When I was small I would hear my grandmother yelling into the phone. “Get off the phone. I need to use it. You’ve been on the line too long.”
And sometimes the other woman would yell back, “Stop listening in on my call!” It was just another argument with the woman who shared Gram’s phone line. Yes, Gram had to share her phone line with one or two other people she didn’t know and had never seen; when they were using the phone Gram could not. This was a party line and it caused lots of arguments. So why did people back then have a party line? Because a party line was much cheaper than a private line. If you’ve watched re-runs of “I Love Lucy,” and who hasn’t, you’ve heard Lucy argue with the other party who won’t get off the line. It’s funny and it works as a comedy bit, but it never could’ve really happened at that time. Lucy was making her calls on the Eastside of Manhattan in the 1950s. New York City had abandoned the party-line in the 1930’s. The party line certainly still existed in the surrounding areas, like Long Island where my Gram lived, but not in New York City.
Despite Lucy’s party line calls being an anachronism, the show preserved a bit of our every day history.
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