January 20, 1955
Transcribed by Bob Morrow
* CAL’S COLUMN *
Three weeks have passed since our account of you in the Times. We then promised a continuation of our story. Today you still stand alone in the car house and a sort of dull pain smites your owner when he thinks of the wonderful service you gave over a period of two score years and now you are discarded and set aside.
You were of much use to your owner in the years that will never return. We an never forget the many, many times you saved him trip after trip. We an recall the thousands of times when we have called home and heard from the family. Those intimate things of other days still linger in our memory and bring sorrow in a way as we think of them rather poignantly today.
We can recall a lot of pleasantries that you brought us from our friends and specially the preachers whom we called by means of our telephone or who called us. Many a joke lingers till the present that we heard for the first time by means of the old telephone. Many a hearty laugh have we had over some funny events that we heard for the first time over our old telephone. Truly you have shared in our joys and also in our sorrows. Through you we have heard the calls for hundreds and hundreds of funerals. We have held or helped to hold about 2,750 funerals since “you came into our family.” Many of these were of those we called our best brethren and sisters.
But we come now to another side “of your character.” You were of great use in gathering news for your master from both far and near. In your “better days,” you brought us the news from our local community, that of Pleasant Shade, from Dixon Springs, Union Camp, Cato, Hillsdale, Lafayette, Willette, Defeated, Hartsville, Green Grove, Cross Lanes, Haysville and other places that we might recall. But for the most part the “home phones exchanges” of those places are just memories; and, like you, fading from “life’s scenes.” In 1914 when the writer “bought you,” you could give us connection with most of the country switchboards of a wide area in Smith and surrounding counties. From you we learned one thing that lingers today, that of writing our news the long way of a writing table. You were not made for a writing tablet to fit your shelf only the “long way.” Now after nearly forty years of news gathering, we still prefer the “long way” for recording much of our news gathered by telephone.
We recall that a “lot of your younger brothers” had a shelf that was so steep that we never like to use them. We once said that the man who had invented the “steep” telephone shelf ought “to have been shot.” But, of course, we did not mean what we said.
We recall some very “funny incidents” connected with the old telephone. Once we were in a meeting at Good Will Baptist church, about 1917. It was the voice of the wife of our youth, calling her husband to inform him that the family’s supply of meat had been devoured. To be exact, here are the words that we heard: “Mr. Gregory, we are out of meat and we do not have any money.” We said: “Go down to Mann Sloan’s store and get some meat and tell him that I will pay for it as soon as I get home from my meeting.” This did not meet the approval of our “better half,” who said, “how about killing one of the white shoats and having some fresh meat?” We replied that we did not think the wife could manage the slaughtering and dressing of a pig. She replied: “I’ll get Walter Hiett to kill and dress the pig.” We agreed to this proposal. Walter was one of our near neighbors then, but has since moved to Las Cruces, New Mexico, with his wife, the former Miss Tina Porter.
We got home some three or four days later, the meeting having closed at night. When we arrived home, our wife spoke rather shame-facedly and said: “Mr. Gregory, I made one of the worst blunders I ever made in my life in connection with the killing of the pig by Walter Hiett.” We said: “Now what have you done?” She then related to her husband how that the neighbor, Hiett, had come to our place, with his wife, Tina; how that a fire had been built round a big wash kettle, which had been filled with water, how that the pig was being “dressed,” how that the O. I. C. pig’s skin was so very white, how that she and her neighbor, Mrs. Hiett, were watching the “dressing of the pig,” how that Tina asked, “Miss Mai, don’t you wish you had a pretty white skin like this pig? To which our rather bashful wife of some 37 years ago, answered in the affirmative, adding “I’ll bet Mr. Gregory is a white under his clothing as this pig.” She saw that she had spoken rather inappropriately and saw also a “grin” on the face of Tina’s Husband, Walter Hiett. She sought to correct her previous statement with another equally or more unfitting: “He’s the whitest man under his clothes I ever saw!” Thus she had figuratively “jumped from the frying pan into the fire.” She made one more rather desperate effort to correct the two previous statements with the statement: “Why he’s the only man I ever saw under his clothes. We “roared” over the silly blunders that had followed one another and finally said: “You haven’t got a bit of sense!”
We recall another silly thing that the telephone was indirectly responsible for. One morning early one of our sisters, and we leave off her name for fear it might embarrass her even to this day, spoke from her bed and asked the writer: “Cal, can anyone shoot another over the telephone?” We replied as we had to the wife’s relating the conversation she had had with regard to the pig: “You haven’t got a bit of sense! No, one cannot shoot another over the telephone. Why do you ask such a silly question?” She replied: “I just wanted to know.”
We wish that all our memories of events of the past 40 years as they concerned talking and listening over that old telephone were as pleasant to those we have related. But they were often sad and filled with sorrow. Old telephone, we recall that on the morning of Nov. 19, 1914, when you had been in our little home for less than a year, we heard through you that our father, Thomas Morgan Gregory, familiarly called Dopher Gregory, had died. To us he had been “Pappy,” and in our boyhood we had thought that he was too strong to die. Now he was dead and we knew that our portion was that of a young man without father or mother. We hurried to the old home, some five miles to the southwest, to find our “Pappy” cold in death. He had left his ten children, the writer the oldest, at the early age of 52 years. At first we stared at the form we had know all of our life and not a tear fell. We thought: “Surely we thought more of him than to be unable to shed even one little tear over his lifeless form. We looked at the face so strong and manly even in death, at the hair that was thin and only slightly streaked with grey, which we had combed so many times. We gazed upon the heavy flowing mustache we had remembered from the first of our recollection. But still not a tear came to us.
Then we looked down at the hands and gazed upon the palms. We saw those hands drawn from years and years of the hardest toil. We saw the ridges made by the heavy toil and then this thought came: For his ten children he had worn himself out, trying to make a living for them on a steep, hillside farm, and to give them some advantages he never had. He had sent his children to school a hundred times as much as he himself went. He sent his children to school and did without their labor so sorely needed to provide for a family of ten sons and daughters. Then our tears flowed freely and in our heart we thanked God for such a father. He was, to the writer, the best man he has ever known. He was, to the writer, the fairest in his dealings we ever knew. He was the closest observer we have known, knowing the birds, insects, plants and other things of Nature as no man we have ever known. He never went to school except long enough to get to the word, “horseback,” in the old blue-backed speller. This was, we believe, the beginning of the third division in the old book. The first delt with one-syllabled words. The first two-syllabled word in the book, if memory serves us aright, was “baker.” The next division opened with the word, “horseback.” Our poor father could not read or write until he was 21 years of age. At that time in his life, he had to sign his name “by mark,” which so embarrassed him that he left Carthage where the “signing” took place, resolved to learn how to read and write. He bought a penholder, which we have seen hundreds of times, some ink and a “copy book,” which we also recall. He then gave himself to the task of learning how to write and also learned how to read. He became a fairly good reader, although some of his pronunciations were badly “out of joint.” He never could pronounce “Democracy,” “cyclone,” “onion,” and a lot of other words that seem simple to the writer. He was 29 years of age when the writer was born, the first of his three sons and seven daughters. After we had learned to “figure” a bit, we taught our “Pappy” the rudiments of arithmetic. We had no trouble in teaching him addition and subtraction. But our father never learned how to multiply or to divide.
But he knew so many other things that were worth while that we overlook his lack of schooling. He did not offer a compliment, but one of the things he said about the writer, when he was in school in Bowling Green, Ky., at the age of 16 years and somehow led his class in arithmetic and some other studies, and we say these things without any spirit of boasting whatever, we count as the greatest compliment he ever gave his firstborn. When he had learned of the writer’s progress in his studies, his one remark was: “I reckon he is doing pretty well for a clod-hopper.” The dictionary says that a “clod-hopper” is a plowman; rustic; lout.
So many, many things of sadness and sorrow came to the writer by reason of the old telephone. In July, 1925, the wife of our youth was hopelessly sick with cancer. The writer was engaged in a revival at Pleasant Valley Baptist church, about 15 miles to the northeast, on the waters of Jennings’ Creek. One afternoon we heard over the old telephone, the voice of the wife, asking her husband to come home. We can still almost hear the words: “I am so sick. I want you to come home.” We closed our part of that meeting and went home that night. God bless the memory of her who walked by our side for 14 years and then, tired and worn with the journey of life, bade us long farewell in the presence of the old telephone, which now stands neglected and forgotten, in our car house.
About thirty months later, you were a witness to another terrible parting as the writer bade farewell to another wife and our new born babe. We refrain from giving any of the details of these dreadful goodbyes and pray that those who may read these lines may drop a tear of sympathy for one who has loved deeply and who has sorrowed in the same manner.
So, old telephone, for old times’ sake, for the good you have done, for the memories you have kept alive, we will strive to hold on to you until your master “goes the way of all the earth.”
This Article Appeared In The Times
But Was Not Actually Titled Cal’s Column
We are in receipt of a card from Mrs. Beryl Pepple Monroe, of Venedocia, Ohio, who is much interested in genealogy. She sends us the names of two Gregorys, James Gregory, who came from Scotland to Pennsylvania, a long time ago, and whose descendants now live in West Virginia. She also sends us the name of Richard Gregory, who came also from Scotland to East Virginia and whose descendants also live at this time in West Virginia. We have some record of Richard Gregory who arrived at Jamestown in 1619 and was, so far as we can find, the first Gregory to come to America. We hope to learn more of our family as time goes by, and extend our sincere thanks to Mrs. Monroe for her help.