Monday, August 13, 2007

Keep In Touch

In the past, I've failed to keep in touch. You've complained I don't call often enough. And as for letter writing, well, we've both neglected that quaint courtesy. But all that has changed, I promise. You see, my daughters bought me an iPhone for my birthday and now I can't keep my paws off the buttons. So call, text, let's catch up.

After receiving my iPhone (it was the first time in memory I lunged for the gift rather than the birthday cake) and swatting away my grandson who kept trying to snatch it from me, I reflected back on telephones of the past and the scenes they conjured.

Back in the 1940s (described in my memoir), I clearly see a small, spindly telephone table with a shelf for the Yellow Pages. When the telephone book wasn't a booster seat for me, it lived in its cubbyhole and grew tattered and smudged. A black, rotary dial phone topped the table; and my inventive father somehow anchored a pencil to that stand using string and rubber band.

I can't remember our phone number on Division Street, but my husband Tommy swears his prefix at the time, on Chicago's far northwest side, was Gladstone-something. Maybe my brother, Ron, although three years older than I but with a better memory, can come up with the long-buried name.

The Princess phone (It lights up!) was introduced in 1959, and that image finds me sitting on the floor of a narrow hallway in the one-bedroom apartment I shared with my mother. The phone was mounted on the wall, so I wound the cord around my fist while I yakked with my fiancé/first husband. During some of those daily calls, we considered eloping because we were both furklempt from the wedding arrangements. (We didn't elope, but interestingly -- to me, maybe not to you -- second husband Tommy and I got married in Las Vegas, somewhat of an elopement.)

During those same years in the late '50s, my mother Min was employed as a switchboard operator for American Linen Supply Co. After toiling behind a counter wearing a stained apron in our mom-and-pop grocery store, the new job was one she relished. I can still see her returning home at 6 p.m., her gorgeous blue eyes as bright as my illuminated phone, bringing tales of how her fingers zoomed across the board.

All of the other long-ago phones have faded from memory; the only images tied to them are rings that brought exceedingly good or bad news.

As for cell phones ("mobile" now, I guess) I was a slow subscriber, believing them primarily useful in case of emergency or for ordering pizza on your way home from work.

But because I've been a M.O. (Mac Obnoxious) since 2004, I have lusted for an iPhone since it was first unveiled. But the price tag kept us apart. My daughters -- evidentially witnessing their mother's desperate need for an object to love and pamper (other than themselves) -- on Aug. 10, presented me with the perfect gift.

Sadly for Faith and Jill, now that I'm armed with my clever iPhone, and have mastered Text Messenging, those poor dears are continually being harassed by their mother's: "hi, luv, how r u? xoxo"

I'm still w8ing 4 their reply.


Betsy said...

Oh, I envy you! I saw one the other day and it was pretty cool. But I loved this post because it reminded me of all my old phones.

Anonymous said...

You got an iPhone? I'm green with envy!


Anonymous said...

Hi Elaine.

Congratulations on your iPhone. I got a new iPod a few months ago and am content with my Verizon cell service, so I'll wait for version 2.0 to jump on the iPhone wagon. I've been a Mac user since purchasing my first computer in 1988, a Mac Plus that ran at the incredible speed of 8 Mhz and didn't have a hard drive. That was 600 bucks more for 20 megabytes! At least I didn't have to buy a monitor. The Plus had an 8" black-and-white screen built in.

I remember our phone number at 2104 N. Kedzie: Spaulding 8462. I also remember that we had to drop a nickel in the box in order to make a call and gave the number we wanted to reach when the operator asked, "Number please." And I recall that the Illinois Bell guy came once a month to empty it the coin box. My guess is that your phone exchange on Division Street was Humboldt.


galeit said...

I think you are the 2007 Inspector Gadget. go-go-gadget-mac-baby

Anonymous said...

Hi Elaine,
Just read your blog on IPhone(lucky you) and it surely reminded me of all the phones that we used throughout the years....
Love, Isolde

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed "Keep in touch"...
I have managed pretty well to keep up with the times for an war baby, but text messaging will never be something I will do. My cell phone keys are so small that my fat finger hits 2 or 3 keys at a time, so the keyboard is all I will use. I believe that the telephone came too early. Imagine if text messaging was the next step after telegraph, it would have been an improvement, but doing that with a dial phone would have been a challenge. Then e-mail would have been a welcome improvement, until the invention of the telephone. If the Telephone was the latest thing, it would have put e-mail and text messaging out of business. You can talk to a real person in live time without typing!

Anonymous said...

I'll bet you Phone Number on Division Street was HU-6-____ Most of the people around you had Humboldt as the prefix
Ours was Brunswick or BR-8-3098 Mom still has that number.

Anonymous said...

Dear Elaine

Take it from an old timer, there was a Gladstone phone exchange....Our old number was BRUNSWICK 8-4841

In your may have had the HUMBOLDT exchange. This I remember it well.

max the old timer

Anonymous said...

Being a few months younger than you I am astounded that you don't remember earlier than the dial phone! What about the stick phone with the separately held ear piece? And I too recall "Number, Please" and waiting for others on your party line to hang up so you can make a call. My first phone was "Rockwell 7468" and my grandmother was Independence 2024. (Those were Great Vest Side exchanges, when we lived in Chicago 24, Illinois, or am I confusing that postal area with the ward number.)In the 1948 presidential election in the USA's most Democratic ward, the kids were herded together to march on 16th Street chanting, "Phooey, Phooey, Phooey on Dewey!" Maybe you'll write about it some day....

Anonymous said...



ARmitage ALbany BElmont and who can forget the most famous phone number in Chicago...

HUdson 3-2-700
Mr Trivia

Anonymous said...

BRRRIIILLLIANT!!! LOVE all the pics, too.



Guilty Secret said...

I am so jealous! I became an M.O. (although I didn't know the name until now!) less than a year ago, but in time for the announcement of the release of the iPhone! We have to wait until Christmas over here in the UK.

We have always called cell phones 'mobiles' over here - is that catching on in the states?

I loved your trip down memory lane :)

Anonymous said...

Shame on you! The phone exchange was Humboldt.