Monday, April 28, 2014

REMEMBERING CHAUNCEY STREET 7.The Party Line by Pat Aronica


Mary at the candy store c. 1949.
Here there was a public phone.
We didn’t have a telephone in our apartment until 1951 or 1952. Until then, if someone wished to get in touch with us, they either wrote letters, or in an emergency, they could ring the public phone in the candy store on the corner. Close relatives had the number to that phone. If the occasion was serious enough, they could call the pay phone. Someone hanging-out in the candy store would answer the phone, talk to the caller, walk to our place, ring our door bell, and deliver a message. We would then tip the person, a nickel or a dime, for the courtesy. 

This arrangement worked out well until my sister, Mary, got a boyfriend who lived on Long Island. If she got a phone call from a boy, the entire neighborhood would know it. As it turned out, this boy was a friend of my brother, Billy. 
Billy (center) and Joe (on the right).
Billy and Joe met on the first day of school for sheet metal worker apprentices. Neither one had the entire amount of their tuition. They were both late, and I imagine that they both got into a little trouble with their fathers.  Billy and Joe both liked “hot rod” cars, and they were very much into fixing them up and getting them to run. 


City girls (Dotsy, Mary, and Anna) out-on-the-island, posing with shotguns.
Billy had a girlfriend, Anna. He needed someone for his new friend so that they could hang-out together. Billy introduced both my sisters, Mary and Dotsy. Joe and Mary became an item, and for a while, Dotsy dated Joe’s other friend, Arnold. (She didn’t like him much.) Joe and Arnold were from Seaford, Long Island. They got a culture shock when they first came into Brooklyn.

Okay, back to the phone. My parents gave in and had a phone installed in our dining room, right next to the refrigerator. It was what we called a “party line”. Sometimes when we needed to make a call, someone in the neighborhood already would be using the line. We could hear their conversation. If we were using the phone first, then they could listen to our conversations.

If all that wasn’t confusing enough, I need to let you readers know there was very few private conversations on that phone, as all the family usually lived around the dining table. Homework, eating dinner, arts and crafts, and even social visits were around this table. Joe would complain that he never saw Mary alone. Well, they never had a private conversation either.

Now we are in an electronic age, using computers and cell phones. Running down to the corner store to use the telephone is as rare as sending smoke signals.


  © 2013, Patricia Aronica
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