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Ringin' on the Line

©Growing Up in Bixby

By Don House

Although there was a time we had no indoor plumbing, electricity or radio, I don't remember when my parents didn't have a telephone. My earliest memory of our telephone involves Walter "Peg Leg" Durham (1939 or 1940), who operated the country store which was about a quarter mile north of our house. He would walk to our house to use the phone, and he always had a tall bottle of strawberry 'pop' for me! The lack of a telephone at the store suggests to me that our phone might have been a rarity at the time.

By the time I was old enough to use it, we shared a line with a dozen or more of our neighbors. Our number was 11F25 (later changed to 34F25); the 11F was our line and the 25 was our ring. That was two short rings followed by one long ring. Everyone on the line heard the rings for everyone else on the line. We could call anyone on our line by simply turning the crank on the old wall phone to generate the correct combination of rings. Chances were, the central office operator would inquire, "number please?" To which we simply replied, "ringing on the line."

My buddy, Jack Bolton, who lived a quarter mile north, answered a short ring followed by a ling ring and two short rings. Ronald Wade, a half mile east, answered two short rings.

My older sister, Grace Moore, lived northeast of town across the river and her number was 15F52. That was one long ring followed by two short rings. She was on a different line, which required us to call "central" by cranking a single long ring and telling the operator the desired party or number when she responded.

Calls to Tulsa, Broken Arrow and Jenks were long distance. They remained so for many years to come.

My memory is too dim to explore beyond these musing, but I do remember a few people who had a reputation for eavesdropping on calls for others on their party line. People didn't seem to expect a lot of privacy. Another inconvenience was obvious when you wanted to use the phone and someone else was having a longwinded conversation.

© 2006-2008 · Don House · Bixby OK · All Rights Reserved. Published at Bixby Historical Society Online with permission.
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