Throwback Thursday

Yesterday, I received a thank you card from the Lisbon NH Area Historical Society for a donation. On the card was this interesting phone along with a description.

Installed in 1948 at Snell’s Bakery on Main Street in Lisbon, this old fire telephone, which only received calls and could not be dialed, was used there until the 1970s. It may have been used earlier in the Snell family’s previous restaurant business. Bakery owner Victor G. Snell, a Lisbon Fire Department member since the 1920s, was the Lisbon Fire Chief from 1948-1961, and his wife, Catherine, answered many fire calls at the bakery as well as punching the siren every day at noon. Fire phones were installed in several Lisbon homes as well, and when the fire number 2211 was dialed, all the phones would ring. The person answering the phone sounded the fire siren, and the station was called on a regular phone which rang until a responder arrived and received the information.

Think about this for just a minute. A phone that didn’t dial out? A siren to get a volunteer fireman’s attention? This phone was still being used until 1970?

According to a January 2017 study, 95% of Americans now have a cell phone – 77% smart phones, and 18% other cell phones. We are online texting, tweeting, posting, commenting, and calling whoever and whenever we want including 911 for immediate medical, police,  or fire response.

In my lifetime, I’ve seen party lines for rotary dial phones, wall phones with cords long enough they could tie up a burglar, phone in a box, princess phone that fell off the table whenever you moved, and a Snoopy phone. We bought one of the first cell phones back in the late 1980’s for our daughter to carry in her car, and it was the size of a small suitcase.

Now, a cell phone is in every hand from toddler to senior being swiped as we go about our daily life 24/7.

Personally, I’d love to know what Alexander Graham Bell would think about this phone revolution. What do you think is next?  ☎︎

…the times they are a-changing

About Judy @ NewEnglandGardenAndThread

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

  1. Please let it not be that every baby born has a ‘phone chip’ implanted. Oh my, Judy! How far we’ve come and one does wonder if it has all gone too far. Growing up we had one phone in the house. Once we were out the door, most often gone for the day, rambling the woods and playing with a tribe of other kids, calling home or calling a friend never came to mind. Not even necessary. And….we were just fine. That’s a good post, Judy and certainly one to open up a lot of conversation. Let’s do it on the phone. I’ll call ya!! ha ha !

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Joyce says:

    What really puts things in perspective for me is that I was born in 1948. What a revolution in communication during my (and yours, too!) lifetime! I like how this phone was used until the 1970s. I’m a “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” kind of person. I just shake my head at my daughters running to buy every new phone that comes out. And then gluing their eyes to it all day long! I wonder if your first commenter doesn’t have it right – phone chips implanted in newborn babies – all they have to do is think about who they want to call – DONE!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Remember when you’d call someone, and they didn’t answer. You just called back later. 🙂 I can’t even imagine what our grandchildren will see in this wave of technology that seems to sweep over us at least every six months. I also think the chiropractors and orthopedic doctors have job security because after a life time of looking down and using their thumbs nonstop when our kids reach our age, they’ll need help. 🙂


  3. quilt32 says:

    I got a chuckle out of the phrase, “cords long enough they could tie up a burglar”. The fire phone is a new one to me and very interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Dan Antion says:

    Love it!

    We still have a rotary dial Princess phone on an end table (and it still works). I bought it for my wife for Mother’s Day, about 10 years ago. I don’t know if you knew/remember, but since you mentioned the Princess phone falling off the table, AT&T did fix that. They eventually started making them with a weighted base. If you called and asked, they would send a service tech to your house to add the weighted base to your phone. Imagine that! Ours is heavy enough to beat that burglar senseless. And, it is still the most comfortable phone to hold.

    Thanks for the throwback, Judy. It brought back tons of memories.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Murphy's Law says:

    I grew up with a black rotary phone. And we were fortunate that it was only a 2-party line!! I think Mr, Bell would be happy about the technology, but very disappointed in our obsession with it. I don’t think his intention was for us to have a phone glued in our hand.

    And if babies are born with implanted phone chips, I’m outta here!!

    Love that phone and the history behind it. Great post. —-Ginger—-

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Laurie Graves says:

    I wanted a Princess phone as a teenager but never got one, and it’s something I still brood about from time to time. Not really, but I do recall wanting one. 😉 In Vassalboro, where I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s, I am pretty sure that we had a siren to call volunteer firemen. As David Bowie once sang, “Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes.” (One of my favorite songs!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s funny to think back because I remember my grandparents’ neighbors just stopping their car in the driveway or in the road to have a conversation and then off they’d go. Those days are long gone as we listen for those pings to know we have a text from somewhere in the world. 🙂


  7. pastpeter says:

    I seem to remember the fire siren being used to call in volunteer fire fighters in many NE towns until maybe 15 years ago. The fire house was next door to the church I pastored on Long Island, and we would halt our services when the whistle went off (very loud), and pray for the Volunteers and whoever needed assistance in the community. Now they all have cell phones, and the whistle only goes off at noon!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I remember the heavy black phone that my grandparents had, the only in their big Victorian house, our first Princess phone as a child, and the fire siren going off every day at noon. But I never heard of this type of phone or system. I remember if someone else answered the phone and the caller called us long distance we hurried to talk with them since it was seen as being so expensive. Everything new has its pros and cons but I can’t imagine a childhood where adults were on their cell phones all the time at family events.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I remember standing in a phone booth to make a long distance call with change stacked up waiting for the operator to tell you how much to deposit and then the clinking sound each coin made. 🙂 Yes, I wonder what the quality of life for children these days is on a holiday. How many minutes do they actually get from a parent when they’re not totally focused on their phone? Based upon we see all around us, that cell phone appears to hold the #1 spot in their lives – not all families, but a lot.


  9. I remember all of those phones! We still have a black rotary dial phone that works.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I’ve seen those same changes, Judy. 🙂 I even remember, but don’t miss, party lines. But now, maybe everyone is listening anyway and we just don’t know it. For many years we kept a rotary phone, which would work when the electricity was out. Some of our daughters’ friends didn’t know what it was. As for what’s next, I can’t even imagine and maybe I don’t want to.


    Liked by 1 person

  11. The times are a-changing indeed! Hard to keep up some days. (Did you know I used to be a telephone operator? I saw one of the old switchboards the other day and — oh Lord.)

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Washe Koda says:

    I remember my grandpa demonstrating to me how he turned the crack on the side of his big box phone with large dry-cell batteries inside it to call their friend across the lake in northern Minnesota (2 short + 1 long crank was his signal) I refereed to it as Grandpas ‘cell phone’ in the late 50’s ! 📞

    Liked by 1 person

  13. tonytomeo says:

    I used to keep my old rotary telephone next to my typewriter next to my desk. It was from the 1930s. My little sisters did not know how to operate it. They thought it was odd that I had to answer to it know who was calling, and that if no one was there, it just rang until the caller hung up.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Joanne Sisco says:

    I think the proliferation of cell phone use in public places and the poor manners of those using them is one of those bad side effects that come with *progress*. It’s a good thing I don’t work in the service industry because I doubt I could restrain myself if someone would be chatting on the phone while I’m trying to serve them. As it is, I have to bite my tongue in the grocery store, the hair salon, the doctor’s office, and any number of places.

    I wish I still had a working rotary phone. That would be cool. Truth is, I no longer have a Landline. It was the telemarketers – rather than the cost – that drove me away.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I drove up to a doctor’s office today, opened my car door and heard people talking. I started looking around to finally realize a women in the car behind me was talking on her blue tooth to someone and the volume must have been way up there. But, the one that always leaves me shaking my head is the family of four, two parents and two kids, sitting in a restaurant all staring at their phones. Is there anything on those phones of more importance than those sitting right there? We’ve been without a landline for a year now, and our reason was the political nature of NH. Politics never stops here and the phone never stops. I love the quiet and the ability to block a caller. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Joanne Sisco says:

        Maybe my bias against cell phones is due in part to the fact I don’t care for phones. I don’t like talking on them, except to exchange important information, and I cringe whenever it rings.

        Why people think they need to carry on conversations on a phone in a public place baffles me. Having said that, I remember I was once on vacation, cycling in Lake Placid, when my boss called me. He was one of those people who didn’t seem to have boundaries, and there I was on the side of the highway with in full bike gear for almost an hour with him. The bastard knew where I was and still insisted on talking there and then 😕

        Liked by 1 person

  15. Eliza Waters says:

    We have seen a lot of changes, haven’t we? When I was small, we had a party line. Unimaginable, nowadays. Neighbors eavesdropping on your conversations, lol!
    Not sure I want to see what is ahead! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I remember all of the phones you listed (except, of course, the one that couldn’t dial out). The house I grew up in had a red wall phone in the kitchen. When my brothers and I were clearing out the family home for sale after our parents passed away, one of my brothers took the phone. It is now on the wall in his kitchen. If I could predict what was next, I’d keep it to myself until I could obtain a patent 🙂 !

    Liked by 1 person

  17. germac4 says:

    Your post brings back many memories… My daughters just could not imagine using a phone stuck on the wall! We didn’t even have a chord long enough to tie up a burglar!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. As teenagers, we weren’t allowed to phone our friends because it was too costly. Now I talk regularly to my daughter on the other side of the world for a few cents.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. pommepal says:

    This post certainly brings back memories I remember being on a party line in rural New Zealand and earlier than that in UK having a friend with the wind up one hanging on the wall. I think life as they know it for this present generation would almost stop with out the phone in their hand.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Nadezda says:

    Oh, yes Judy, the technique goes fast forward and what our grandchildren will have in their pockets or probably behind their ears… Lovely old telephone! Not many year ago I had one hanging on the kitchen wall, I think it was comfortable.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Oddment says:

    I vote with Joanne Sisco: through my adult life, I have learned to hate the phone. I too cringe when it rings. And I vote with you, Judy, about that umbilical cord between so many people and their phones. I swear the person next to them could morph into a sea serpent and they wouldn’t notice — or care. The good thing about it all is the look our grandkids give us when we talk about our primitive lives with only one phone and it didn’t leave the house with us. What’s next? I bet it will be a big fat phone that attaches to the wall and has a long curly cord that perpetually knots itself, and all the young’uns will think it’s such a novel concept that they’ll all want one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for the chuckle. Yes, our primitive lives when we didn’t take a phone to the bathroom or sleep with one. 🙂 I’m thinking you have something here. Those old phones will probably come back like our old phonographs and records did. Of course, they renamed them turntables and vinyl. I wonder what they’ll call the new old phones. Maybe they will be receivers. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  22. KerryCan says:

    Isn’t it interesting that we all have such vivid phone memories? They’ve always meant a lot to us, I guess. Remember when the phone numbers started with letters/words? Instead of 561 as a prefix, we said Jordan 1 or JO 1. And we had a crank phone that communicated just from our house to my grandparents farmhouse down the road, for quick calls to “the other house.”

    Liked by 1 person

  23. My cell phone is in my bag and it is off. I use it if I have an on-the-road emergency. Otherwise? Why is it so terrific to be ALWAYS available? Half my life I’ve spent trying to be UNavailable and afraid the office was going to call me into work!

    Liked by 1 person

  24. slfinnell says:

    I lived in a very rural area growing up and we were on a party line with 7 households til about 1980. I think about the hackers now who can eavesdrop on our conversations is way worse than ‘Goldie Alderman and Nellie Eva’ down that gravel road. Great thought provoking topic!

    Liked by 1 person

  25. I remember my parents / grandparents having a party line for awhile when I was a kid 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  26. pbmgarden says:

    Well that’s a fascinating bit of history.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. joey says:

    We had rotary phones growing up, and the long cords on button dials, and then the cordless. In the late 80’s my parents installed a cell phone in my car, too. Bout the size of a toaster!
    To me, the funniest thing about the evolution of phones is that we use our phones for so much stuff, we legit forget their intended purpose! I have been doing calculations on my phone and then been looking for my phone, or talking on my phone, looking for my phone. It’s magical, but too much of it renders me senseless!
    That card phone pic is a winner for me. I love that kind of thing 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Rose says:

    I grew up on a party line…what is more, one of my best friends was on that line. I forget what number we had to dial to call each other, but I am pretty sure we dialed it then quick had to lay the phone back down till it would ring, and then try to guess when the other had picked up. But sometimes one of our other friends would call, and the other of us would get on and we probably had one of the first conference calls. I can remember us working on homework together….specially bookkeeping!

    I do wonder what is next, and though I am guilty of having my phone with me whereever we go, I sometimes wonder if it is good. Yet it is wonderful to have with me with Roger having had that stroke…in case anything else happens.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. merb010 says:

    Dick Tracey ….

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Sandra says:

    I had no idea a fire phone like this one ever existed… dial in only. i would like my home phone to be dial out only. it rings constantly with people trying to make me pick up and listen to them or scam me.

    Liked by 1 person

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