Wednesday, January 06, 2010

One Ringy Dingy

It's a new year and everyone is looking forward. I'm going to take another trip in the Wayback Machine though. I recently demolished my cell phone. It was dying a slow painful death due to it's inability to hold a charge and one broken hinge on the flip top part of it. I unintentionally euthanized it when I dropped it on the hardwood floor while trying to stealthily sneak into my bedroom at 3:30 am after a middle of the night munchie run with Diana. Yeah, that's a story for another blog post. In fact I had pictures intended for the blog post but they were on the phone that got broken into a couple of pieces. See, I'm even thinking of all of you in the wee hours of the night when I am hungry....but I digress.


In any event, the breaking of the phone got me started on a rant about how things just aren't built to last these days and how my grandparents had this big, heavy black desk phone for about 50 years and the thing worked just fine all that time. If you are of a certain age (which I apparently am since I am writing about this thing) you know what I am talking about, one of those phones you could brain a burglar with and knock him out cold. Try beating a burglar with you iPhone and see what happens. Nothing of value, I tell you. You'll get a broken phone and a burglar who laughs at your feeble attempts to deter him. If for no other reason than as a weapon of self-defense we should all still have those hernia inducing desk phones. Again, I digress.


After pondering the desk phone of old I then mused about my other grandmother's job. She was a switchboard operator for about 30 years or so. How many of you remember switchboards? Ok, so a number of my readers are my age or older and presumably recall these things or at the very least recall Lily Tomlin doing her Ernestine schtick. On occasion my mother would take us to visit Nana at her job. I was always completely amazed by how Nana could have a conversation with us, answer several calls, know where to plug in all those cords, and never miss a beat. I was pretty sure she must be some special kind of genius to be able to keep all that straight. My grandfather always said it was the perfect job for her because (here comes another very dated phrase) she was "vaccinated with a phonograph needle."




So now that I've taken my little trip, tell me, what sorts of technologies or ways of doing things or old phrases which have gone the way of the dodo do you remember?


18 comments:

Jazz said...

I remember my nephew coming to my mom's place and realizing he had to "make an urgent call" (which is hilarious in itself as he was 9 at the time), going into the bedroom and coming out 3 seconds later asking how the phone worked.

It was a rotary dial phone.

Craig said...

Well, of course, I grew up with a rotary dial phone (one of the sturdy, brain-a-burglar ones). I also remember having a party line when I was very young (altho I don't ever recall interfacing with a switchboard operator; some of my more rural cousins still had 'em, tho).

Vinyl phonograph records (and putting a penny on the tone-arm when your records got too worn-out and skippy; which, in the long run, just hastened the record's demise). Black-and-white console TVs. The old reel-type push-lawnmowers (which my dad kept until after I graduated HS). My grandma's old wringer-style washing machine. Coal bins and cisterns in the basement. The milk-man delivering to a box on our doorstep.

I can still talk with my dad about what life was like before Rural Electrification. And he remembers the first car his dad (my grandpa) bought. My grandpa used to tell stories about plowing his field with a team of horses. So, not MY living memory, but I've had access to it. . .

Cricket said...

Wow. Telephone switchboards. My (Great) Aunt Mil was chief operator for the local AT&T for years. She completed 8th grade, worked here and there for a little while, then started there about 1915 or so. It was, to my knowledge, her only job.

I still have some memorabilia of hers including her headset. One other thing I remember, though barely, is telephone numbers with letter prefixes... remember those: JU3-4567 and the like? The number is "Hawthorn 6-2345"? Or even "Pennsylvania 6-5000" ?

There exists a scratchy 78 of my maternal grandmother playing piano somewhere.

I recently explained to my 7 year-old that we "dial" a phone because they used to have dials. I'm not sure he quite understood. He still can't believe that I had a B&W tv that got 7 channels, 3 of which were duplicates, or that his grandfather had NO tv until he was about 10.

Could go on but I won't. Happy New Year - glad we've "met."

Craig said...

Oh yeah, the TVs had the little rotary-dial channel-selectors, so you had to get up and walk across the room to change channels at the TV itself (so there was effectively no channel-surfing, and there was a strong tendency, once you selected your first show of the evening, to just stay on that channel the whole night). . .

Craver Vii said...

Remember "fixing" the old black & white TV's by slapping them on the sides? How 'bout those record consoles that looked like a buffet table?

I loved playing with flash bulbs from camera's... remember how they were triggered by a spring-loaded wire? I thought it was so cool to set them off with a screwdriver or pen, and then (ouch) they got super-hot.

Mona said...

My mother's phone still has a rotary dial.

I remember seeing switchboard in the movie 'Changeling'

When my son was in nursery class, he was learning his alphabets they had an " I for ink pot" and " there. My son asked me what the hell an ink pot was!

I still love to run the slide projector that my father had brought from The US when he was pursuing his education in the University of Michigan.

~Dragonfly~* said...

I recall the b&w tv with only 3 channels... 4, if we got lucky, the milk man, meat man and Charlie's chips man. The outhouse... not that we still used it, but it was still there. Making Jiffy pop popcorn on the stove (had to keep shaking it so the kernels wouldn't burn) Being called home (from a mile away plus) by the ringing of the old school bell on the porch. Sleds made of wood and metal with runners and a rope to pull it back up the hill that ran right into the street! Bicycles with the only speed being how fast you could make your legs go around... and.... a time when you could write, sign and send a postcard home from summer camp with nothing more written on it than

to:
Mom
Hometown, PA

And it got to her and the mailman stopped to chat and catch up.

Cocotte said...

My mom was a switchboard operator for a 'major company' back in the late 1950's.

Like Craig, we had a party line when I was really little. And a turquoise wall phone! Not only did we have a milk man bring us our milk in glass bottles, but we also had a bakery guy come with a big tray that he wore with a strap around his neck....donuts, bread, etc.

I crack up that my kids will never use (nor have seen) a real phone booth.

G-Man said...

Retro Wednesday...hahahahahaha

snowelf said...

Dude, not only could those phones seriously brain someone, but you could do it in a really cool long distance fashion buy rotating the handset by the cord over your head a few times like a lasso to build up some seriously noggin affecting momentum. Score!

My G1 comes with a Burglar App which tazes thine enemy in an electric type fashion at the touch of a finger...

Not really, but I do have Shazzam, so I might be able do identify, then download a song at 3G speed to lull him to sleep...

--snow

for a different kind of girl said...

My mom likes to tell us stories of when she was growing up and they had a party line, and because my mom's side of the family was massive in numbers and populated the bulk of the town at the time, all one had to do was pick up the phone and alert whomever was talking at the time that it was time to track down the boys and send them home for supper.

When I was growing up, still very young, I remember having a tin milk box on our front steps that the dairy man delivered to every morning or every few days, depending on when we needed milk again. I honestly think of that every time the snow starts to fall and I wish I didn't have to trudge out there among the harried masses and replenish our milk for the impending weather doom!

Hilary said...

Such a nice slice of nostalgia. I remember being told that line about being vaccinated with a phonograph needle. And apparently I must have repeated myself because I was also like a broken record. And apparently I must have repeated myself because I was also like a broken record. And apparently I must have repeated myself because I was also like a broken record.

Good old days.. gone forever. I guess we can't have archaic and eat it too.

secret agent woman said...

Did you see "Changeling"? Angelina Jolie was a switchboard operator supervisor. Grueling movie.

I remamber Ernestine and party lines. I'm old.

Craver Vii said...

Oh Hilary, you are on a roll! The archaic line cracks me up big time!

crazy4coens said...

i remember big black rotary phones - i sooo sooo wanted a princess phone - they looked like the coolest most modern things in the world. now when i see them in movies they look soooo old! i remember hitting the tv to fix it - i try it on my computer, but, deep sigh, it doesn't work like in the days of yore. i remember one day when my mom was sick, riding my bike to the store and buying a half gallon of milk, a dozen eggs and a loaf of bread for $1! can you imagine?

Ananda girl said...

I remember when my mind was clear enough to remember stuff at 2:28 AM, which it is now... hence my lack of ability to recall anything now.

Oh I know... our phone number was "AD-35277". And yep... it was a great black weapon. I used to love the sound the dial made... sort of a zip and chunk sound together.

~Tim said...

Dialing a phone came right to mind, as did rolling down a car window. And that reminded me of the one thing that I recall seems backward -- we had a station wagon with a push-button automatic transmission. Really, you just pushed buttons on the dash!

Jocelyn said...

I miss the party line. We had one when I was growing up, and my desire to eavesdrop taught me stealth and how to lift a receiver very, very slowly.