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Times have changed. Long distance telephone operators became dinosaurs, too.

Phone booths have vanished and are no longer on a Scavenger Hunt list. Many of the past tools of communication have become dinosaurs for museums.

When did you last see a huge wooden box on the wall with a crank on one side and an earpiece on the other side? Remember, the one ring a dingy, two rings a dingy-type phone signal? Your call code may have been two longs and a short ring, or any combination of long and short rings. Everyone on the party line would hear the call and rush to the phone to listen in on a private conversation.

As technology improved, black dial phones were introduced. Later, colors became popular and Ma Bell started charging extra for a Princess model, extra phones for every room, and more. Phones, like other luxuries, became a matter of keeping up with the Jones.

Times have changed. Long distance telephone operators became dinosaurs, too. Today, the majority of kids, and older people, carry a small gadget in their hand and hold it to their face to talk.

The last I heard two or more can visit face to face worldwide on their cell phones or computers. Military people in places like Afghanistan can visually talk to their wives and kids.

Letters home today are not as important as they were to me when I served in Korea. Our letters had no return address, just APO 360, and no postage stamp was required.

There was no telephone contact between the USA and Korea. The only communication home was by mail. If a letter home asked for something, a reply would take at least 3 weeks.

We were in the Combat zone, but a short distance from the front lines. After being there a period of time, I was able to plan a week of R & R (Rest and Relaxation). In June, I chose Tokyo as my destination. I would be able to phone my fiancée while there.

From the time I was drafted, rank and pay increases were frozen for 19 months. Being the lowest man on the totem pole, Pvt-E1, I had a very small income, but I saved $20, the set price for a limited amount of time phone call back to the states.

In Tokyo, I signed in at the phone location, waited in line and began my limited length of time on the phone with my fiancée. We had been separated for the past six months. Immediately, we both choked up and she cried the whole time. Very few words were spoken. I didn't have enough money to call her a second time. It was back to Korea and letter writing.

The same day I returned to Korea, a military plane crashed on takeoff at Tachikawa Air Base, just outside Tokyo. Over 200 GIs, returning from R & R to their home bases, were killed.

Until my loved ones received my letter two weeks later, they expected to hear a knock on the door and a telegram saying, Pvt Delbert Fred Benton was killed in a plane crash. That is how we were notified my uncle was killed on D-Day, in WWII.

Technology for mobile phones was first developed in the 1940s but it was not until the mid-1980s that they became widely available. The first mobile phone models weighed over two pounds.

And, in the 60s, during the popular sitcom "Get Smart," Maxwell Smart introduced the shoe phone which would go on to become one of the longest-running gags in the popular U.S. television series.

I love my cell phone and won't leave home without it.

D. Fred Benton is a member of the Jottings Group at the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center.


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