The Party Line —-1950s

Standard
The Party Line —-1950s

The Year is 1952

The evil practice of listening in on the rural telephone seems to be increasing in this part of Lanark County. If certain people are called from town the busybodies, mostly of the fair sex, but not always, know the sharp ring of central and then down come the receivers like Niagara Falls.

People trying to hear what is being said on a rural line often wonder why the voice of the person in the country is so thin and faint. The eavesdroppers are to blame in 90 percent of the cases. Most people have experienced the shock of calling up some man known to have a voice like a foghorn and hearing him twittering away like a little birdie. If he has a temper he will probably let a few hearty cuss words out of him at his unseen audience.

Clickety click go a dozen receivers and then, lo and behold, the foghorn gentle ­ man regains his normal voice. All jokes aside, cases are now known where people have spent a lot of money to call someone on a rural line. They have placed the call from Vancouver, Halifax, California, Florida or some other far distant point. Generally it is a very serious message occasioned by death or illness. And that is the very time when all the receivers will come down and make it impossible for the expensive call to be heard.

Quite often in such cases the nearest switchboard operator, through which the message passes, has to take it and pass it on the few remaining miles to the party of the second part. Nearly everyone is familiar with the old fable about the Peeping Tom who was struck with blindness in the offending eye. Rural phones were not invented in the days of fairy tales or else there would have been one about the busybody who went deaf in the ear which she applied to calls not her own.

The writer of this item had an old aunt out in Leeds County who used to do a lot of embroidery. She would sit in an easy chair near the rural phone with the receiver tied to the side of her head. It is no wonder that she was regarded as a walking encyclopedia of local information, not to mention scandal.

Sometimes, as her needle worked back and forth through the fabric stretched over its hoops, she lost track of the design. So interested was she in the conversations on her telephone, she took up knitting for creative and safety’s sake.

You always had to be very careful. “You had to put your hand over the mouthpiece or they’d hear you breathing,” explains Amelia Bretzloff. But it paid off. You could hear about so-and-so’s lumbago, that what’s-her-name was seeing what’s-his-name, or that you-know-who was going broke. “Of course, everybody listened in. If you wanted to know the news, you listened in.” It was the early 1920s and telephones were novelties. Nobody had yet heard of a private telephone. The party line linked the neighborhood as surely as if it were stitched together by the thin strands of copper wire on the poles. “You could tell by the ring who was being called,” says Bretzloff, who at 72 years of age now has a private line. Each ring was different: two long, one short; three long, and so on. “Suppose there was somebody with a serious illness in that home. Then you listened to see if someone died, or if they needed help. “Of course, if somebody forgot themselves or they were shocked, they spoke out and gave themselves away.” In those days there was no dial; the operator rang all the numbers. “Oh, and she could hear everything if she wanted to,” says Bretzloff.

CLIPPED FROM
The Lanark Era
Lanark, Ontario, Canada
02 Sep 1914, Wed  •  Page 1


CLIPPED FROM
The Lanark Era
Lanark, Ontario, Canada
09 Nov 1910, Wed  •  Page 7

CLIPPED FROM
The Lanark Era
Lanark, Ontario, Canada
04 Aug 1897, Wed  •  Page 1


CLIPPED FROM
The Lanark Era
Lanark, Ontario, Canada
07 Aug 1918, Wed  •  Page 1

CLIPPED FROM
The Lanark Era
Lanark, Ontario, Canada
09 Dec 1908, Wed  •  Page 5


CLIPPED FROM
The Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
20 Feb 1988, Sat  •  Page 82

Mary Cook and her Telephone Pin

Working on the Telephone Lines — Electrocution at Carleton Place

The Devil’s Telephone? The Ouija Board

Smiths Falls in 1955–3,031 Telephones!!

Telephone Tales from 569 South Street

For the Love of a Telephone Table

The Day the Balderson Telephone Co Disappeared

The Telephone and its History in Almonte

But I Can’t Spend my Telephone Money!

Number Please? Carleton Place

Where Did the 257 Telephone Exchange Come From in Carleton Place?

Jenny, Jenny, Who Can I Turn To?

The Telephone and its History in Almonte

About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s