Only the Rich Have Phones

The years of World War II were not easy nor did anyone expect them to be.  Although I was very young, the smell of molasses still takes me back to that little kitchen where my mother worked tirelessly to feed our family of six. Ration stamps controlled almost everything and sugar was a luxury. Oh! The treat of having some oleo on bread topped with a sprinkle of sugar! That was the reward for taking the white oleo in the plastic bag and kneading it until the little yellow capsule within slowly tinted the whole bag yellow to make it a bit more palatable. 

I remember it as a way of life and, being  young, accepted it. I am fortunate to have lived a long life with the comparisons of then and now.  Would today’s generation accept the sacrifices as we did? I don’t know.  The world of technology has spoiled us..yes, even me. I can click a couple times and talk with my sons and daughter in other states. Again, I think back to another time.

Our world of communication depended on our mailman. How we looked forward to the time of day that Johnny Howe pulled up in front of the box and how we raced down the driveway to see what he had left. There were those days when he didn’t stop and disappointed faces passed on the news, “Johnny went right by”and the rest of the afternoon seemed to drag.  Even junk mail was welcome!!

The phone line stopped a half mile up the road at Lester Cole’s farm. Therefore, in my mind, the Lester Cole family was rich. They actually had a phone on the wall that they could call people, find out what was going on, call for the doctor. Even though, in my very young mind, I thought they were rich, the Cole family welcomed many of us in the area below them to use their phone in emergencies. How many times I heard “Run up to Netta and Lester’s and call the doctor.”  I can see my Grammy Martin on the corner hollering “Run up to Lester’s and call Dr. Boynton.  Your grandfather has taken a turn” and off one of us would go, running on hot tar with bare feet, the half mile. The Cole family were the life savers in my mind. They held the key to our survival, so surely they must be rich and have a little kingdom of their own. They had a huge sand pit all their own with a big truck! 

Years later, the phone line was extended down into our branch of the neighborhood. It went right by our house and didn’t stop in for a visit, though. That was because of my Dad. No way was he having one of those things on his wall ringing day and night and you just knew it wouldn’t be for him, but for one of the kids. And so we were phone-less.  Grammy and Grampa Martin had a phone installed and years later their phone was used to call the doctor who ordered him taken to the hospital immediately.

Grammy Martin loved the newspaper and wrote for the Advertiser-Democrat with the reward of a free paper each week. While she was caring for my grandfather, I guess she decided it was just too much and asked if I would like to do it and then pass the paper on to her after I read it. There I was at age 10, gathering up the news of the neighborhood, with Gram’s help, and writing them down on the copy paper the Ad-Dem provided.  How wonderful to receive a newspaper every week and read what was going on around us!

The old Philco radio in the corner provided my father with what news he thought necessary and he coupled that with news he picked up at the mill . If his world seemed to be balanced correctly, he had no quarrel with whatever was going on elsewhere. That changed a bit when he brought home the DuMont black and white television and he watched John Cameron Swazey every night. I am not sure if he was more taken with the news or the watch that kept on ticking commercial.

Our world was very small…small and simple. After the war, we thought that was it. Who would want to go through that again?  We did not have technology nor did we dream that it would be so easy to draw the world in to us as happens today. It was the time of waiting for the mailman after leaving three pennies in the box for a stamp; running a half mile to use the neighbor’s phone in an emergency; reading every word in a weekly newspaper…yes, even the ads.

If only we could somehow combine the two, leaving some of the simplicity and yet having some of the technology…and there I go, dreaming again.


The photo is me  taken during  WWII and in the background is my pesky brother, Rex, photo bombing on Dad’s car.


One thought on “Only the Rich Have Phones

  1. You always take me back to time that’s forgotten. How wonderful to relive those days when we didn’t have phones, TV’s, and the world was a much nicer place to live in where neighbors took care of each other. Love all your stories, Sandy.


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