Heart of the Home: Party Line Telephone Rang Entirely Too Much

A reader talks about how her family’s old wall-mounted telephone rang constantly, due to being on a telephone party line.

| Spring 2018

  • Heart window
    Home is where the heart is.
    Photo by Busse Yankushev

  • Heart window

In the 1960s, my family had a beige wall-mounted telephone in the kitchen.

We lived in a subdivision, where everyone was on a party line. Each family had a separate ring, and you would answer your phone only when you heard your ring. Being on a party line, the phone rang all the time — more for the other families than for ours.

My mother would take the phone off the hook during nap time. Of course, the phone would then beep loudly, so she would wrap it up in a towel and lay it on a step stool. Then our line would ring as if the phone was out of order.

A couple of times a week, someone from the phone company would come and check on the phone. Finally, one man told my mother he would fix any problem she had, if she would just explain it to him. Wordlessly, my mother unwrapped the phone from the towel and hung it back on the hook. It promptly rang, and three children began to cry.

The next day, the phone company installed a private phone line for our family.

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