Grampa Friar Remembers Telephones


Oh, you young whipper-snappers with your cell phones and text-messaging.   You don’t’ know how easy you have it nowadays.

It wasn’t easy growing up in the 70’s.     Back then, there was just ONE PHONE in the house.  It was usually in the kitchen.   And it was a big deal to see a push-button model.    Those were the “fancy” kind that the rich folks used to own.

That was back in the days when Lewis and Clark just discovered Missourah.   Most us us regular folks used rotary phones.  To phone someone, you had to turn a round circle-disc thingy with your fingers.  It was called “Dialing”.  You goddamn kids today…I bet you never dialed a consarned thing in your life.   Do you even KNOW what dialing is?

When I went to college, if we wanted a phone in our dormitory room, we had to RENT them. Back then, you couldn’t just BUY phones in the stores.    Nope, the only place to get them as at the Ma Bell Trading  Post.    Twenty beaver pelts for a phone, back then.  And we were lucky to get one.

The push-button models were more expensive to rent.  So were the ones that were colored (white, red, blue, green).   We saved money by ordering the standard black model rotary phone.  You could still find the rotary phones as late as ’85.

Weren’t no such thing as cordless, either.   The receiver was connected to the main phone with a short wire.  No such thing as privacy if you needed a quiet place to talk.

One day, I think it was the winter of ’72, my Ma had a special long cord installed on the kitchen wall-phone.    It stretched to about 10 feet long, allowing her to stand up and walk around the kitchen while talking. Oh, my.  We thought that was just the bee’s knees.   That was high-fallutin’ technology back then.

Then the CORDLESS phones came out, in the 80’s.  Land sakes, I recall that was the same year the glaciers receded from Wisconsin.   We though we had died and gone to heaven.  Imagine, bein’ able to take the phone into another room.   It was the best thing since the telegraph.    I remember they used to show those fancy cordless-type of phones a lot on a TV show called “Seinfeld”.  That was in the Gay 90’s.

And voice mail?  Hah!    Didn’t exist.    The phone rang and if you didn’t answer it, tough cookies.  That’s why you still see people today jump to the phone every time it rings.  They still remember the days when they’d miss important calls.

Didn’t matter if it was a job interview, or the house was on fire, or if your cat was in labor.   Nope, if you missed a call, you missed a call.  There wasn’t any way anyone could take a message.  Not unless you wrote it down on a piece of paper.

Do you kids even KNOW who to write today?   With all your LOL’s and OMG’s.  You just use your thumbs like a bunch of apes.   Seems nobody can’t speak the Queens’ English no more.  Ahhh…what do you know?  Penmanship and writing is becomin’ a lost art.

Then I recall, years later, they came out with “Answerin’ Machines”.   These machines recorded the messages on pieces of plastic tape that was spun around on spools on an electrical box.   It was still a novelty to hear your voice being recorded. People would amuse themselves by leaving clever instructions to “leave a message after the beep”.   Oh, how we used to laugh about those!    But you had to make sure the message-tape didn’t tangle up, or you’d lose everything.

About the first cell phone I recall seeing was in a movie called “Trading Places” back in the 80’s.   They showed some rich folks driving a limousine, and using a phone in the car.   I though they must have been really fancy rich folks, to be able to phone from their car like that.  That seemed to me, to be the wave of the future.

Then suddenly it seems EVERYONE had a cell phone.   We’d use them to talk to each other when hunting the last great Buffalo Herd on the Great Plains.    Back then, the phones weighed about 120 pounds.  Some of them were powered by steam, I think.  You had to keep an extra supply of coal in your pocket, in case you ran out.

And those phones were just PHONES.   All they did was allow you to speak and listen.      They didn’t have Vid-ee-yah games and cameras and text messages and GPS’ like you kids have nowadays.  No.  If we wanted to play a Vid-ee-yah game, we had to go to the arcade and pay a quarter.    There were four quarters to a dollar, back then.

And we were DAMN glad to have those phones too.  Not like you kids today, who need the latest gadjets and gizmos.  Godammit. kids today don’t’ realize how good you have it.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go hose down my drivway, and then go watch The Weather Channel.

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25 Comments on “Grampa Friar Remembers Telephones”

  1. Brett Legree Says:

    Hey you kids, get off my lawn… 🙂

  2. Karen JL Says:

    On the other hand, our parents couldn’t track us down too easily either.

    That part was pretty sweet.

    (How DID we survive?)

  3. Damn Friar, this is one of your best. posts. ever. I can say “damn” here, can’t I? You’ll still think me a lady? I actually remember those old rotary phones because I was born in the early 70s and isn’t it the truth – cell phones suddenly popped up everywhere – like – it happened overnight. I’m the most techie of all my (offline) friends but I was last to get a celly. However, I am FIRST to get an iPhone, so there!

    I just can’t imagine what it would be like growing up in this day and age with all the social media and gadgets. I’ve remarked to my friends that such things wouldn’t have opened the doors to a whole new world of trouble. I’m sure of it.

  4. t.sterling Says:

    Golly! I sure am glad I dogded the 70’s Grampa Friar, I don’t know how I woulda survived (besides listening to the funky music going on at the time). I guess I picked a good time to be born and raised with computers, internet and cell phones. Oh, but the memories of those devices.

    And this is the 2nd time in my life I’ve heard the expression “Bee’s knees” and I still have no idea what that means, but it makes me laugh just thinking that bees have knees. Sounds like something my grandmother would say.

  5. Friar Says:

    Yeah, and if your Frisbee lands on my yard, I’m keepin’ it! 😀

    We were probably the last generation to know what it was like to have fun and be independent as kids.

    And Grampa Friar was only talking about phones here. Imagine a world without computers!

    Godamm kids today (mumble mumble mutter…)

    Grampa Friar is just a wee bit older than you, born in the sixties.

    I had a cell phone once, for work. I has to be “on call” and it really sucked, constantly having work call me. It cured of the cell phone habit…I haven’t had one since 2006. (Though my 17-year-old niece things I’m so LAME for not having one!)

    Oh, you’re a young lad then! Grampa Friar remembers taking computer classes in high school where they programmed with PUNCH CARDS!

    I think “Bees Knees” was a popular expression of the 1920’s. Along with “Twenty Three Skidoo!”.

  6. Have you seen the movie In and Out? There is a scene where this young female is stabbing at a rotary dial phone with her long fingersnails, complaining that she can’t get the phone to work. It’s hilarious! Well, the whole movie is hilarious, but that is one of the scenes that jumps out at me.

  7. Writer Dad Says:

    My grandma had two of the 120 pound models – one in the kitchen and one in her bedroom. The handsets took two hands to lift. I loved them. I have a reproduction, but it didn’t cost twenty beaver pelts and is a lot lighter. Really really funny, Friar.

  8. I had a pink ‘princess style” phone in my bedroom from Ma Bell once upon a time. ..the little push buttons were a nightlight too….ahhh….could take down a cat burglar with it too in one good throw.

    My dad had telephone rules when I was a kid. How to answer, take messages, manners , all that. And no one talked if someone was on the phone. Yeah, walk through any airport. Dad would have fit.

  9. Kelly Says:


    Of course I remember it all (renting a phone for college brought back memories!), but what REALLY made me feel old was when t. said “bee’s knees” sounded like a grandma’s expression.

    I say that. Not every day, but I say it. Geez.

    I remember when if your car ran out of gas or got a flat or otherwise broke down, you were just screwed if you hadn’t seen a gas station recently that you could walk to.

    No cell, so no calling AAA or your friend for a ride or asking the helpful operator to connect you to the number for the nearest station, nossir. Start walking, keep walking, or stay by the car and hope somebody nice stopped for you.

    Now those were the days.

    I got my first cell in 2001. How’s that for a late adopter? I couldn’t think why I’d want people calling me when I wasn’t at home.

    I still don’t know why, so I never pick up. If the message is good, sometimes I call back.

    Wonderful storytelling today!



  10. Friar Says:

    Nope. I never saw that movie. But it wouldnt’ surprise me if that happened in real life!

    @Writer Dad
    Your grandma must have been pretty progressive to get those advanced models. Not too many old folks embrace new technology like that! 😉

    “Princess Phone” LOL!!!! 🙂

    Wow…when was the last time I heard THAT mentionned?

    What’s scary is that I know exactly what you’re talking about…but how many 20 years olds would, though?

    Okay…you’re the ONLY person I know who uses “Bees Knees” on a regular basis.

    How did such a hip 39-year old pick up such an archaic expression? (Mabye it’s all the old quotes you keep using!)

    Not that I’m all that hip either. Like I told Melissa, I’ve never owned a cell phone (except for that 2 year period where I needed it for my job). And I don’t plan on getting one anytime soon. Call me a Luddite, I dont’ care. 🙂

  11. Linda B Says:

    I am looking for Will Friar, please have him contact me……

  12. Friar Says:


    I have absolutely NO idea who that is. Sorry. 😦

  13. @Friar – WHAT? You have not seen In & Out?! Okay, go to the video store forthwith and get a copy of this movie. It is hysterical!

  14. pcunix Says:

    I was born in 1948 so I remember when you only had to dial 4 numbers to talk to a neighbor.

    I don’t remember when I bought my first portable phone – it was a “bag” phone and it was sometime in the early 80’s. Before that we all carried pagers.. only drug dealers have those now..

    When I started my first business I had an answering service – and soon after bought my first expensive answering machine..

    I had to have three phone lines – one for calls, one for outgoing modem, one for inward modem.. my phone bills with long distance ran about a grand a month – glad those days are gone!

  15. Brett Legree Says:


    Heck, I was born in 1969 and when I first started using the phone roundabout 1978/79 we only had to dial 4 numbers if it was in our local, 5 if the local was off by a number.

    Then again, I did (and still do…) live in Hicksville… we had a party line too… ick.

  16. Friar Says:

    Oh, that sounds like something I definitely have to watch with Brett on one of our Beer nights!

    4 numbers? Okay…that’s REALLY old! 😀

    Does that mean there were only 10,000 phones in the country? 😀

    I’m glad the long distance charges have dropped in price, though. You can now call Australia for something like 7 cents a minute. Imagine doing that in the 1970’s.

    Yeah, but where you lived, they only got electricity in 1965.

  17. Brett Legree Says:


    The birthplace of Canada’s nuclear program! 🙂

  18. Friar Says:

    Mabye for the reactor, but not for the surrounding hick-towns! 😉

  19. Kelly Says:


    I am the oldest 39-yr-old on the planet. I’m about 86 inside. Nobody born in 1969 should be as old-fashioned as I am (or as happy about it!). Old phrases, old, sensitive sensibilities, old interests & hobbies, and old, old bones.

    When I was a kid they still ran t.v. ads with the region code (there’s a name for that, can’t remember it) in a telephone number, as in HUdson 3-2700, but you did have to dial the HU. We lived in a pretty rural area then, and having to dial the first two numbers was a fairly recent thing (but not within my memory).

    Before that, you just couldn’t call far away without an operator’s help, so you only needed four or five digits for an area.

    Did they really get electricity in 1965 in Splat Creek? Yeesh.



  20. Friar Says:


    Electricity in Splat Creek. I dunno….mabye I was exagerrating. Mabye it was 1964. 😉

    (Ask Brett…he grew up here!)

  21. Friar Says:


    Hm….so THAT’s what the letters mean, for each number on the phone dial!

    (I never had to “spell out” a phone number. Did you grew up in rural Applachia or something? 🙂

  22. Kelly Says:


    Just outside of Chicago. 26 miles west. (The same town as the Belushis grew up in—how’s that for a little trivia?)

    Hard to imagine now, but then, it was us, three neighbors, and nothing for miles. No kids to play with, no nothing. The big claim to fame was there was a bike path across the street. Once a week, a bicylist might emerge from it. Wah-hoo.

    Now, my old street is probably a mall or something.



  23. Friar Says:


    I’d never thought the outskirts of Chicago were so remote. Even back in then 😉

  24. steph Says:

    AHAHAHAHAHA!! Friar, this was hilarious!! Ya old grey-head you.

    I have a cell phone but don’t use it. I hate the phone. Most of the time I ignore it. I think that might be because when I was a teen I loved it. And my dad hated me talking on it. So he was always yelling at me to get off or actually yanking the cord out of the wall to cut me off.

    Oooh. (Picture super-pissed-off Cartman. That was me.)

  25. Friar Says:


    There are times I just WANT to be disconnected from the grid. A lot of people can’t seem to fathom that. 😮

    You as a pissed off Cartman? Now THAT I’ve GOT to see! 😀

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