Party Lines

Telephone chatter,
chirps heard round the neighborhood.

Eunice knows
what clara knows
what maybeth knows
what celia knows.

Biddies gathered round the wire
in times gone by.


Word Count: 27.  Written for Rochelle Wiseoff-Fields’ Friday Fictioneers (photo prompt appears on Wednesdays)  Photo credit: Roger Bultot.  Apologies to those expecting fiction here….saw this photo and could not resist! When we were first married (early 1970s) we lived in Marengo, Iowa — the last place in the USA to have 4 digit phone numbers (think about that!) and of course, we also had party lines. For those of you too young to understand, those were the days of rotary dial phones where 5 or 6 or sometimes more families all shared the same “line.”  We always picked up our telephone receiver (the piece you listened to and spoke into) carefully, and didn’t start dialing until we knew it was “free.” OR, chuckle deviously here, you could listen in to what was going on in the neighborhood!



21 thoughts on “Party Lines

  1. little learner May 4, 2016 / 2:10 pm

    We had those here in rural Africa up until about 23 years ago. Six to a line, each with a distinct ring pattern. Ours was Long Short Long Short. If the operator didn’t ring clearly enough several parties answered the same call. And if you ever wanted to know what was going on in the neighbourhood, you could drill the operator! In a nice and clever way. 🙂

    Love this poem! It so clearly depicts a by-gone era!


    • lillian May 4, 2016 / 3:59 pm

      I was taught a trick – if you put your telephone in a tin pie plate it would rattle when someone else’s line rang so you could lift up quietly and listen! Never again trusted the woman who told me that!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Mike May 4, 2016 / 4:31 pm

    Thanks for the momory, today party lines could just be great. No more need to make up stories.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dale May 4, 2016 / 11:45 pm

    Short and perfect! Love it…following the above comment of asking the operator what was going on… I can’t stop thinking of Lily Tomlin’s Ernestine! – even though it’s not so much a party line as the one who knows everything that is going on… 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian May 5, 2016 / 8:57 am

      Oh I loved Lily Tomlin’s Ernestine! Had forgotten about her. Glad you enjoyed this one. Fun to write on the lighter vein..:)


      • Dale May 5, 2016 / 9:00 am

        Yes, you and me both!!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. rochellewisoff May 5, 2016 / 8:27 am

    Dear Lillian,

    Brevity is the soul of wit. Perfect story for the photo prompt. I remember party lines. This made me smile. 😀



    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian May 5, 2016 / 8:58 am

      As the saying goes — short but sweet. Always glad to hand out smiles! 🙂


    • lillian May 5, 2016 / 7:15 pm

      Fun to take a light-hearted view! 🙂


  5. gahlearner May 6, 2016 / 3:58 pm

    I’ve never heard of party lines before. What a fun story/poem, that must have been a strange time where you could just listen in on the chatter. Just like the NSA today… 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Sandra May 7, 2016 / 12:39 pm

    I’d quite forgotten about party lines. It hardly bears thinking about these days, does it?

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian May 7, 2016 / 2:54 pm

      Well — sometimes when I’m sitting on the commuter rail or bus or a waiting room or in a restaurant etc, folks on their cell phones talk loud enough that I do hear at least one side of the conversation! 😦


  7. wildchild47 May 8, 2016 / 7:45 pm

    Great write! Party lines …. I’m laughing thinking of a play on the words “party lines” – but then, remembering them etc. and overhearing conversations etc. just brought me right back in time. Perhaps “gossip” back in the day could, in today’s terms, be considered “networking” 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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