Party Line

by Brenda Harnetiaux — We all know the more things change, the more they stay the same. You could say that about our exhibit with the old time switchboard, a lifeline to the community. Kibbe’s switchboard comes to us from Adrian and the operator  would once have been known as Central. When you had a phone in those days, you were a member of the party line. Your phone was a wooden box on the wall with a mouthpiece mounted on the front and a lift up earpiece on the left side. On the right side was the crank that you turned to make the bells at the top of the phone box come to life.  We have one of those  donated to us by Helen Coeur Hartweg.

We had phone numbers then too. Mine was 7R4. Two longs and a short. I have no idea what those numbers and letters meant to anyone, but I still remember it. You could call anyone on your party line by just cranking out their ring. We all knew them by heart. Of course, you knew there was a possibility that someone could hear your conversation, but those same neighbors that might be listening in,  would be the first to respond if there was and accident or illness.

If you wanted to make a long distance call, you had to ring Central. That was just one long ring.  The operator, someone you knew, would take the number you gave her and get you connected to places that seemed very far away. If there was ever an emergency, you just had to ring a continuous ring to Central, let them know the problem and rest assured that the message would get where it needed to go. Kind of like 911? Like I said, the more things change.

Let’s take stock here.  We have Facebook, cell phones, Twitter, iPod, iPad , Blackberry and e-mail, just to name a few.  All we had to do was one thing.  Just ring central.


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