Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



All of My Friends

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Putting the 'Party' in Party Line

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.
And 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 informative. Mis-informative. 
And entertaining.
How can anything in this modern world compete with that?

16 comments:

  1. Poor Bert. The news that he was deceased could have killed him.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh. My. Disaster narrowly averted!

    We had a party line when I was growing up as well. The telephone operator was known as a dragon lady to us kids, who had to have her assistance to call each other if we weren't on the same exchange. My mother took me with her once when she was giving this lady a home perm. She turned out to be a lovely person.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How many times do 'Dragon Ladies' turn out to be really nice? We had one in my home town, too. She didn't run the phones, but she did direct the library!

      Delete
  3. Grandpa once said: 'Believe nothing of what you hear, and only half of what you see.' That has served me well over the years. But the odd time I came awfully close to starting something that would be disastrous, just because my information wasn't accurate....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And in this day of 'information', it's more timely advice than ever!

      Delete
  4. They still had party lines in New York City when I was growing up. My memories of them are vague, as, by the time I can remember, we had switched over from them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow! What an entertainment those lines would have been!

      Delete
  5. Sigh. Just as well that danger was averted.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's the near misses that are the most entertaining! :)

      Delete
  6. These stories of a sweeter and more innocent time always touch me so deeply!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so glad, Carol. They are pretty precious to me!

      Delete
  7. I imagine the party-line listeners were big soap opera fans. Something else to follow. Brenda

    ReplyDelete
  8. I didn't get a home phone until 1975, party lines were long gone by then. But I see them in old movies, particularly comedies (Ma and Pa Kettle come to mind),where such misunderstandings are common and the cause of much laughter.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's so funny looking in, isn't it, River?

      Delete

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