Posted tagged ‘party lines’

“Hip is the sophistication of the wise primitive in a giant jungle.”

September 4, 2016

The first thing I did this morning was turn on the TV for the latest weather. It seems the winds are much greater than they expected yesterday. Instead of 25mph, they could be as high as 4o with gusts even higher. The expected rain total is still far too little, but the weather report has added the possibility of rain on Tuesday so that should help. The storm could affect the cape for much of the week. The only preparation I have made so far is to lower and secure my umbrella, but after I finish here, I’ll go out to the deck and secure what’s left.

The weather now is so lovely it is difficult to believe what is wending its way up the coast. The air is pleasant at 73˚. The sky is a lovely blue and the only clouds are small and wispy. The breeze is from the north and is still slight enough to be harmless.

Last night we didn’t have a movie on the deck. My friend thought it would be damp and too chilly so we changed plans. We had game night, ate Chinese appetizers and then watched the Deadly Mantis on TV. It was a fun movie with all the cliches we expect from a fifties black and white science fiction movie. We had our handsome hero, an air force officer, who falls in love with the female star, an editor of a museum magazine. This film had amazing scenes as many of the film clips were real especially the ones of jet planes, radar rooms and air force bases. Another wonderful clip was of an Eskimo village, their dogs and the men heading out to sea in their umiaks. At the end, the giant mantis was difficult to destroy but our hero was up to the task.

Some of the scientists on an advisory committee in the movie were sitting around the table. They  were holding slide rules. I remembered using one in math class way, way back, and at one time students in my school had to use them. Teachers carted boxes filled with them from room to room. Now, most students would be dumbfounded if asked to identify a slide rule.

I used typewriters and slide rules. To change the channel I had to get up and walk to the TV to turn the dial. My first transistor radio was square, covered in leather and big. A later radio was plastic. It only got AM. There wasn’t any FM. We had a party line for our telephone. It was cheaper. Dial phones made great sounds. I use to keep dimes in the slots of my loafers in case I needed to use a pay phone. Sputnik scared us. The TV only had black and white programs. My bike had no gears, and the brakes were the backward parts of the pedals. It was, by today’s standards, a primitive time. I figure every new generation thinks the previous generation is antique, backward. My two-year-old grand niece, affectionately called G or Georgie, can use the phone to facetime my sister, her grandmother. That was science fiction when I was a kid.

“Cursive writing does not mean what I think it does.”

May 29, 2014

The house was cold this morning at 63˚. I wanted to stay cozy and warm under the comforter, but Gracie got up and didn’t come back so I knew she wanted out. I groused, put on my sweatshirt and my slippers, the ones with the holes in the toes, and came downstairs. Gracie went out and I forgave her after my first sip of coffee.

When I was a kid, our back screen door was wooden. It was dark green around the outside edges. My mother constantly yelled at us not to slam the door on our way out. We never did. It just closed that way on its own. She didn’t buy it. “You could hold it and close it,” was her answer,  a typical parent’s answer because no self-respecting kid was ever going to stop, hold the door and gently close it. We certainly never did and the door kept slamming and she kept yelling. I thought of it as a summer ritual.

I always checked the coin holder on every public telephone. Sometimes I’d find a dime, a wealth of money. I also used to pick up glass bottles and turn them in for pennies. Even pennies had value back then. I never hunted for the bottles, but if I saw one, I’d carry it to the store. The shopman would open the huge cash register, the one with the round metal keys and the ching sound, and get my pennies. I liked it when my pocket jingled. It made me feel wealthy.

The first phone I remember had finger holes for the dialing with numbers and letters. You turned the dial all the way until your finger stopped then you let go and the dial returned to the beginning and then you entered the second letter or another number. The dial made a great clicking sound on its return trip. Our phone number started with ST 6, and that was the start of every phone number in town. We had a party line and had to listen to the rings to figure out if the call was ours or Mrs. McGaffigan’s.

My local school district made the paper when it said that cursive writing would remain a part of the curriculum. It seems many schools no longer teach it. When I was a kid, I swear every classroom in America had the alphabet, those cards from A to Z, posted one after the other over the chalk board. Each card held one capital and one small letter in cursive. I always liked Z, both capital and small. X was another favorite which may yet become the most used letter in the alphabet. Sign your X next to the dotted line.

“All the world is made of faith, and trust, and pixie dust.”

May 6, 2014

I have been waking up early the last few days or at least early for me. I think the sunshine makes me not want to waste any daylight. The dog, cat and I don’t get up right away but stay in bed, them sleeping, me reading. My book is just about finished, and I hated leaving it this morning but thoughts of coffee and the papers were enough to roust me from bed. It was a noisy morning. From my bedroom window I could hear the sounds of the early day. Somewhere a lawn was being mowed and I could hear the kids waiting for their bus. Two neighbors, their combined seven kids and one dog are not quiet. The little kids’ bikes rumble up and down the neighbor’s drive-way. She’s not there. The dog barks if a car drives by him. The bus arrives about ten to nine, two of the kids get on, everyone waves to them, the bus leaves and the bikes head on down the street: a couple of Big Wheels and two bikes with training wheels. This afternoon they’ll do it all again for the return trip of the school bus.

I grew up in a golden age. We walked to school and all over town. We played in unfenced yards or went to the playground down the street. It was an innocent age where the only bad guy was a Russian with his atomic bombs, but duck and cover was more of a game to us than a strategy. We played cowboys and Indians. We had heroes like Superman. I don’t think my parents ever locked the front door. The world was never scary except maybe for the guy with the hook. We watched westerns on TV. They always had a good guy and a bad guy, and it was easy to tell them apart. In school, each class had 35 or more kids in it, but the nuns ruled with iron hands. Not one of us dared cross them or we’d get killed at home. The worst thing we ever did was whisper or pass a note. On Saturday nights the whole family went to the drive-in and on summer Sundays the beach. The car was cramped and there was no air-conditioning, but we all survived though with some complaining and pushing and screaming about territorial rights. The phones had operators who connected us, and ours was a party line. We knew just about everyone in our neighborhood. We also knew they’d tell our parents if we did anything wrong. Summer was pure bliss. Some days we walked to the zoo or the pool. The zoo was free; the pool was a dime. My mother sometimes gave us an extra nickel so we could buy a snack from the stall outside the pool. We’d sit under trees at picnic tables and eat our snack before the long trek home, all the way across town. We never gave much thought to the future. We were kids and the future was the next day or as far away as the weekend.

That was the easiest time in my whole life, and I think of it with great fondness and a whole lot of nostalgia.