A Party Line Telephone

Have you ever gotten into something you did not fully understand, then when the end came, you still did not know what happened.

In the middle 1970's I was living at 191st and Yale in south Tulsa Country. I was a sophomore in college, working on TV's as a sideline to work my way through school.

When my wife and I moved out there in 1968, we had a couple of inconveniences to deal with. One of them was that we had to haul water; the other was a party-line telephone. We got past the water shortage in just a little while. But in 1975 the party-line phone was still a problem.

I do not remember how the party line worked. I do not know if we had two long rings followed by a short, a short followed by two longs or something else. But I remember what happened when one of the other members of the party line were rang. It was unmistakable. There would be a short but noticeable ring, a partial ring, a blurb. When that happened you knew someone was on the line and there was a tremendous urge to pick up the phone and see who was there, and what they were talking about. I say that only because my wife and a next door neighbor did that.

One day my wife told me that she and the neighbor had overheard a woman and man talking. The woman was whispering. "We have to quit meeting like this! We are going to get caught! I can not stand it! We have to do something!"

A week later I received a call from a woman that lived a short distance away. She wanted me to see if I could repair her TV. She lived in a white frame house positioned back off the road with a narrow lane that led up to the porch.

I drove over there, rapped the door a time or two, and it opened. I had not been there long when I realized the TV had a defective part that I did not have. I told the woman that and said I could leave her a loaner and take her TV with me; that I would give her a call when it was repaired.

A few days later I called her and said the TV was ready and wanted to know when would be a good time to come over. She thought for a moment then said I could bring it back on Thursday.

"I'm always home on Thursday evening," she said.

This took place on a Tuesday, therefore I drove over there the following Thursday and stepped up on the porch and rapped a couple of times on the door. I rapped again and still there was no answer. No one came to the door.

The house was built with a large picture window to the left of the entrance. The curtain was open or missing so I leaned over and peered inside. To my surprise I did not see a stick of furniture anywhere.

"Huh!" I thought at the time. But I was not up a creek without a paddle. I knew where her brother lived.

A couple of months ago I had worked on her brother's TV. Afterward he told me that he just was one of ten kids in his family. And before I was out the door he said that I would be hearing from them, because he would be telling them that I could fix a TV.

He lived a block west of me off Yale. Therefore I drove over there and explained the problem. I was standing outside on the porch talking to him through the open door. He laughed then pointed over my shoulder to another house across the street.

"Oh, she's staying over there with my brother." He said.

"Huh!" I thought again.

I thanked him, got in my van, backed out of the driveway and pulled into the one across the street.

I rapped a couple of times on the door and the door opened. There was a light on inside and I could clearly see that there was no furniture in that house either.

Later, back at the house, I explained what had happened to my wife and she explained what she knew. But a week later, the only thing we knew for certain was that I had my TV back; I got paid for the service call, and the secret phone calls had ceased to exist.

Now, if there is a moral to this story, it is this. If you work for the general public, people in your town, in your neighborhood, do not ever be surprised at what you might become involved. And, if you have a private line telephone. Leave it alone.