98. Holding the phone next to your heart

The orange phone has made it into previous posts. We inherited some kitschy items with the cottage, and in 10. Clara’s Kitsch, I conducted a poll to discover readers’ favorites. The orange phone won by two votes. Several readers suggested we hang it in the bathroom by the water closet.

Mr. H.C. doesn’t remember having this orange phone at his childhood home; he says their kitchen was turquoise and they had a black wall phone. So Clara and Joe must have picked out the orange phone especially for the 70s orange decor of the cottage. But they transferred their telephone number from that black wall phone. 627-5590. It’s the number I remember calling (even though I wasn’t allowed to call boys…)  It’s the number on the orange phone.

I still have a nice square foot section of this wallpaper to frame and hang somewhere…

Found this photo on E-Bay -- it's for sale for $60.

Found this photo on E-Bay — it’s for sale for $60.

The phone at our childhood house was a green desk phone that sat right outside the kitchen. It was the number one public area of the house, and there was no such thing as a private phone call. Mom would sit at the chair with her morning coffee and talk to her friends. We three girls would sit with our cokes and talk to friends in the evening. I remember when our original phone number (1696-L) was changed to 627-5804, but we only had to dial the last five digits because everyone in town had the same first three numbers. My dad transferred this number when he moved to his apartment in town — that was his phone number until the day he died…

We had a party line because we lived in the country. Alvin, the teenaged boy on the next hill always hogged the phone; he and his girlfriend would do their homework in silence every evening from 7 until 8:30. By the time I was in high school and talking to Mr. H.C. on the phone,  the party line was gone and the only people who complained were my sisters, who were waiting impatiently for their turn. Dad would just shake his head and mutter, “What if I want to use the phone sometime?” We would just laugh, because Dad hardly ever talked on the phone. And if he needed to make a Very Important Call, he just said, “Get off the phone.” And. We. Did.

TelephoneCandlestick1930sto1940sMy grandparents had a “candlestick” phone (627-5305) on a telephone desk outside their kitchen. This was an antique phone even when I was a kid. My grandma Carrie had suffered hearing loss from diphtheria as a kid, and she always wore a hearing aid — the old fashioned kind that had wires and a transmitter that amplified sound. When she talked on the phone, she held the ear piece next to her heart where she wore the amplifier. It looked odd, and I was fascinated by watching her talk on the phone. She explained one day, after I was caught staring, that they kept the old fashioned phone because it was easier for her to manipulate. Then she smiled. “I only talk to people I care about,” she said. “And I carry their words next to my heart.”

I love technology (mostly) and I love my IPhone. And here in the teens of the new century my phone matches my kitchen as well.

And chances are I would rather text you than call you on the phone. Saves time, u no. But listen to what we are saying here. Are fifty-seven texts better than one conversation? We are communicating more and saying less, reduced to emoticons and abbreviated phrases.

Orange phone in living roomThe orange phone was hanging around on the wall in the living room until we took it down a few weeks ago when we moved the ovens and began the rehabilitation of that wall. I think I will hang it up again somewhere in the cottage — maybe next to that framed section of kitschy kitchen wallpaper — just for memory’s sake. But it will be a silent phone, only good for remembering.

Why is it that I can remember those old phone numbers when I can’t even remember the phone number I had at my last house. Oh, well, it MIGHT have to do with advanced age, but I think American society used to have a permanence that just isn’t there anymore. We cast-off, trade-in, move on.

It’s a throw-away world. Our phones. Our phone numbers. Our words. Sometimes I would be better off just to shut up. To listen. To call someone up just to hear their voice. And carry their words next to my heart.

23 thoughts on “98. Holding the phone next to your heart

  1. I love the stories of your memories. I hadn’t thought of Nanny & Pa’s phone number or her talking on the phone for quite awhile. And I agree with your wisdom. And I still love that phone :)

    • At some point we got the phone in the basement, and it afforded more privacy, but I couldn’t remember when it was. I’m pretty sure I was almost done with high school or in college? Do you remember?

    • It seems like your number was 627-5350, but I couldn’t be sure enough to write that in the post. But I remember mistakenly calling my grandparents and you because the numbers were so close. Am I thinking right????

    • Oh I knew who you were all right! Who else would have this comment? And what I want to know is if I talked to you for an hour, and we talked to our boyfriends for an hour, WHEN DID WE STUDY? Oh right, in the mornings by the milk cooler… :-)

  2. I have a 1940’s vintage phone that belonged to my Aunt Bo and Uncle Al hooked up and working in my old house. I have turned all the digital phone ringers to mute so that the old phone gives that classic ring when someone calls. It is also the best phone to use as far as clarity is concerned. Sometime newer is not always better. I vote that the old phone gets hooked up and used as part of the AHC. In reality, in a disaster the old analog phones still work when all the cell towers go down.

    • There IS an ancient land line coming into the cottage…but we are trying to live cheaply (once we get there — in the meantime we’re spending money like crazy just trying to get there!) But we do like the idea of emergency preparedness! And it’s very cool that yours works. Do you use it as your regular phone?

      • If I want to have a secure conversation with some one, I will use the old phone as opposed to the wireless phone or cell phone which can be “tapped into” by people who have the correct equipment to pickup the wireless signal (no, I’m not paranoid…just aware of the fact that technology is not always safe). Very few people still use analog phones (dealing with AT&T was quite interesting who wants everyone to go digital). When I was in the Citizen Police Academy last year, the police officer who deals with cyber crimes discovered that his equipment to read data on cell phones does not work on Windows based phones…it was mine he tried it on. Data was on the phone but his super duper equipment could not crack my phone. Android and iPhone are very simple to access.

  3. I’m always amazed at how many phone numbers I stored in my little brain in the past. Now, it’s all programmed into the cellphone and I’m lucky to remember my number let alone everyone else’s! Great post. Hang that phone near the framed section of wallpaper. It’s a great memory, great conversation piece, and great pop of color!

    • I know! It took me a year of having my cell phone before I could rattle off the number. I always used the excuse that I never called myself. That might be partially true, because I knew my husband’s number after a month.
      And you’re right–I’m thinking I’ll frame the wallpaper and hang the phone in the middle. As to whether it will actually work or not, see above comments…. :-)

      • I am giving all the credit to my niece. (Are you reading this Emily?) She said we should keep squares of the wallpaper and frame it for fun art around the house. And she took a tacky old swag light that we were going to throw away and they hung it in their apartment and it looks gorgeous!

  4. Great post. Love the orange phone. And you’re right… sometimes our technological “advances” create a false sense of closeness… we text, we email, but how often do we visit or talk in person anymore? I’m thankful for all the technology, but I also miss the personal interaction.

    • I’m grateful for texting and email as well — my kids and my sisters all live in far away states from CT. to CA. and in between. Without those modern technologies we wouldn’t stay in touch as much as we do. But still…

  5. We have a harvest gold phone that is almost identical to your orange one in our family room. It’s hopelessly tacky and out of style, but it still works great. :)

  6. Love this post! So well written and I see your message so clearly! I think I’m one of the last age groups that would remember having those phones in the house. It was such a privilege to call friends and like you, I can still remember everyone’s number! Now, I can hardly remember my own! I use my phone now to do so many things but often times it only leads me to be less “social” than before. I find it easy to blame technology and wish things could go back to the way they were. However, I think we all have that power inside us to stop and really think about how we interact socially. Thinking I need to give my friends a call…

  7. Love this post. My dad works for the telephone company. He’s been there for more than 40 years. I sort of have a thing for old phones because of him. By the way, I remember talking to you “way back when” about flannel boards. Can you tell me if the board is flannel or felt? And are the figures felt? Thanks. I want to finally make one!

    • I remember when you could take your broken phone into the phone company, and they would just hand you another one! :-)
      The figures for flannelboards are felt; the covered board is either flannel or velour. All the manuals say make the board of a neutral color, but I used a nice sky blue velour. You can also use stiff interfacing for figures — that makes for good tracing, but then you have to color them. It’s good for getting kids involved in making their own figures though!
      I have a bunch of lovely third/fourth grade biographies (hard-backs) that I’ve discarded and they would be perfect for a homeschool family… are you interested?

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