When I say party line, I do NOT mean this:
Around either 1963 or 1964, we had our first telephone installed.
Having a telephone in those days was quite the procedure. You didn't stroll into Walmart (for one thing, Walmart didn't exist back then), race to the phone aisle, and cry, "I want that one!"
There were no telephone "stores", period.
You had to be home, or someone had to be home and wait for the telephone man to drive up. (It was always a man, never a telephone woman)
He got out of his van and got to work. First, he needed to come inside, find out where you wanted the phone to set, and then installed the "jack". Next, he went outside, climbed a few telephone poles because he added a new line all the way down to our house. Finally, he came back inside and plugged the end of the wire into that new jack.
And then he brought in your phone.
And, amazingly, you were allowed to choose any color you wanted - as long as it was black.
This photo is of the 1970's telephones. Yep, color was in vogue. Note the coiled cord.
Back in the 1960's, though, all phones were black and came with a straight, spaghetti thin cord. It did curl, however. After usage, that cord would become so coiled with knots, when trying to straighten 'em out, you felt like you tussled with a boar in a sack.
And the fight didn't matter, either, 'cause that cord would always tangle again.
So, after the telephone man left your house, you had your phone.
One phone to a residence, people. Only millionaires could afford an "extension".
And now you possessed a wonderful, exciting, brand new telephone number.
A number that you shared with a "party" consisting of your four neighbors. The numbering system ran something like this: the Smith's number was 555-4354, the Jones' number was 555-4355, the Lloyd's was 555-4356, the Winter's was 555-4357, and Your Number was 555-4358.
And your ring was three short and one long.
Because the Smith's was two short and two long.
The Jones' was one long and three short.
The Lloyd's was two long and two short.
The Winter's was four short.
So that left yours to be three short and one long.
The phone would ring a lot, because someone was always getting calls. You stood still, listening.
Count it down - is that your ring? Oh, nope. That was the Jones. Hmm. Someone was calling them a lot today. They'd already gotten four calls. Who in the world could they be talking to?
So you'd tiptoe over, gently lift the receiver, and listen in.
Everybody eavesdropped on everybody else. And, of course, sometimes everybody would talk to everybody else. That's how it'd be a party. See?
But if some moron, after they decided to stop yakking, forgot to put their receiver back on the hook...Well, that was worse than bad manners. That'd get you a snub, a glare, and a freezer shoulder next time you met up at your local five-and-dime.
Because that unhung phone receiver meant that four other families could NOT CALL OUT.
You always prayed that no one figured out you'd been the moron who hadn't set the receiver just right.
It was just too embarrassing to try and explain that your mind was elsewhere - like ordering your legs to gallop past the kitchen door on your way to the nearest outhouse. (Yes. Outhouse. That's a topic for another post)
Ah. Those golden years of the 1960's.
I can't remember our phone number, but I do remember the number of the rings.
How about you? Were you part of the fun of belonging to a party line?