Phone Home

I was visiting my mom recently and relaxing, when my eye fell upon her hallway phone. it’s a land-line; an old-fashioned, on-the-wall phone, with an incredibly long cord so my mom, back in the day before the advent of cordless phones, could make her way from the hallway into the kitchen for a cup of coffee and never have to hang up.


behold! the hallway phone!

I remember when she GOT this phone. At one point too many years ago to admit to, it was the ultimate in telephone technology – a push button dialer in the most modern cream color which replaced a black, rotary dial phone that had hung in that very same location but with a much, much shorter cord. Not only did the push dial make life a breeze, but the longer cord sure made catching wayward children who, at the sound of the phone ringing, were off like a flash to engage in some nefarious deed or other figuring Mom would be occupied for a few minutes.

at one time, the latest and greatest in communications technology

Would this modern generation even recognize a rotary phone, I wonder? I suppose they would have at least seen them in movies – if not the homes of their grandparents. And speaking of movies – just how many movies have been rendered obsolete by today’s technology?  I mean, there could never be a movie made in the present day called “Dial” M for Murder, since phones don’t have dials anymore! “Press” M for Murder just doesn’t carry the same weight or suspense if you ask me.  But I digress.

Just that one look at my mom’s phone and I found myself awash in nostalgia. Of course when we wax nostalgic we usually think about the good things of our childhood…being able to watch 5 straight hours of cartoons on a Saturday morning at a time when there were only 3, maybe 5, channels to watch, for example. Hell, I remember when cable t.v. first made the scene opening a veritable vista of programming possibilities.  Yeah. I’m that old.

Dressing in my pajamas and going in the car to see a drive-in movie (okay, don’t roll your eyes, I was little at the time)…or just being able to lay down in the back seat to take a nap while we made the long drive “home” to West Virginia – no seatbelt needed!

I can remember when I could turn off my car, then decide that I wanted to roll down the window – and then do it! Imagine that!? Today of course windows are electronically controlled and you have to start the car again if you want to crack a window…and parents nowadays can “lock” the windows so kids in the backseat can’t even open them. Couldn’t do that back in my day. No tossing your brother’s stuff out the back window while on long trips or sticking your head out the window one last time even after dad has warned “I’ll turn this car around!”  Sheesh. Kids have no fun these days.

But nostalgia is a two-way street, of course.

I remember waiting in line for gas during the 1970s when there was that gas embargo. Of course, this was much harder on my parents than it ever was on me. I just went along for the early morning ride – I didn’t have the stress of worrying about having enough gas to get to work for the week.

Going to the library to do some research – and needing to look through the card catalog for hours and then reading book upon book upon book till finding just the right passage to quote for that handwritten ten-page essay. Oh, yeah. Good times.

I remember having to actually get up to change the channels on a TV, instead of using the remote control…even if I wasn’t the one watching it.

I go to my mother’s house quite frequently and of course the hallway phone is there each and every time – being cemented to the wall in all of its permanent glory as it is. It’s hard to miss. I’m not sure why this particular visit affected me so.  But it seems like once one memory is triggered, a flurry of others start to fall through one’s mind like confetti. Not an entirely unpleasant experience I’m happy to say.

7 thoughts on “Phone Home

  1. I grew up fascinated with that phone cord watching American movies. We never had anything like it in the UK! We had to sit at the bottom of the stairs to make calls. That all changed when things when cordless like you said. Apart from my Dad never replaced it back in the handset (still doesn’t) and it became a cord phone again. My parents have mobiles and Skype but to call it’s easier for me to Skype their landline. If we Skype I’m tied down as I have to sit or answer a 1000 questions what’s going on as I’m moving!

  2. Cleaning out my father-in-law’s home, I kept gravitating to the blank rotary phone with the short cord on the kitchen wall. There was also a beige rotary desk phone on the bedroom dresser. I remember my in-laws each getting on a different extension to talk to us together. No speaker phone back then. How times have changed.

  3. Growing up in the ’60s and early ’70s I used these type of phones a lot myself—BOTH the rotary and push-button.
    It’s like anything else: Whatever’s “all that’s available at the time” you simply learn to use to your advantage the best way you can. Until an improvement on the same theme comes along.
    It happened in the ’50s through the ’70s with the improvements in television and hi-fi/stereo systems as well.

  4. I recall similar memories – I was really young – but the gas embargo too!
    And wow – I remember getting the super long cord so we could roam-
    And I actually knew someone in late 70s who had a “limited” phone and was charged after so many calls were made each month….
    Anyhow – beautifully written post and some things I miss about back then whereas other things I like so much more now – esp with phones!

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