a mile away from the community telephone line, Dad ran a wire from our house to the barbed wire fence that formed the boundaries of our land and joined that of the home place where Grandma lived. On the other end he ran a wire into Grandma's house and attached it to her phone.

Grandma was on the party line so Dad installed a lever-switch. When the lever was up on her phone she was attached to the party line. When the lever was pulled down her phone was connected to the barbed wire line. Grandma kept in close contact, often relaying messages that she received for us. If we needed something that required the use of the outside line, Grandma placed the call for us. It wasn't as convenient 'as present day private lines, but served the purpose for which it was intended.

Juanita Urbach
Brush, Colorado

Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.