My Mind

My Mind
This is my mind

Monday, January 27, 2014

SNow 6-1029

“SN 6-1029,” I said.
“Huh? What’s that?”
“That was the first phone number in my parents’ house in the late 50’s.”
“What’s the SN stand for?”
“The number of people wanting phone service increased quickly in the 50’s and it was an attempt to increase the phone numbers from the 5 digits previously used.”
“Why not just increase the numbers? Why letters?”
“I think they wanted to give an idea of certain areas of the tri-county.  SN, or Snow, was James Island and the surrounding area.  There were others but I just cannot remember what they were.  I think GA, or Garden, was one. Initially they had used SO, or South, for James Island but too many people dialed the number zero for the letter O.  So they changed it to Snow.”
“Seems kind of dumb to me that letters were used instead of numbers.”
“Yeah, looking back, I think so too. I guess they had to utilize the letters included with the numbers on the dial so they could justify them. I was a kid of 10 or 12 when my folks got our phone.  It hung on the wall by the window in the kitchen in the cracker-box home we rented on Lindberg Street.  It was painted pink.  A friend once told me that traveling salesmen loved pink houses because inevitably the occupants of a pink house would buy anything.  He never met my dad, however.”
“So why are you telling me this?”
“You mean about the phone number?”
“I don’t know.  Probably because I still remember our phone number from nearly 60 years ago. “
“That is weird.  Do you remember what you had for dinner yesterday?”
“We had rotary dials that made a distinct sound as the wheel returned to its fixed position.  It took a little more time to dial a number.  Incidentally, we still say dial even though we punch the numbers now.”
“I wondered why.”
“Wonder no more, youngster.”
“Ours was a party line up through the early 60’s.  We moved from the cracker box to a newly constructed home my dad had contracted.  We lived there for three years continuing a party line.  Dad had called to order a private line but had never received it.  I called one day when I was home alone, this was right after my voice finally changed, and demanded they send someone to install a private line since it had been ordered two years previously.  It worked because a lineman came out the next day to give us our non-party line service.”
“You called saying you were the man of the house?”
“Yup.  Puberty has its advantages.”
“So you got a telephone that was free of other subscribers?”
“I did.  I called my sweetie right away.  I didn’t realize hers was a long distance number.  I caught it at the end of the month when the bill came in.”
“Didn’t your dad give you some slack since you got the people out to install the private line?”
“Are you kidding me? I never told him I did that.”
“Why not?  I’d think he’d have given you the benefit of providing the new service.”
“Shows how much you know.  He’d have been upset with me because I had pretty much lied to the operator telling them I was him.  Also, he would have had me to blame for the increase in the bill since a party line is cheaper.  I wasn’t about to let him know I called them.”
“Weird.  He’d have punished you?”
“There would have been some form of punishment for sure.  He wouldn’t have considered that creative.  In his view I would had overstepped my bounds.  If he’d known, there would have been a curfew or a grounding.  He’d have found some way to show me I had been wrong.”
“So he never knew?”
“I can’t say that.  He was my dad and he often knew things I would have sworn he could never have known.”
“So if he knew something but it wasn’t you who told him, then he didn’t punish you?”
“Yeah.  Here’s an example.  I hid a bottle of rum in my desk.  My room was mine and he always respected my privacy in my room without my asking.  When I was out one evening he was searching for a church key.  He went into my room to check if I had one.  During his search he found the rum in my desk but never told me that he had.”
“Why did he need a key to get into a church?”
“No, no.  A church key was the name we gave to a beer can opener.”
“What’s a beer can opener?  There are tabs to pull on beer cans.”
“Yeah, now.  Back then we needed a special opener to cut into the top of beer cans.”
“So why did they call them church keys?”
“Some say because it resembled the look of the old large keys needed to open church doors behind which the monastery brewed the beer.  I don’t really know.  The definition seems to be guess work to most people.  Anyway, he never told me about that.”
“But to get back to the phone that is a steadfast memory, SNow 6-1029, I think, because it was our first phone.  We had to memorize our phone numbers then.  When I committed that thing to memory it was put there to last.  What good it does me now is a mystery but it is embedded.”
“Like so much useless knowledge you carry around.”
“Well, when I was making my way through my world that knowledge was not so useless.  Some things have passed out with the generation before mine and so much will pass with mine.  I kind of think it’s sad.  So much knowledge has come and gone.  Essential stuff when it was needed for life at certain time and age.  Now so much has disappeared as though it had never been.  It is so strange that what was thought to be important then has no bearing on life today.  I wonder what is important to you that will be unimportant to your kid’s generation?”
“Who cares?”

“I do but that is neither here nor there now.”

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