TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Party Line Ringing (Was: Re: Movie "Pillow Talk")

Party Line Ringing (Was: Re: Movie "Pillow Talk")
Tue, 14 Mar 2006 20:21:45 EST

In a note to a message dated 13 Mar 2006 12:16:55 -0800, writes:

> [TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: My dear departed grandmother, bless her
> soul, dead now since 1978 told me about party lines and the old biddies
> here in Independence/Coffeyville who had them during the 1930-40's. They
> would set their phone in or upon a galvanized wash tub, then go out to
> sit on the front porch on a hot summer night. Sooner or later, they
> would hear the 'ticking' and 'clattering' of that wash tub as the bell
> clapper on the phone would make a single strike. (Recall please that
> party lines often used a system where the desired phone would ring
> normally, but the other phones on the line [with their bell ringing
> clappers on a different frequency] would just make a sort of feeble
> 'tick sound' once and then stay silent. The old witches would be out
> on their front porch trying to stay cool; one of them would hear that
> greatly amplfied [by comparison because of the galvanized wash tub]
> 'tick sound', excuse herself and slip inside to quietly pick up the
> reciever and see _who_ had called, _who_ they were talking to, and
> _what about_. They'd sit in there quietly listening to the others, and
> only occassionally would another one of the biddies happen to notice
> she was being spied on and angrily tell the others to get off the
> line. PAT]

Are you sure harmonic ringing was used in Indeependence and
Coffeyville? As far as I can remember they were both always
Southwestern Bell towns, and SWBT did not use harmonic ringing at all
except perhaps in an exchange recently required from a non-Bell

SWBT used divided ringing (ring or tip to ground), which provided for
two different parties, divided polarized ringing (+/- ring or +/- tip
to ground), which provided for four different parties with none of
them hearing the other's ring. Beyond that they usually added codes
(one ring, two rings, etc.).

In the 1930s and 1940s I believe Independence and Coffeyville were
both manual, and probably had only tip and ring to distinguish
parties, the others having codes.

Apropos of another thread, I notice that some Oklahoma organization or
state board or agency is having a meeting or session this week in
South Coffeyville, Oklahoma.

Wes Leatherock

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Both Independence and C'ville were
always SBC towns. C'ville was cut to dial in 1956, Independence was
cut to dial in 1961. I have some confusion here since my mother was
born in 1922 when her parents lived in _southern Illinois_ in one of
the suburbs of St. Louis. Mother said they moved to Coffeyville in
1928. To complicate matters a bit further, one of the small towns
east and a bit south of Independence is _not_ SBC but was always in
that rural telephone cooperative which is based further east around
the Pittsburg, KS area. Grandmother is of course long since dead. But
for _some_ small town telephone systems in those days, her story of
setting the phone in a galvanized washtub to listen to the 'ringing'
of the party-line neighbor is a logical report. Sorry I cannot be
more specific. PAT]

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