Party-line capers and other tomfoolery

By John Pierre | Mar 20, 2014

What's it like to be a kid?  I was once a kid, believe it or not, and I have some pretty fair memories of life in the days when we had crank-'em-up phones on a party line with six or eight neighbors willing and anxious to listen in on everyone else's phone conversations.  Our ring was one long and two shorts.

My brother Dan and I were little varmints.  Dan was near two years older than me and was an instigator while I was more of a follower.

There was one woman on our party line whom we took to harassing.  Why?  I don't know… maybe it's just because we needed something to do when we weren't down at the Deschutes river rafting about in related swamps or catching garter snakes to take to school for the purpose of putting them into the teacher's desk drawer.

This poor party-line woman was insulted by us as we listened in to her phone calls and attempted to disguise our pre-pubescent voices with our constant interruptions.  We didn't swear because we hadn't yet learned the fine art of cussing, but we asked if she was ever going to get through talking, and we clicked the phone's earpiece cradle repeatedly.  We picked on her somewhat frequently.  But alas, one day our mother caught us in the act, and that ended the escapade.

Mom didn't willow switch our bottoms because she had a more effective punishment in mind.  She insisted that we go to the woman's home and own up to being the ones who had been so rude to her.  She also insisted that we ask the woman to call her to verify that we had been there and admitted our guilt.

A very pleasant, somewhat rotund woman who appeared old to us (she might have been 40 or possibly even 50) came to the door, and we told her we were the ones who had been giving her a hard time when she was on the phone.

In our attempt at an apology, while we were shaking in our boots, we thought she might call the police or some other method of exacting an appropriate reprisal.  What happened next?  This very friendly lady asked us into her house, had us sit at the table, and provided us milk and cookies.  We couldn't have felt smaller.

We learned a valuable lesson that day.  There are a lot of nice people in this world and some nasty little kids who, like us, had to stand on an apple box to reach the crank-'em-up phone on the wall.  I won't tell you that we spent the rest of our lives being good little boys but, at least for the rest of that day, we were.

Some day I'll have to tell you about our shoplifting caper.  You won't believe it.

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