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Pamela Loxley Drake recalls the magic and wonder of her old family crank-telephone.

COURTESY PHOTO - Pamela Loxley DrakeLike something out of Disney animation, it hung on the wall so high that I could not reach it.

I remember wondering how it possessed its magic. It was marvelous.

To this small child, it resembled a comical face with two golden eyes and a cone-shaped nose that moved up and down, according to the speaker's height. On one side it wore a conical ear, dangling from a cord. On the other side, a crank-shaped ear resided. A slanted platform sat beneath the nose, resembling a large, gaping mouth.

Sometimes the little eyes would ring when the little hammer struck them — two long rings and two short ones. Rrrriiiinnng, rrrriiiinnng, ring, ring.

Mom or Dad picked up the drooping ear, leaning into the nose and talked. Often Mom would lean into the nose, asking the operator for Aunt Welma. Sure enough, she would be talking to her in just a few minutes.

Yes, it was our crank-telephone — the earliest phone I remember in my long line of phones.

Dial phones were one more generation away. Our next phone had no dial. When the receiver was lifted, an operator seemed to know and asked what number was to be dialed. I don't know how she knew we picked up the phone. As a kid, I probably believed she lived in it.

We were on a party line. Ah, yes, the party line. For those who have no idea what kind of party would be on a line, I shall clarify. Once the receiver was picked up and conversations begun, anyone on what was called your "party line" could listen in.

Doris lived at the end of our lane. She was wonderful at knowing all the news in the neighborhood. If you called for the doctor to make a house call, she was there in a minute asking to help.

There was an unsaid code: Never talk about anything personal or neighbors.

Gone are the days of two longs and two shorts. Gone are the days of asking the operator to ring up a neighbor. The phone no longer resides on the wall but in a pocket. Heck, you can even talk without using your hands — or voice!

Something seems to be missing. I miss a system of people who made that bell ring on that funny-faced box, the people who listened in on the party line, those showed up when there was an emergency. I miss the operator who knew that the doctor was needed at the farm on Neff Road to check on little Pam who was sick.

Two longs...two shorts. Farm communications.

Pamela Loxley Drake is a Beaverton resident and self-described lifelong "farm girl."


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