The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Opinion: Sometimes I miss the days when phones were new


November 28, 2018

I have a love-hate relationship with the telephone, but it wasn’t always that way.

Our first phone was part of a party line, a service we shared with seven other families.

Each of us had a ring specific to our home, but there was, of course, nothing to prevent others from listening in to an ongoing conversation.

(Alas, I was too young to properly take advantage of the rich eavesdropping opportunities available right in my own living room.)

Our fellow party-line members included at least one pair of teenagers whose courtship ritual involved lengthy periods of just “hanging out” on the phone. With little to say, these two mostly breathed to each other.

My parents took great delight in picking up our phone and telling the young lovers it was time for a break.



And the line was open for use.

By the time I was in elementary school, we had our very own private line—such luxury. The phone numbers began with mnemonic words to make them easier to remember. Rather than saying our number began with 675, it was “orchard-5.” The 356 prefix in Portales was known as “elm.”

I had an inexplicable but fiercely competitive need to be the first to answer the phone in our home.

I still remember racing down the hall, grabbing the handset on the wall phone as I skidded by in my socked feet before slamming into the pantry doors. My parents insisted on manners, but I was hell-bent on speed, so this was my breathless answer:


We had no caller identification back then. If telemarketing had been invented, it was years away from finding its way down our long dirt road and across the above-ground phone lines that were at the mercy of the weather.

Even a wrong number often led to an entertaining conversation with someone who had simply misdialed.

A few decades later, armed with caller ID and patience worn thin by unwanted telemarketers, my husband and I don’t budge, but merely exchange wary glances when the phone rings.

Our computerized system announces the number aloud, and we mutter, “If it’s legitimate, they’ll leave a message.” They rarely do.

Don’t get me wrong. With family and friends scattered to all corners of the globe, I’m grateful for and still astounded by the technology that allows us to talk to and even see each other.

But sometimes I long for the days when my heart leapt with joy at the sound of a ringing phone, and I was off like lightning to be the first to answer.


Betty Williamson no longer sprints to the phone … or anywhere else. Reach her at:


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