'When I was a kid'

Do you remember when once upon a time in America telephones were used for making and receiving calls? That was their only purpose.

I was quite young when my parents decided it was time we had a telephone. It was almost as exciting as when my parents decided it was time we had a television set. I couldn’t wait to call all my friends who had telephones and give them my new number.

I can only imagine what that must sound like to kids of today, since many of them have their own cell phones and they have their own televisions in their bedrooms. I haven’t mentioned this bygone era to my grandkids, but I did once tell them that there was a time when televisions were not operated by remote control.

They couldn’t understand that you had to go to the television to turn it on or off and to change the channels. They got that glazed-eye look they get whenever I start a story with “When I was a kid ...”

But, when I was a kid, it was a big deal when we got a telephone. I can clearly remember when the phone company man came to install it and it was put in a place of honor right next to my father’s favorite chair, even though he never actually used the telephone.

We considered ourselves very fortunate because we had only a two-party line when many people we knew had as many as six parties on their line. We didn’t even have to count the number of rings before we answered it. That first day of having the telephone the whole family just sat around in the living room waiting for it to ring.

If I tried to explain to my grandkids that only people with money had private lines and the rest of us had to share telephone lines with other people, I would certainly get that same glazed look. There would be no point in telling them that on a party line if you picked the receiver up to make a call and heard people talking, you either politely apologized or gently put the receiver back in the cradle and waited until later to make your call.

I will admit that when I was a kid there were a couple of times when I listened in on our neighbor’s conversation. Our neighbor was an elderly woman and her conversations that I did eavesdrop on seemed to be primarily about the goings on of soap operas or her arthritis, so I quickly lost interest in that naughty behavior.

 Even though it doesn’t seem that long ago, I guess it’s all ancient history. Now, even the faithful old landline hanging on my kitchen wall is rapidly becoming a relic of a bygone era.

Everyone has cell phones, including most of the kids and believe me, they know how to use them. Some of the cell phones available now include a slide-out keyboard for texting messages, games, camera, e-mail and Internet connection. And, yes, you can even make calls on them.

Call me ancient, call me a relic if you like, but I think cell phones are making the younger generation rude. I find it quite annoying when I’m having a conversation with someone and all the while they’re texting someone else or checking the text message they received. I can’t blame that behavior entirely on the kids because it has been adults like my daughter who have resorted to this when I’m having a conversation with her.

The kids are much more apt to be playing games on their cell phones during conversations, though they’re pretty darn adept at texting, too.

I know there are some great advantages to having a cell phone, especially in the event of an emergency. And, with so many kids having them, it eliminates the old excuse of not having access to a phone to call home and explain why they would be home after curfew. When I was a kid, the no phone availability excuse was always my saving grace.

So, yes, there are some good things about cell phones and I certainly don’t object to anyone having the phone of their choice as long as they exercise some manners when dealing with people in person.

I do have a cell phone and though I rarely use it, it has come in handy on a few occasions. But, I’m pretty fond of the old relic hanging on my kitchen wall. I make calls and I receive calls and that is it, and the way I see it, there is a certain kind of comfort in that, just like there was a long time ago when I was a kid.

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 's picture


This brought back many memories - and lots of laughs. I do agree that cell phones are used excessively in today's world. I am a cashier in an area big box store. One Sat, with lines longs, and everyone in a hurry, a woman came threw talking on her cell phone. As I said good morning, I was greeted with a scathing look. After ringing up her purchases I proceeded to tell her the total and again the look came out. When I asked her to sign for her credit card, I was told that I was the rudest person around for interrupting her phone call. That woman probably needed one of those Grandma slaps up side the head!! Go figure

Steve Bulger's picture

Remember it well

Ours was a heavy, black and bakelite monster with no dial or buttons (imagine THAT, kids). To place a call, you lifted the handset, waited for the operator to say, "Number please", and you told her which number you wanted to call (ours was 1594M).
As for your complaint about rudeness: How can you expect young people today to have any sense of civility, propriety or respect when their parents generally have none? As kids, we were taught (sometimes painfully) to respect our parents, teachers, elders, members of the clergy, public officials, and others too many to list. We were instructed that personal conversations were sacrosanct, not to be interrupted or ignored except in case of emergency. And the use of a cell phone - if it had been available back then - during a conversation would have resulted, at the very least, in a pile of crushed electronics on the floor.

Who can say where or when the demise of proper, responsible behavior began? I can only speculate. But it should suffice to say that there HAS been a degradation...and the world is worse for it.


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