Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .



Monday, June 4, 2012

Party Line Panic


See? Behind my dad? Entertainment in a box!

My brother recently blogged about the fun/mishaps of people ‘rubbering in’ on the party phone lines.
It’s here, and is great fun to read.
Go ahead. We’ll wait . . .
But the history of the party phone line wouldn’t be complete without the following story:
Still further west of the Stringam Ranch was a community known as Twin River.
It’s accepted social leader was Alfred Jones.
Successful farmer and all-round good guy.
One morning, Alfred received a phone call from a concerned and upset member of the neighbourhood.
She had been listening in on the party line and overheard the news that, “Bert Sibley had died.”
Now Bert had farmed in the area for many, many years. He and his wife had raised their children.
Sold the farm.
And retired to the nearby town of Magrath for some well-deserved rest.
As a stalwart of their community, his death was something of note.
The woman thought that, at the very least, friends and neighbours of the Sibleys should supply flowers at the soon-to-be-announced funeral.
Alfred agreed.
“In fact,” he said, “I’m heading to Lethbridge on business right now. I’ll stop in while I’m there, and order the flowers.”
The woman agreed and hung up.
Alfred started out.
The road from the Jones Ranch in Del Bonita, to Lethbridge, runs directly through the aforementioned Magrath.
As he reached the outskirts of the town, Alfred decided it would be proper for him to stop in and offer his condolences to the grieving widow.
He pulled up to the house and made his way to the front door.
While he was waiting for his knock to be answered, Alfred happened to glance into the front room through the large window.
There was Bert.
Lying on the couch.
Oh, my word, thought Alfred. They haven’t even taken the body away yet!
But that wasn’t his only shock of the day.
Just as the door opened, the ‘body’ sat up.
Alfred stared.
Then gulped.
Then turned to Mrs. Sibley, standing in the doorway and stammered out something inane about stopping in to see how they were enjoying town life.
Etc.
Then got out of there.
Mrs. Sibley never knew how close she was to being offered flowers and condolences.
For a husband who was very much alive and sitting in the next room.
The good old party line.
Originator of all things entertaining.
How can anything in this modern world compete with that?

15 comments:

  1. It was the days entertainment for some of the older ladies...they didn't call it a "party line" for nothing you know.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Party" on! I miss those days . . .

      Delete
  2. Now that would be something. Stop in to offer your condolences and get greeted (almost) by the deceased himself. Great story!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think the experience would have given MY ticker a jolt!

      Delete
  3. Long on "ear-ing", short on facts. Maybe that is two longs and a short.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hahahahahahaha! You've got that right! Ours was two longs. The neighbour's was two longs and a short. And they were certainly long on 'earing'. And, as I remember, very short on facts . . .

      Delete
  4. Lots of great memories of that party line we had! I remember when I was talking to my boyfriend on there, and we would just sit there for long periods listening to eachother breathe. Then someone would jump in and say, "Hey! Can we use the line? We have an emergency!" I am sure it was just to get us off the line. :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Listen to each other breathe???!!! That's love! )And probably also annoying to the neighbours!) :)

      Delete
  5. I was always blessed to live in the city and I never had a party line.... lol. I'm not good at sharing a phone, haha

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You definitely missed out on a rite of passage, Launna. The party line and talking to the operators.

      Delete
  6. I clearly remember the day when my parents got a NON party line telephone. They were SO happy about it. You could say I remember it being one of the happiest moments of my parents' lives. But I didn't really understand why they were so happy.... until our neighbor, {who happened to be one of the "parties" that share the former Party line} drove over to my parents' home and let my mom know how upset he was that they no longer have a party line. Felt it wasn't "neighbourly"....as I recall. lol!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What could be more neighbourly than listening in on your neighbour's conversations!

      Delete
  7. What a great story! Reminds me of the stories my dad told about being on a party line in his small eastern NC community. In his words, it all worked okay until somebody in the neighborhood started dating. Then it was hour after hour of them tying up the line just breathing at each other. Good times. You definitely don't have that kind of community experience these days. I'm beginning to sound like a broken record, I know, but I'll say it again - I love visiting with you here! You always make me smile and bring back good memories. Your fellow NOBH crew member :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much, Amy! I love having you visit! My sister says she used to breathe at her boyfriend. Ugh. Boring!!! But otherwise SO entertaining!

      Delete
  8. I recently read a book called Love on the Line in which the main character was a switchboard operator. What an interesting time period and a great story of yours to tell! That kind of community is missing in our lives these days. There was something about everyone knowing everyone else and their business! ;)

    I like Amy's sign off....Your fellow NOBH crew member!

    ReplyDelete

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