Friday, June 26, 2015

29. Telephones and Records in the Forties

Growing up in Gettysburg in the Forties, telephone party lines were common. As Nancy and I recall, both our families had four-party lines which meant three other families shared each line with us. Pick the phone up at any time, and you might hear one of your neighbors talking. If you were an eavesdropper, you might hear news that you wouldn’t read in the daily newspaper.

Each home on a party line had a specific ringing cadence. For example your distinctive ring might be two longs and a short and your neighbor might be two shorts and a long. Parents and phone companies asked us to limit our phone calls to five minutes, but Nancy and I remember talking for as long as 30 minutes.

When I wanted to call her, I picked up the receiver and if no one was one the line, the operator said, “Number please,” and I would answer “29 W.”

Vinyl records that played at 78 revolutions per minute were also popular in the Forties and are now only seen on ebay or in antique stores. They were most often played on a portable record player.  

Nancy and I enjoyed listening to the popular music of the day, and her diaries from the Forties often mention spending time listening to artists like Kay Kayser, Sammy Kaye, Perry Como, Bing Crosby and of course, Frank Sinatra.

My mother worked at the Bookmart on Chambersburg Street in Gettysburg where records were sold, and a feature of the store was the availability of booths where customers could play a record before deciding if they wanted to buy it.

Party telephone lines and 78 records are left behind with no regrets, but there are some things like a Chocho on a warm summer day that we still miss.

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