Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Dial Phones Arrive!

 I cannot but wonder how many people are still living who remember the old crank phones and the party lines.  Our ring was 2 longs and a short:  rrrrrring, rrrrrrrrg, ring.  When our phone rang, all of the phones on the party line rang, but only the family whose number had rung was supposed to pick up the receiver.  Sometimes, that was too tempting to lonely neighbors eager for some gossip, and my Great-aunt Abbie was one of those lonely people.  An often told story in my family involved Abbie and her nephew Ray, who lived just a quarter of a mile down the road and who shared the party line with his aunt.  He was on a long distance business call and was having trouble hearing.  When an additional receiver was off the hook, the quality of the transmission was reduced.  Patiently, he said, "Please hang up, Auntie.  I'll call you when we finish and tell you what we said."  My great aunt's loneliness and curiosity often tempted her to eavesdrop on the party line, and her nephew understood.  As the family story was told, Abbie did hang up, and he did call her for a chat when his call was finished.

On the other hand, the party line had a valuable benefit.  The emergency ring could be dialed to bring everyone to the phone without having to dial each one on the line to spread a warning or ask for help.  In the county, that could quickly bring help to put out a fire or help someone who was injured or ill.

  However, this blog is about the new dial phone building under construction in Pratt, Kansas in 1962, as described in the special Pride publication.  Southwestern Bell had acquired the Pratt exchange in 1953, which at that time handed 3,370 telephones.  Three years later that number had grown to 3,914, an increase of 16%.  With construction of the new dial phone building anticipated for 1957, Pratt center could handle long distance calls for Coldwater, Greensburg, Protection, Coats, Cullison, Haviland, Iuka, Mullinville, Preston, Isabel, Sawyer, Cunningham, Ford and Wilmore.  

Pratt was quite proud of its new dial phone building under construction at 5th and Ninnescah Street!  The total gross expenditure for the building, dial equipment, landscaping, and installation of dial telephone would be about $920,000, according to the construction manager out of Wichita.  The building was to have an air conditioning system, a full basement underneath, and was constructed so that a second story could be added to allow future expansion "if Pratt continues to grow."

Today we pick up our smart phones and give little thought to the wonder that it is.  

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