Telephone Memories

16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Monday, May 8, 1911:  Toiled away at the washer this morning. This afternoon I went over to Stout’s. My first experience in telephoning. The voice at the other end of the wire sounded rather squeaky. I telephoned to Besse. Ma was so rejoiced to get her teeth back again, which she had sent off on a vacation of one week.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

In yesterday’s entry Grandma went to see her friend Carrie Stout’s new telephone—but apparently was too nervous to try the new technology that day. But she went back the next day—and felt braver and called her married sister Besse.

Both Carrie and Besse lived on the road between McEwensville and Watsontown. Apparently the phone wires went between the two towns; and people living on the main road were able to get phone service before those living on the side roads.

I mentioned this diary entry to my husband Bill and he made several comments about phones, so I asked him to be a guest blogger:

It is amazing how far phones have come from exotic box of wires that squeak out a voice, to a constant presence in our lives that are semi-permanently attached us. Phones are now ‘personal communication devices’ that are increasingly hard to distinguish from normal computers.  You’ll soon walk into your office, plug your phone into a cradle and keyboard on your desk, and type away on your phone to do your regular computer work.

Phone, circa 1911

Phone, circa 2008 (When we get a smart phone, I'll update the picture!)

My favorite telephone memory is from the late 1970s.  I was living in an isolated community on Andros Island in the Bahamas, working on an agricultural development project.  There was only one phone in the town at the time.  It was in an old-fashioned phone booth in front of the telephone company office in the center of town.  Phone calls to the U.S. cost around $10 at the time.  I paid my $10 to the clerk, and knowing that she was probably listening in on the call, I went out to the phone booth and called Sheryl’s parents to ‘ask for her hand in marriage’, as they say.

Bill Lazarus

False teeth

Grandma’s mother was only 49 years old—yet she already had false teeth. From the diary entry it sounds like she’d probably had them for awhile since they’d apparently needed some sort of repairs. This was an era before fluoridation and people probably didn’t take as good of care of their teeth as they do now.

When I read the entries about Grandma’s toothache (April 11, April 15, April 18), and how she was in pain for almost a month before she tried to visit a dentist  on May 6 (and how she failed to get the tooth filled then)—it makes me wonder at what age Grandma herself got false teeth.

5 Responses

  1. [...] ago horses were used for farming, and the Muffly’s had neither electricity nor a telephone. (Grandma used a phone for the first time in her life during May [...]

  2. [...] Based upon previous entries I thought that the Muffly’s did not have  a telephone—but this entry suggests that they may have recently gotten one. (Or perhaps “called” was being used in an older way and instead refered to a visit.) [...]

  3. [...] previous year, on May 8, 1911, Grandma used a telephone for the first [...]

  4. [...] in 1911, Grandma used a telephone for the first time and also rode a ferris wheel for the first time; Like this:LikeBe the first to [...]

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