|A later version of grandma's phone, a dial telephone still on its wiry stand. Note the fabric cord.|
It has become a rite of passage, a way to assert independence and communicate with the outside world. The telephone. Its evolution reflects the vast social changes for those who walked this Earth during my lifetime. An impetus for change, it symbolizes the mindset and cultural transformation of each generation. I use the present tense, as it seems that every day brings a step in another direction as we strive and grow in our communication with others.
One of my earliest memories is fear of the curious apparatus in my grandmother’s living room. I can’t place my age when I first noticed that black handset sitting on the wiry stand, but even today I shudder, just a bit, with the memory of my grandmother’s rare scolding. Drawn to the mysterious object, I picked it up, only to hear the words, “Central, number please.” Grandma was right there admonishing me to “put that thing down” and extolling me to never touch it again. The strange voice I had awakened from the peculiar contraption frightened me. It was something beyond my understanding, as were my grandma’s unusual harsh words.
|My grandmother never drove but she sure could talk on the phone!|
As I reflect on those first phones, I am sure to my grandmother and many others like her, they inaugurated a welcome sense of freedom. So many women of her generation never drove; rather they relied on their husbands to transport them from place to place. Through those telephone lines, recipes could be exchanged, gossip could be shared, and feelings and worries had a receptive ear at any time during the long days at home. Female bonding took on an enhanced role, thanks to the phone.
Time marched on and that sole telephone in both my grandmother’s home and our home now sported a dial. The boxy phone mounted on the kitchen wall would ring and was answered by the mindlessly polite requirement, “Hart residence, Kathy speaking.” Those were the days when you could pick up that tan receiver to call for the time and a female voice would nasally recite the hour and minute. You relied on the phone book and few ever used an area code. In fact, the first two numbers were often a word. In our town, we said Canal for the initial numerals 22. My grandmother’s number began with Hudson. While today we struggle with remembering our own cell number, I can still effortlessly rattle off my best friend’s number and my grandmother’s number. They are deeply ingrained.
Sometime in my high school years, the Mad Men of advertising lured me with the image that I could be a princess. Along with most girls, I longed for the sleek dial phone with the coiled cord, so captivatingly crowned, the Princess Phone. It was a status symbol and sitting next to a bed, provided independence from parental ears.
Stay tuned for the Evolution of a Princess