One ringy dingy, two ringy dingy. Check out this video of Lily Thomlin doing Ernestine, the telephone operator, from Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-in. Once being a not-so-cute blond myself (talk about way back when and with the help of a bottle of peroxide), it might surprise you to know that I, yes, I, your earnest blog host, was once a long distance telephone operator. It was the most fun I ever had… at a job.
Picture this: it’s New Year’s Eve and you’ve had a few too many libations and decided you’d like to have a chat with the Pope. No problem. Just dial “0” for operator and I’ll put you right through to the Vatican. Want to talk to the President and let him know what you think of his latest war? One minute, I’ll connect you to the White House. Just like this picture, I sat at a long switchboard in a long narrow room. My hair was more of a flower power, love-in kind of ‘do but, like Ernestine, I did have a pesky bra strap that kept slipping off my shoulder.
Okay, I digress. We’re supposed to be talking about what life was like for teens before the invention of the telephone. However did one communicate with one’s friends? Mostly face- to -face. I know this seems like a radical concept in this age of texting, but there you have it. In urban areas, there was always some sort of messenger who could make a delivery. And then there was the telegraph, which was for very short, very urgent messages. Letter writing was the communication method of choice but, depending on where you were writing, it could take weeks or even months to arrive. Imagine sending an announcement of your upcoming nuptials to a distant cousin, only to have said cousin receive it three months later. Then another three months goes by before you receive her congratulations and her gift, which turns out to be a delicate fan when what you could use right now is a warm pair of mittens.