Many people today, while watching re-runs of The Andy Griffith Show, find it comical when Barney removes the telephone receiver from the hook and says, “Sarah, get me the Diner.”
It does not seem like too many years when we turned the crank on the wall-mounted telephone to call “Central” and ask for a particular number or person. There were, however, times when we would have to ask Mrs. Pervis to get off the party line so we could call Doc. Simmons. “Is your rheumatism still bothering you?” She would ask before relinquishing the line.
“Ma” Bell worked her wonders and our crank telephone was eventually replaced with a black, rotary dial unit. This innovation bypassed “Central” with the exception of long distance calls. We simply picked up the handset, dialed “36” and Doc. Simmons answered. It really couldn’t get any better, right?
As more and more telephones were installed, it became necessary to add additional numbers hence; Doc. Simmons’ number became “3648.” Also the party lines were replaced with our own private line. This innovation put a crimp in Mrs. Pervis’ lifestyle. She now had to dial my number to check on my rheumatism. In fact, she was one of the last to know that Mary Lee Bradshaw ran off with that lightning rod salesman.
Eventually, the telephone company was required to divide the community into exchanges. Exchanges were named as STERLING, EDISON, PIEDMONT, etc. The first two letters of the exchange became the prefix for each number. Doc. Simmons number was now ED-3648 while our number became ST- 5151.
The Exchanges were later abandoned in favor of a prefix of three numbers followed by four additional numbers. I am sure that this progress is easier for the automatic machinery that replaced “Central,” but it still would be nice to pick up the receiver and again hear the pleasant voice of Sarah saying, “Number Please.”
In the “Old Days:” To begin telephone calling; “We stood at a wall-mounted device with a separate receiver in one hand: We turned a ‘Crank‘ with the other hand, to alert “Central’ that we needed to talk to Doc, Simmons.” On many occasions; we wondered if it would be faster and easier; if we just asked Mrs. Pervis where he was at that time.
The furthermost thing from any of our minds during those “Good Old Days,” was even the thoughts; that one day; we could take our Telephone from our shirt pocket and talk to Doc Simmons, and Mrs. Pervis would not even know it.
“It was even rumored that some “IDIOT” was trying to take Photographs with his Telephone, and everybody knows that it cannot be done.”