Wednesday, May 24, 2006


There was a great piece in today's USA Today by columnist Craig Wilson, who was thinking back to a time when many of us knew our telephone conversations were likely being listened to, just not by the government.

Many families who lived in rural areas where private lines were either unavailable or prohibitively expensive had to settle for party lines where from two to eight households would be connected to one telephone line. One could tell when a call was for them by the ringing pattern (one long/one short, two long, one short, etc...). The more customers on the line, the cheaper your monthly rate would be, because you wouldn't have the access to make and receive calls as customers on smaller party or private lines.

Where I lived in south Mississippi, my family was on a eight-party line...and we had the "luck" to have the local gossip on ours. She was an elderly woman who also wrote the community news column for several area newspapers, noting who was visiting relatives in the area or was in the hospital, or what the church women's group was doing. And believe me, she didn't think twice about keeping on a call for over an hour or more! After all, as Craig notes, "It was CNN before there was CNN."

And Craig's busybody neighbour reminds me so much of our gossip:

"She could have monitored these terrorists with no problem. She'd have known when they rode into town, where they bought gas, whom they got pregnant while there, and what they bought at MacDonald's Hardware in the process."

It's a wonderful read that will take many of you back in time.


Anonymous About:Blank said...

I too grew up with a party line in our house and when my parents wren't home, I would always pick up and listen.

7:09 PM  

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