Wednesday, July 12, 2017


[From the dowdy world: a voice speaks.]

“Quiet, fellas — it’s long distance.”

Related reading
All OCA “overheard” posts (Pinboard)

comments: 4

shallnot said...

This post reminded me of a passage in the book "Art and Adventure of Beekeeping" by Ormond and Harry Aebi (1975), which is just about the best book on the use of observation and intuition to solve problems I've read.

In it Ormond Aebi recounts a incident in the 1920s, as a small boy, growing up in rural Orgeon. It involved handling poison oak while trying to get a glimpse of bees constructing their nest and the subsequent rash. It’s worth quoting in full.

"I sat in misery and cried. Mother tried every remedy she knew but none gave me any relief. At last one morning she decided to telephone long distance to Grandmother who might know a cure. There was no charge for that particular long distance telephone call in those those days. However, Mother had to wait until all lines were clear the entire distance before a call could go through and that might be from ten minutes to three days---too often the latter. There was no way to tell when the distant lines would be clear, so Mother had to keep trying. She got her call through to Grandmother in about ten hours. This was surprisingly soon as we were on a seventeen-party line and some of the farther lines had as many as twenty subscribers. As the telephone was an easily accessible news media, everyone 'rubbered' when the telephone rang. Rubbernecks lowered the electrical power in the telephone lines forcing Mother to shout her questions into the mouthpiece and Grandmother to yell on her end of the line in reply.

Everyone along the line knew that little Ormond had poison oak and heard Grandmother's cure. Before she hung up Mother told Grandmother that she would phone again in three days sometime around noon to let her know if I was well. This alerted everyone to keep off the lines and listen for Grandmother's three long rings and two short ones as Central relayed Mother's call to Grandmother's hand-cranked battery-powered wall telephone."

Michael Leddy said...

Thanks for sharing that story. The difficulty of communicating (and getting information) and the sense of community are both pretty sobering. I will look for this book in the library.

Sean said...

It's the 'fellas' that does it for me.

Michael Leddy said...

Same here, pal.