Susan Dennis (susandennis) wrote,
Susan Dennis


I think my generation was really the first to fully integrate the telephone into teenage years. Actually, to put a finer point on it, it was likely my sister who did all the heavy lifting on that one.

Those were the years when the phone company owned the phones and everything else involved - lines, service, etc. We were past the one-phone-per-house-in-the-hallway years, however. In our house we had a phone in the kitchen and one in the den and one in my parents' room.

They were all connected by wires to the walls and the handset - receiver - was tethered to the base. When someone was on the phone, no one else could make or receive calls. And if no one was home to answer a ring, it just rang and rang until the caller hung up. No voice mail. Even answering machines were a few years away. It was the phonetic dark ages.

My sister had nearly terminal phoneitis (we all nearly killed her). Given her druthers, she would have had the receiver sewn to her ear. She spent hours on hours talking to her friends on the phone.

She had one friend, Judy Gold, who always seemed to call during dinner. Someone would get up, answer the phone, and tell her we were eating and call back later. This happened so often that forever after, whenever at least two of us were eating and we heard a phone ring, one would say 'it's Judy Gold calling'.

One year, for Christmas, all she wanted in the world was a pink princess phone for her bedroom. She got it and we were never able to make or receive calls again.

When Daddy couldn't call home from the road or from work, she would get the riot act handed to her. One time he had to call the next door neighbors and have someone come over to relay an important message. I thought (hoped?) for sure that she was totally dead that time.

But, instead, she got her phone prayers answered. Mother and Daddy got us a second phone line - the children's line. Of course, the only person who used it was my sister but at least the rest of us could now make and receive telephone calls. (I think my sister had to pay a chunk of her allowance for that phone line and I know my brother and I did not but I don't remember the details of how it was administered.)

My love of gadgets did not start with the telephone but with the tape recorder. And it was born out of my failure. Failure of French, that is. My teacher told my parents Mon Deau! and said, among other things, that it was because I wasn't forming the words correctly. I needed to hear and practice like with a tape recorder.

Tape recorders, at that time, were about the size of a toaster oven. And not found in most homes. The tape was wound on giant reels most of them looked like the one in this picture. (Actually, all of our tech looked nearly exactly like the stuff in the picture.)

Those tape recorders were really expensive and very fiddly to operate. Not teenaged proof at all. But Daddy had a friend who had a new kind of tape recorder that he let Daddy borrow for me and my French. It was a cassette recorder that was a piece of cake to operate and pretty goof proof.

It looked like this one.

And boy was it fun to play with! I actually did practice my French with it. Until it occurred to me that I could record songs off the radio. Fuck French. Gimme Lipstick on Your Collar and Look Look My Heart is an Open Book.

To Be Continued
Tags: tbc
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