Ready to Read

Ready to Read
Historical Novels -Bobi Andrews

Saturday, August 31, 2013


Two longs and a short.  Why would anyone remember that?  Well . . . 
in the middle of the night anything can happen and my midnight muse 
remembered it and somehow ZINGO.  FACEBOOK.
Painting by Rose Nuernberger

Back when there were no dial-up phones, the big thing was to have a big thing hanging on your wall—a contraption first timers called a “telephone.”   It worked like this:

When electricity finally came through to small towns and rural areas, a telephone company was born which grouped an entire community or rural group on party lines and provided a phone
box to the end user with his own specific  ring.   Our family’s ring to call out was to crank the handle two full circles (longs) and then a short crank. Incoming calls had the same designation as the bells at the top of the phone box rang the longs and shorts.

Privacy, no.  The ring for incoming calls was heard by everyone on the party line so not only would you answer your ring,  but everyone else could “rubber” in.  If you wanted to call out and the line was busy, nothing kept the one waiting from listening in on the on-going conversation.

Ah-h-h Facebook!  Once a week, the local newspaper would call to get the latest news items on where you went, who had a birthday, what did you eat, new babies, parties, illnesses, deaths, etc. etc.  Everyone on the party line could listen in . . . and did.  Some people (maybe grandmas) with idle time made a habit of rubbering and then ringing up their neighbor or kin to spread the gossip.    Of course “Central” the switchboard operator back at the company telephone board, was on a first name basis with everybody and knew the latest. On the merit side, she often called the doctor or the fire department in emergencies.  But did she spread gossip?  Ahem, of course not!

Sometimes when the party you called didn’t answer, a “rubber” would fill you in and tell you where the missing party was. If someone was ill, a rubber or group of rubbers would organize a food mission for the afflicted family  and would certainly call every day to see how the ill person was doing.  Lost children, dogs, cows, and sheep were found and reported to rubbers to contact missing parents/owners.  “Central” hunted you down when there was an emergency you needed to know about.  Ladies inviting people for coffee or announcing they were the next hostess for the Ladies Aid Society would often find the whole neighborhood unexpectedly attending.  Feuds and arguments were maliciously carried on with parties shouting  down others “to get off the line.” More than one offender was dubbed a gossiper and a nosy busybody, a reputation never to be lived down.”

In fairness, farm wives were usually far too busy to rubber.  However, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who didn’t rubber at one time or another. Despite an over abundance of abusers to the party lines, lives were saved by timely notice of emergencies, many lonesome people comforted, family communication strengthened,  cohesive communities established and maintained.  Not too much different from the goals of social media today.  Thank heavens Facebook fixed some of the possibilities for abuse when they brought their service on line.  But if you think about it, the only thing missing back in those days was the ability to send pictures over a telephone line and of course, you couldn’t carry your big box around.  More importantly, you couldn’t find the little box to check  “unlike” for anyone rubbering. 


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