Throwback Thursday


I saw this at the Habitat for Humanity store. $35. Do you recognize it? Did anyone in your family have one?

My grandparents had one that was a bench style in white. The basic black telephone sat on the table, and if the phone rang you sat down and answered it. Archaic in comparison to today’s standard of never even going to the bathroom without your phone.

The black telephone that sat on my grandparents’ table also had one other challenge – it was a party line. If I remember correctly, there were three families on this one line. Each family was assigned a number of rings from one to three.

Once you determined the call was for you and answered it, you’d hear the pick up and disconnects as other families wanted to make a call and couldn’t because the line was busy.

These families were farmers, and spent most of their day working outside. There certainly were no recorders for messages so if someone was trying to reach them, they just kept calling back every 30 minutes. Can you imagine listening to a phone ringing but not picking it up?

I do remember one time my Grandmother told me to pick up on Mr. and Mrs. Santee’s ring and tell the caller they weren’t home. That was certainly another day another time.

My husband spent his entire corporate career working for Ma Bell, but I do wonder if Alexander Graham Bell is smiling or shaking his head at our current smart phone addiction.

So, do you suffer from nomophobia?  🙂

Nomophobia (or, no-mobile-phone-phobia): (1) the feelings of anxiety or distress that some people experience when not having their phone (“I don’t know where my phone is!), and (2) the degree to which we depend on phones to complete basic tasks and to fulfill important needs such as learning, safety and staying connected to information and to others (“I’ll just get my phone to help me”).   Scientific American

About Judy@NewEnglandGardenAndThread

Master Gardener who enjoys gardening, quilting, photography, and traveling.
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66 Responses to Throwback Thursday

  1. We didn’t have a telephone table but we did have a party line once. My husband also retired from Ma Bell and we still have a black rotary phone that works!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. KerryCan says:

    In fact, my iPhone is kaput even as we speak and I am bereft!! I remember these phone tables and we had a party line, too–I can remember hearing people listening in while I talked. And we used letters, instead of the corresponding numbers, for the first two digits of our number–JO1-3028. The JO stood for Jordan.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dan Antion says:

    So, you were the human answering machine 🙂

    I had aunts who had these. We had a party line when I was young, and my father cut a hole in the wall between the kitchen and living room so he could build a little shelf for it. That saved many steps and allowed people to answer the phone without leaving the room. I don’t think young people today would be able to understand any of this.

    We have a working black rotary dial phone and I bought my wife a working rotary dial Princess phone for mother’s day a few years ago. The handset is heavy enough to defend yourself, but it’s still the most comfortable way to talk on a phone.

    Nice throwback today Judy.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I love those desk chairs. They were a nightmare, of course, if you were left-handed, which I am. There were variations of those in college as you probably know; many times I took 2 and 3 hour essays exams in right handed chairs. As for smartphones, fortunately, even tho I carry mine in my purse, I feel no urgency to answer rings, beeps, etc., nor do I pay attention to them when I’m out and about. It is a pain, tho, to have to be vigilant so as not to lose them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • A long exam in a chair not structured for writing left handed must have been a real pain. I always chuckle to myself when I’m out and about thinking about when women use to clutch their purses or wallets tightly so they wouldn’t lose them. Now almost everyone is clutching a smartphone in their hand tightly so they don’t lose it. It is like the smartphone is an extension of their hand. 🙂


  5. Shelagh in Vermont says:

    When we moved to Vermont in 1970 we had a TEN PARTY line! what a relief when we were upgraded to five parties, and finally our own line. The phone was on the wall, but I kept that table under it for notepad, directories, etc. Moved to Brandon in ’85 and had a two party line, but the other party was a camp family who only used it in the summer, and we got a single line shortly afterwards. We keep an old phone handy to plug in when the power goes out, a frequent occurrence in the woods.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow – ten parties. I bet there were times when you wanted to heave that thing out the door. Yes, for those of us who live in power outage country a simple plug in land line will work when nothing else does. Most times simple is still better. 🙂


  6. treadway says:

    I had not seen one of these….but I do remember having a party line. Ours was two long rings. There was at least 3 of us on the party-line and one was my best friend. We did conference calling before it was the thing. Either she or I would give the other time to call one of out other friends, wait a few seconds, and then pick up–and the three of us would talk or do a challenging bookkeeping assignment!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Laurie Graves says:

    My grandmother had a desk-chair like that. I had forgotten all about it. As for cell phones…we have a very basic flip phone that doesn’t do much, which means we don’t do much with it 😉 Someday, perhaps, we’ll get a “smarter” phone.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. joey says:

    I do remember seeing them, and some people even used them, still in the 70’s and 80’s, but I specifically remember my cousin, 15 years+ my senior, moving the base to the floor, and the cord winding down the hall as she lie there chatting 🙂
    Years later I’d find myself slumped in the coat closet, chatting from our wall-hung kitchen phone.
    I do not have nomophobia thing, in terms of needing always to be with my phone. But! I do panic when I don’t know where my phone is, or where my keys are when I’m leaving or am out — it’s called OCD, and before leaving, it’s ON! If The Mister drives, I don’t feel like that. On my own, especially when no one is home, I struggle a bit. Once my kids are home mid-day, I don’t feel that way. I don’t have to be terrified that they’ll phone from school, sick or whatever.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. pbodwell says:

    Good memories. We had one of these when I was growing up. I too worked for Ma Bell for 35 years. At the end of my career I had gone through all the spin offs. Mountain Bell, American Bell (at divestiture), at&t, Lucent and Avaya. There was a time I worked for Corporate and traveled to New Jersey a lot. Ma Bell was like a family. Two weeks ago I got a phone in the small little community I’ve just moved to. I’m in an area that has a small company that services 5 zip codes. A little disappointed it’s not analog but fiber optic so needs electricity to work. It’s so fun because I don’t have to dial the area code. We all have the same prefix so we don’t have to memorize a ten digit number. I have an old trimline I just plugged in and I don’t have any voice message system. Too fun!! (Of course I have a dumb cell phone because how can we live without them now??) – Hey I think this needs to be my next blog LOL. Thanks for the idea.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My husband retired from Ma Bell after 36 years and had gone through several of those hills and valleys you mentioned as well as traveling to NJ many times. Yes, it was like a family, and we had a lot of good friends through the years. Interesting how your new line works. He also has a dumb cell phone, and I have the smart one but, hey, we travel most places together and how many access lines to the internet does one need. I’ll look forward to your post. 🙂


  10. This didn’t remind me of a phone but of school desks in grade school. We had a party line with one of other family on it and, of course, a rotary phone. My grandparents, also on a farm, had a much larger circle of party line members, but not everyone hung up. Often the sound got softer as more people picked up. The better to know what’s going on, my dear! If my grandparents wanted to make a private call to my dad, they’d go into town and use a pay phone, another vanishing breed.


    Liked by 1 person

  11. sue says:

    Visiting my aunt in Iowa in the ’50s, I was fascinated by the crank phone on the wall. One memory..
    She cranked it up and got the phone operator in town. They started chatting and by the time she was finished she didn’t need to be connected to her friend! The operator had all the info. I also remember being married in the ’60s, poor as church mice starting out and Michigan Bell gave us free courtesy phone service. We could make calls but calls couldn’t be received. Great find Judy.
    Think I’ll send pix to my granddaughter. She’s a estate sale, Goodwill shopper for apt furniture. Sends pix with text “what is this thing gram” she’s the kid who first time she saw a dial phone kept pushing on the dial as up to then had only seen push button phones.

    Liked by 1 person

    • What great memories, I can only imagine what that operator heard during her shift pulling and pushing those plugs. LOL I never heard of a courtesy phone, but at least you could call for help. And, I love that your granddaughter sends you the photos looking for answers. Oh my gosh – too funny. Her reaction to the dial phone reminds me of a few years back my grandson looked at my radio CD player and couldn’t for the life of him figure out what it was or why I’d want it. 🙂


  12. Joyce says:

    Even before I got to your second paragraph I knew what that table was for! Yes, we had one too! My dream of a pink princess phone came true for my birthday one year. Best gift ever! And I do remember the party lines and my sisters and I being naughty and listening in on (boring) conversations! The best part of those old days was being able to make prank calls without detection! And boy, did we ever make them! Amazing the progress from one generation to the next. My kids would call each other from inside the house with messages like, “Can you bring up the Doritos?” LOL
    Loved reading your other comments and flashing back to simpler days!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Midwestern Plant Girl says:

    I just thought this was interesting that it was ‘left-orientated’… I’m a lefty and would have loved this desk!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. reocochran says:

    My grandma had one of these, A Telephone Table. This is all I can guess she used it for, when her New York or New Jersey cousins called on Sunday when rates were “down!” 🙂 This was sweet and worth $35, Judy!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I did know what this was before reading your post! We had one in our house growing up but didn’t use it for the phone. So cute! Sometimes I wish we could go back to one phone in the hallway, and if someone couldn’t reach you…oh well!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. P.S. My current home was built in the ’30s and there is a special alcove built in under the stairs for the phone, and underneath it is a little drawer for the phone books.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I have this in my dining room! The seat lifts up and you store phone books under the hinged cover.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Eliza Waters says:

    Haven’t seen one of those in years. My grandmother had one, too. She lived next door and we were all on a party line. I remember my mother ‘tsk-tskking’ at our other neighbor who always had long conversations on the phone and it was tough somedays getting a call in before “Chat” picked up the line again! Her real name was Charity, but everyone called her Chat. Thanks for the stroll down Memory Lane. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I’m afraid I do suffer from nomophobia, at least now and again. Smart phones tend to be quite addictive but pernicious.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. germac4 says:

    That was a trip down memory lane! Not that we had a phone table, but a chair near the phone in the hall, my mother spent half her life on the phone in the hall….seems so long ago now. I have to say, I do love all the things an iPhone can do…so maybe I have a touch of nomophobia

    Liked by 1 person

  21. We didn’t have a phone at home when I was a child, and the first phone I ever had was about a year after we got married. People used to write letters, or in an emergency, used the call box on the street. Now I wouldn’t be without my iPhone. I left it at home when I went out shopping one day last week, and was worried the whole time in case I had a car accident or a flat tyre and wouldn’t be able to phone hubby. Luckily neither of these catastrophes materialised. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  22. It reminds me of the desks we had in elementary school.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Nadezda says:

    Judy, It’s interesting thing. I didn’t know it is for telephone.
    Have a nice weekend!

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Alain says:

    Ten years ago, I used to know someone in a city who was still on a party line. There was only one such line left. The phone company tried regularly to put an end to it. I don’t know how come they did not simply cancel it. The guy who had this line was paying a ridiculous price, something like $10 a month.


  25. I grew up in The Netherlands and not every one had a telephone (mid sixties) My parents had and the whole neighborhood would come and use it. Mom had a litle jar next to the phone were everyone donated dimes for their calls (it was expensive!) And we were also called for the whole neighborhood and us kids had to fetch neighbors and everybody was running to make the calls short…I love this little bench btw. Oh and yes, nowadays I never leave without my phone….fun post xo Johanna

    Liked by 1 person

  26. if you hadn’t explained what this was I’d have thought that it was a school desk of some sort!

    I do remember the party line for awhile when I was young.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Peter S says:

    When I saw the photo I thought it was a school chair, brought back a lot of uncomfortable memories since I’m left handed!

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Murphy's Law says:

    The phone table is similar to school desks back then, except “desk” portion came across seat leaving a very small space to squeeze in. And that seat wasn’t padded. It was molded to conform with your butt….but not mine!! Very uncomfortable.

    Our phone table was a huge desk in the living room. LOVED that black rotary phone. I guess we were lucky….we had a two-party line. So it was rare that both parties wanted to use phone at the same time.

    But unlike some of your readers, we only had the standard short cord. So I couldn’t take the phone into a closet or bathroom for a private conversation. And if I whispered, my mother appeared from nowhere demanding to know what the “big secret” was that I had to whisper!! Sigh….

    I have a cell phone. Carry it in purse, turned off, for emergency call only. People call our landline. No Caller ID. No Call Waiting. The Answering System covers that. I just don’t understand the need to have a phone glued to your ear, or held in your hand, practically 24/7.

    I would take back the black rotary phone in a NY minute! Lily Tomlin would never have had her famous skit playing a phone operator ….”One ringy dingy. Two ringy dingy….” if it weren’t for the rotary phone.

    Thanks for trip down Memory Lane. It’s always such great fun traveling with you!

    Hope this storm system is kind to you!! ❄️❄️⛄️❄️❄️

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Oh, those school desks are a memory all by themselves. I remember fitting in them, but they were like sitting on a brick. I also remember as an adult and visiting on parent teacher something or other and squeezing into one of them. LOL Yes, I remember those black cords that were not in the least stretchy, and thank you for the Lily Tomlin chuckle. Those skits were hysterical. Ever since cell phones came out, I’ve basically used them for emergencies. Now that I do have the smart phone I definitely use it more for looking up stuff when we are out and about (address, hours, etc.) and not for making calls. I definitely spend time every day reading and commenting on blogs, but I average less than ten minutes a week on FB, zero on Twitter, and zero on anything else. I like being part of the blogging community, but I really don’t need the rest of it. I just assume you don’t need a picture of what I’m eating for lunch, and I’m okay not seeing a photo of what you bought at the store. LOL Here’s hoping you have a good weekend, and I’ll look forward to our next chat. The storm is suppose to go south of us and we’re getting some light snow flurries. Fingers crossed. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  30. I am notorious for leaving my cell phone off or at home! I know it is the way of the future, but many times I miss the old days of leaving the phone at home. My fondest memories of my childhood home is those long phone calls between friends and twisting and untwisting the looooong cord on our wall phone as you walked from the kitchen to the living room! We also had a rotary phone in the back pantry – I still remember kind of enjoying dialing wrong as you had to hang up and start all over again! Ah, the good old days!

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Grandma Kc says:

    I was explaining party lines to a 7th grade history class. I told them we invented ring tones! I like my smart phone but I am able to survive without it for an hour or two when I forget and leave it at Jenna’s. She does not know how I do that!

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