Who Ever Heard of Such a Thing?

“Who Ever Heard of Such a Thing?”


            My little family is well connected to each other.  Besides our house phone (landline) My Beautiful Wife and I both have cell phones.  Our three oldest children, who don’t live at home anymore, all have their own cell phones. And our next two oldest, who still live at home also have their own cell phones.  One, two, three… yes that’s right, not counting our landline, my own little family carries around seven different phones. 

And now Brittany, my oldest child who doesn’t have a cell phone has secured a job and steady income.  The number one thing on her “Got to have list” is…. Orlando Bloom.  Well, her dishwashing job won’t do much for that dream, but the next thing on her list is a cell phone.  My Beautiful Wife, who is also a very nice mommy, has helped her go shopping online (the only real option in Delta) for her new phone.  That will be EIGHT cell phones in just my own little family.  Isn’t there a limit to how many can sign up on the family share plan? 

            I think back to the stories told by my own parents.  When they married in 1950, they built a small house on the farm.  It was next to Grandpa and Grandma’s home.  My dad had graduated with a degree in Agriculture.  He planned to bring new ideas to the family farm and help move it into the future.  A few years later, my parents felt they needed a phone installed in their home, instead of having to go over to Grandpa’s house to make phone calls.  At just the suggestion of it, Grandpa Haroldsen hit the roof. 


            What would my Grandpa think of us now?  Besides the constant work related phone calls I get, I use my cell phone while I’m out and about for just about everything.  While running errands, it’s quite a handy tool…

“Honey, was that whipping cream or sour cream that you wanted?  What kind of bread do you want?  They don’t have that video in stock… this is what I’ve found so far…” 

While in the big stores and malls, our cell phones work like walkie talkies…

“Where are you?” 

“I’m over here in electronics.”

“Meet me up at checkout by the drinking fountains.”

I also use my cell phone to make frequent visits with my parents who live almost 400 miles away.  My children, who are depending on me for transportation can find me anywhere to ask for a ride.  So that frees me up to hang out at my Beautiful Wife’s work at night or just about anywhere else while waiting for the “I need a ride” call.

            And that’s just how I use my basic, no frills phone.  The other cell phones in our family are much fancier.  They can do almost everything except put you to sleep at night.  Oh, wait a minute.  Brittany’s new phone is like an ipod.  So it can sing you to sleep at night as well. 

            Last week a Canadian blogging friend, Carol, told of working as a telephone operator.  Telephones have a rich history in Canada.  In fact the telephone was conceived in Canada the by Brantford, Ontario resident Alexander Graham Bell.  Before the start of World War 2, Canadians made more phone calls per capita then the citizens of any other country including the United States.  Even the first long distance call ever made was placed in Canada. 

So all this history got me thinking about the stories of when my mom was a telephone operator.  It was back in the late 1940’s.  She lived in Vancouver, B.C. and a friend told her that B.C. Telephone always had openings.  So my mom went in and applied for the job and was hired. 

First she had to go through three weeks of training.  Before a new hire could be trusted to deal with the public, they had to learn what they could say to them.  No conversations were allowed.  The learned responses were phrases like, “Number Please?  Thank-you.”  One moment please.”  These learned phrases were the only words allowed from an operator. 

Also, the new operator had to learn how to physically make all the phone line connections.  Every phone in the system had a number which would light up when the caller picked up their receiver.  In a large city like Vancouver, that meant thousands of lighted numbers flashing at the operators.  The new recruit needed to practice spotting the customer’s numbered light, asking for the number to be connected to with only the approved phrases, and then making the connection by plugging the two cords into the correct sockets.  If the line being called was busy, the operator would know because she would touch the end of the plug to the socket before plugging it in all the way.  If the line was busy she would hear a noise.  The operator then had to manually ring the number being called.  Since this was done manually by the operator, she had to remember to keep ringing until someone answered, even while fielding another call.  When someone made a payphone call, the operator would ask the customer to put the correct change into the payphone.  Then she listened and counted the “Dongs” as the coins went in.  When the correct number of “dongs” came through her ear phone, the operator would then say to the pay phone customer, “Go ahead.” 

This was back before any uniform numbering system was implemented, and B. C. Telephone numbers included a community or area name, followed by a four digit number and ending with an R for right or an L for left.  My mom’s home phone number back then was Dexter2831R.  There were hundreds of telephone operators who worked for B. C. Telephone alone.  Vancouver alone had a dozen telephone offices and there were about 30 operators who worked each shift in each office. 

Imagine all the work it would be to manually take and switch all the calls today.  My family alone would require a dedicated operator.

In the only pre 911 call my mother ever received, a very panicked woman told her that there was a dead man in her basement.  Of course my mom couldn’t actually talk to the lady, so she replied as trained, “One moment Please.”  She then referred the call to her supervisor who could get the lady some help.

As the telephone has evolved, so has our culture because of it.  For example, 100 years ago when phones weren’t common in every home, the suitor made formal visits to a young lady’s home.  Under the scrutiny of her parents, the young couple sat in the parlor to do their visiting.  Then along came the telephone.  Now the parents could only hear her side of the conversation as the two young folks got to know each other.  Innovation made phone cords long enough that they could stretch around and hide the caller in the closet.  Then only the partyline of neighbors could eaves drop. 

Now my children have camera phones with text messaging.  They can communicate almost anywhere or anytime.  Our dating culture and social interaction don’t even resemble what it was like in my youth.  What would my ancestors think?  If my Grandpa Haroldsen saw all of this, he would hit the roof as he snorts, “WHO EVER HEARD OF SUCH A THING?”   

23 thoughts on “Who Ever Heard of Such a Thing?”

  1. Wow.. what a history lesson in the phone area. I’m impressed.  Before I had a cell phone.. I used to think.. why would you ever really need or want one.  But now that I have had one, I think who would NOT want one.  I think because of this option… cell phones… it is one reason I hear from my children that have moved away so often.  (literally many times a day).  I think it is wonderful.  Great blog.. Vallerie

  2. Hi Ron,
    I’m glad I spurred on this blog,haha. I don’t wonder your grampa thought it was crazy to have more than one phone in the same yard. When I was an operator, there was one small village called Usherville that had only one phone that everyone in the village used. I think it was in the store.

  3. wow…my mom was an operator too…they could cut into conversations too…one night when I was talking to my girlfriend, my mom cut in and said…hurry up and finish so I can call your dad on my break…I always wondered after that if she could listen without me knowing…which must be the reason I am so inhibited to this very day…

  4. That was very interesting about how telephone operators worked.  Big changes for sure.  My 6 year old grandchild emails me and text messages me.  Well so do the older grandkids but by the age of 6!  I no longer have a land line.  It was a waste of money.  The grandkids at age 10 get their own cell phone and of course they can email as soon as they learn to write.  It really makes you wonder what is next.  What will our life look like in another 50 years?  It is so exciting…

  5. I didn’t know about the panicky lady with the dead guy.  You knew a lot more details about he job than I ever knew.  Thanks again for writing down some of my family history so that I could put it in my files.
    We use cell phones the same way you do.  It’s so nice to be in such close contact with my family.  I often don’t even bother answering my land line. I figure if it’s someone I really want to talk to they would be calling my cell.
    Great blog down memory lane.

  6. I have a cell phone, as a matter of fact everyone in this house has one. I am the only one that leaves mine everywhere that i am not !! it is one of 4 on a family plan so i don’t feel too bad that i never take it with me, i always seem to be with someone that has one if i need to use it and that way i am not being bothered all day by incoming calls. I even tend to unplug the landline after work hours so not to have all the interruptions.  Actually i guess i am one of the few that could live without a phone and it wouldn’t bother me.
    Have a great weekend

  7. Hi Ron, thanks for stopping by… I love "the house hunting" words. Tiring work, tired Zeynep, yes, but I am trying to enjoy it, lol… I will take some photographs in every steps in this TIRING experiment!.. See ya!

  8. lol I enjoyedthis blog!  The music industry is keeping me so busy, and it’s so demanding time wise! whew.. don’t have much time to blog much during this period of the year!  I am going to tyake a year off I think.. SOON.. SOON!  I think! lol  I always say that, then never do..lol… I can’t be still long enough! lol
    Yes, Ron, I’m not th run of the mill  type person, and I thank God for that!  He made us all different, and I lilke to think he has a BIG sense of humor!  Why? because HERE I AM, in this wonderful BIG wrld he created for me, and all of us to live in!  I JUST wish WE all could love in it without judgemental views,war, indifference, and all that happy kind of stuff that breeds what it all aboput anyways!!!
    I think you very creative yourself…and I think you a pretty cool fellow Ron!  And thanks for dropping by my space… Because TRUST ME.. I don’t BITE!  I don’t have time to bite anyone, live and spread the love…. that’s what make me smile each day!

  9. hi,Ron,how are you?
    If Grandpa saw the life full of cell phone,I guess he would also buy one for himself.
    Time changes,things change.More and more are available to us and we enjoy a lot that ancestors didn’t have.
    Cell phones are so popular in China.Today people even could photo   anytime.
    Technology brings us convience and comfort,so let us use it properly and sufficiently.

  10. I have been thinking about needing to phone someone else in the SAME STORE…which is probably now about the same size as a small farm yard once was… I recall getting lost in penny’s in  provo when I was 4…I went up the stairs to the womens area and looked off the balcony until I could see my mother shopping on a far isle…I was in a walmart one day and realized that from the back of the check out line to the front wall was about that same distance…you can remember the time when shopping was not a time when you could yell and ten seconds later hear your echo…HELP…HELp….HElp…Help..help…hel..he…h…..

  11. I prefer not to fry my brains and hopefully will become the only resident in england who never owns one.  I despair when I see people shouting into these contraptions who then find it impossible to speak to a companion! I was a junior in a large office and had to cover for the telephonist – I never understood how the cables got so snagged and twisted  – I usually pulled all the plugs from the sockets to start again – a principle that I am able to continue with my pc !

  12. Hi Ron, had to comment on this blog, but actually read the past two to catch up.  Skiing is not something I have tried, but am impressed with anyone who dares to try.  Loved that about your father.  About the cell phones, isn’t that just the way.  My hubby grew up w/o electricity in his home and he often wonders what his mom would do if she were to come back today and see how much the world has changed.  Very nice and interesting stuff you have here.

  13. I remember hearing about the phone call she got about the dead guy. That would have gotten the adrenelin pumping.  I can imagine Grandpa just scratching his head if he could see our day and all the phones, tv’s computers etc… that we use every day.  Times have sure changed.  I agree with Vallerie.  I love the cell phones because I have easy access to Jennifer, Mom & Dad etc…  I’m going to have to go through all your blogs and save them for my families history.  Is there an easy way to do that?   Catherine

  14. I couldn’t live with out mine i forgo the land line don’t really need it hehe….also i agree with your daughter i too would love to have orlando bloom good taste she has lol  well i am knee deep in work but i wanted to drop in & say hello 🙂 have a wonderful day & keep warm Nat

    Hi, Ron! I always learn something new when I visit your Space, in addition to reading your wonderful stories. I didn’t realize that A. G. Bell was Canadian!
    Regarding your story about the telephone operators, I have vague memories of ladies plugging in cords at the telephone office where Mom went to pay our phone bill when I was quite small. I recall thinking it seemed like a complicated job, yet was fascinated by the operators’ agility and competence as their busy hands flew! (This would have been in the early 1950’s in central Iowa). Thjank yopu for another fascinating, entertaining read!!
    Wishing you peace…

  16. Hey there  just wanted to say hello and see what you are up to. I am trying to make the rounds before "24" comes on, I am addicted to that show.
    Have a great week

  17. I still remember our phone # in pre area code days in NE MT…  O28J3….  and it rang two shorts and a long.  We were on a party line!!!  ufdah… that was interesting..  I remember visiting my aunt and uncle in North Central ND…  Where my aunt would get up in the morning, take the phone off the hook and leave the little rubber plug in.. and hang the phone over the chair so she could:" Rubber Neck" …  and get the daily goings on in the neighbor hood.. As long as the rubber little plug was in everyone could do the same thing and still make a call…  and I can hear your Grandpa Haroldsen…….  UFFDAH!!!…. have a wonderful day… hugs, lottiemae

  18. Very funny and introspective.  I’ve often wondered where I would be without my cell phone and will hang a big U-turn to go back and get it if I ever leave home without it.   Thanks for sharing!

  19. WOW, Ron, you bring back so many memories. I lived on a farm no electric, but we had the old crank phone, like two longs and a short, different for each neighbor and in those days you heard every one else’s rings and knew who’s ring it was for. Had a neighbor who must of listened to alot of other callers, he knew what was going on in with all our neighbors, you could say he was the town newspaper. Then the dial came, changed to push button, cordless, now cell phones, that we carry around like our buddy, that we can’t be with out. They sure seem to be a part of our life now, a necessity you could say. Wander how did we do before you say, never knew the difference. Ahhhhh what the future already has in story for us can blow your minds, onward we go! Thanks for the memorys.  Deanie

  20. GOD *.*.*.OPENED * …*.*. THE WINDOWS * * .* *.*.*.* OF HEAVEN .*) .*) *.*.*LOOKED AT ME . (.` *.*.*.**.*.*.*AND ASKED, ..*(`.) .*.*.*.*.* **.*. *WHAT IS YOUR * .`.(`.) * . * . * .* *DREAM * .*.. *`..* (`.) * .*FOR .. *..(`.). *`..* .*TODAY? .* … *`.. * *. * . * .**I . * . * . . * . *.*. * . **ANSWERED: __00000___00000 *.*. * .* .*GOD, _0000000_0000000. * . * .*TAKE _0000 OOOO 00000. * . * .*CARE __0000000000000 * . ** .*OF THE ___00000000000 * . *. * . * .*PERSON _____0000000 * . *. * . ** *.*THAT _______000 * . *. * * * .*.*IS ________0* . * .. ** .. * .*.*READING . * .. ** .. * . * . * .* . *.*THIS . * . (.. *** /) * .*.*.*MESSAGE, * . * ( ..(_)/ ) * * .BECAUSE * . * (_ /|.. _) . *.* THIS PERSON IS * . * . /___.. * . .* .*SO . * . * . * . . * *SPECIAL! T0DAY IS BEST FRIEND DAY SEND THIS T0 ALL Y0UR best FRIENDS & BACK TO ME, IF I AM 1. IF Y0U GET 7 BACK…Y0U ARE L0VED

  21. ……@@@……………………….@@@……..██████…..♥……………♥….██████….█████████…♥♥……….♥♥…█████████.████@███████..♥…….♥..██████@████….████@██████…♥…♥…█████@█████……████@██████..♥♥..█████@█████…………………##############……………….██████████.♥♥.██████████………..████████████..♥♥..████████████……█████@███████.♥♥.█████@███████…….██████████…….@……..██████████…..███████…………..@………..███████…….████………………………………████………██……………………………………██…..

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *