Thursday, July 28, 2011


Posted to OGR on 04/17/2011

Today, I installed a new telephone in my office/studio. It is a state of the art, two-line, cordless, blue tooth capable model complete with built in answering machine. It seems that is the minimum configuration these days. Don’t even get me started on the choices in cell phones. You can’t find a phone these days that is just a phone. What’s up with that!?!

The first telephone I remember was the one in my family’s home. It was big, heavy and black. Back then, the phone company owned the phone and we like most families were on a party line. Ours was a two-party line. If the phone rang one long ring and one short ring, it was for the other family. If it was two short rings, it was for us. You never had a sense of privacy using the phone either, sometimes the other party was nosy and they would listen to your calls.

Our first phone number had 5 digits but Mom told us that she remembered when they had only 4. Five digits were easy to remember which was good because Mom made us remember ours before we started school. Back in the late 50s the phone company introduced exchanges. Ours was “Evergreen”; so the letters “EV” or 38 were added onto the front of our existing number. The “evergreen” exchange covered a large part of west Jacksonville, FL. There were a lot of people in our exchange. There were only 8 or 9 exchanges in the entire city. I remember the way you accessed long distance back in the day was through the operator. There was no direct dial back then. I was really excited the first time I answered the phone and an operator asked if my father was at home. When I moved to Columbia, SC to go to college, my first number was in the “Alpine” exchange. It was interesting to me to discover all the different exchange names in different cities. It was a long time before I ever heard of an exchange name being repeated in a different city. Finally, in the mid 60s, area codes came to my town along with direct dialing. Today, many larger cities have more than one area code. I feel sorry for the little kids today, having to remember 10 digit phone numbers in first grade.

When I was a young DJ at WCOS Radio back in the ‘60s, we had an instant request program feature where we invited the audience to call in and request a song and we would instantly play it for them. It was extremely popular. When the first few notes of the jingle announcing that it was time for an instant request went out on the air all three lines to the station immediately lit up. The lines were so jammed up that everyone who got a busy signal could talk to each other between the beeps. The telephone company was annoyed at us for jamming up the exchange but the kids loved it. We called it the busy signal party line. Even today, when I run into folks who used to listen to my show, that is one thing everybody always mentions. Oh MY!

Copyright 2011 Rick Wrigley

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