Social Media the Old-fashioned Way

The 6th in a Series on my Family Tree … Volume II

Prompt: Social Media


Where would we be today if not for the internet and social media?

I’m old enough to remember the time before life was seemingly overtaken by technology. Everything was slower. Genealogy research, for instance, involved a lot of letter writing and visits to libraries and family research centres. Only so much time in a day and so only so much could get done. In some ways, I kind of miss the slower paces, still I suspect that the many inroads made into genealogical research in recent years would not have been possible without the kind of access to information we enjoy at our fingertips.

That said, my thoughts wander back in time to a very different kind of social media. The telephone party line.

Sounds like a good time!

Being no expert on the subject of party lines I offer this extract from Wikipedia:

“Party line systems were widely used to provide telephone service, starting with the first commercial switchboards in 1878. A majority of Bell System subscribers in the mid-20th century in the United States and Canada were served by party lines, which had a discount over individual service. During wartime shortages, these were often the only available lines

Party lines provided no privacy in communication. They were frequently used as a source of entertainment and gossip, as well as a means of quickly alerting entire neighbourhoods of emergencies such as fires, becoming a cultural fixture of rural areas for many decades.

The rapid growth of telephone service demand, especially after WWII, resulted in many party line installations in the middle of the 20th century in the United States. This often led to traffic congestion in the telephone network, as the line to a destination telephone was often busy. … Shortages persisted for years after each war; individual lines in Montreal remained in short supply at the end of 1919 and similar shortages were reported by telephone companies in Florida as late as 1948. Some rural users had to run their own wires to reach the utility’s lines.”

Source: Party Line (Telephony) Wikipedia

Given the limitation of a single line to serve multiple customers proper etiquette was important for fair access and usage.


The Final Word

My own memories of party lines are fairly thin. My grandmother, Alice (Gordon) McDonall (1916-1994) lived in small town Alberta in the 1970s and party lines were still part of the communication landscape at that time. When visiting her for the summer I’d make the occasional phone call to a friend and found it a trifle baffling to hear someone already talking on the line. As I was a bit of a goody two-shoes I’d quickly put down the receiver and wait a few minutes to try my call again. Still, between you and me I’ve heard that certain people did listen in on others’ conversations, and did indeed find it a most entertaining way to pass the time. There were no secrets in a small town. 😉

The party line. A hub for gossip; the original community grapevine, aka social media.❦

©Dorothy E. Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2023 … Aimwell CreativeWorks

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