Looking Back: Number Please...
by Marcia Napier, Grain Valley Historical Society
48, 61, 22, 102-N-5. Aunt Opal, Grandma Rumbo, Loring Hardware, Grandma Napier. Those were the number I committed to memory in my childhood. Those were all of the “important” numbers I needed to know besides my own, 102-N-4. In case of an “emergency” those were the numbers I could call after I first called the telephone operator.
If you had lived in Grain Valley prior to May 20, 1956, then you would have been familiar with the old bell ringer phones. But, do you remember your phone number?
My family lived in the country, just north of town. People in the country had “party lines” which were shared with the neighbors. There were 4 families on our line, including my grandparents who lived next door. When the telephone rang 4 short times it was someone calling us because the last digit of our number was 4.
My grandparents were N-5; five shorts. Our party line also included the Becks (N-2) and the Coopers (N-3) who lived further north on Buckner Tarsney Road. In the early 1950’s there were no homes between Duncan Road and Pink Hill road with telephones. In fact, the phone directory had fewer than 280 listings for Grain Valley and the surrounding area.
As a young child I loved to call my aunt or grandparents on the telephone. But, there was one call I always dreaded. In the evenings when my dad would end up at our hardware store talking, my mother would tell me to call and let him know dinner was waiting…it was time to eat.
I would ring the phone and on came the operator, “Number, please.”
I would give her the number I wanted to call, “22.”
And then came her dreaded reply, “Is the train coming?”
It would make me so mad! She never said that to my mother, or my older brother. Just me.
I was sure it was her way of telling me I was just a little kid and not nearly as grown up as I thought I was. I was nine years old when we got dial phones in Grain Valley. What a joyous day!
And then, of course, there was the whole party line problem! Any conversation that lasted longer than 3 minutes would be interrupted by others on the line. Sometimes they would hear the line was busy and hang up immediately. But, some people would stay on the line and listen to your entire conversation. Do you wonder how “gossip” started?
In 1956 dial phones came to Grain Valley and Blue Springs complete with instructions on how to use them. It wasn’t many years before we got push button telephones.
Maybe we should hang on to the instruction book. I’m sure the present generation of young people have never used a dial phone either. Do you think they understand the term “land line?”
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