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Pawnee Annie unravels exciting history of the modern phone use
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Fred just walked out the door and said that I should text him if I need anything from the grocery store.
Text him!
It prompted me to think about all the telephone changes I have experienced in my lifetime.
I was born in 1942.
I don’t remember a phone until I was about five.
I do remember strange phone numbers like 425R. Our line was a party line. Our family was on a 4-party line. That’s because we couldn’t afford a 2-party line. One would pick up the phone, the live operator would say, “Number Please,” and she would ring our party.
If someone called us, we only answered on our ring. Greta’s ring was one long and two short. I have no idea what ours was.
Sometimes, the others on our party line would listen to conversations on the line. I tried it a few times, but the person on the line would say, “Get off. This is a private conversation.”
I guess I wasn’t quiet enough when I picked up the phone.
Later, much later, we got a phone with only one line. By then, we were dialing our numbers.
Each area or city would have its own prefix like FOrest 2 or MUrray Hills 5. Our number was Forest 2-4568. Even though that may look and sound like gibberish to modern phone users, it was perfectly normal at the time.
Full words were used so that customers could remember their own exchange better.
Phone subscribers were given a unique five-digit number within their service area. These numbers would be preceded by two digits, which were identified by letters, that denoted the telephone exchange you were connected to. This two letter, five number format was eventually standardized throughout the country.
Several years passed. We still owned one phone. The extension phone came into being. Some of my friends had an extension or extra phone in one of their rooms. We still did not have that luxury.
We owned one phone which hung on the wall in the kitchen. It had a long enough cord that I could slip around the corner and cover my hand over my mouth and speak softly so that everyone wouldn’t hear my conversation. But, no matter how I tried, my mother usually knew to whom I was speaking and what I was saying.
It wasn’t until college that the long curly extension cord came into vogue. Now I could talk 15 or 20 feet from the phone.
Oh, luxury. However, there was one phone on each floor in the dormitory. It served us all.
We functioned through our early married years with one phone. I was continually calling to our kids, “Susie!! It’s for you!” We eventually subscribed to an extension and it was in our bedroom. The kids who had their “own” phone in their rooms were considered to be spoiled and pampered!
Then, area codes were introduced, but they were used mostly by operators and not customers. United States phone systems began switching to all number calling which didn’t rely on archaic telephone exchanges. We now had 10 numbers to remember. The buttons replaced the dial.
Then came the portable bag phone. It could be plugged into the cigarette lighter and could go with me anywhere. I once borrowed Greta’s when I was driving on a long trip. Actually I was a bit in awe of it. This would have been about 1990. It was not inexpensive to make calls with it.
I wanted one. But, soon, a cell phone was marketed. I got one. I bought 32 minutes of time a month. I liked it.
By then we had extension phones all over our house. Too late.
I liked the portable phone best. Soon I bought a flip phone and bought a package I could afford. It was for limited minutes, and for limited areas. Lawrence and Kansas City were not covered with this phone I remember.
Then…THEN…the newer programs came along. The fancier phones. The unlimited minutes, the call-long-distance no longer was a factor. And I — like the “flip phone” — flipped out.
Now, I often text. I love it. I call whomever, and wherever. I carry it with me.

“Woman’s View” is Judi Tabler’s reflection of her experiences and events. She is a wife, mother, writer, teacher, grandmother, and even a great grandmother.