To the current generation, the landline is a thing of the past and best placed in a museum, or better still if they even know what a landline is, apart from being a section of coastline. The definition as per the Oxford dictionary is “a phone that is connected to the phone system by wires”.
For many of us from the past generation our home landline was our connection with family, sometimes dialled from some remote purpose-built red telephone box or some obscure phone booth.
I recall the friendly tone at the other end of the phone from either my Mum or Dad which gave me the reassurance all was well.
When talking with elders about their memories of telephone conversations they range between messages of good news such as an engagement, a wedding, or a new baby. Often, they were calls with bad news of a death, failed relationships, or a world catastrophe, but more often they were calls of love and connection to home.
That telephone line was our single link to the outside world, calls were made only when needed, unlike today where social media is a total necessity. Back then children could participate in the endless playing of games outside and parents were able to talk and engage in true face-to-face conversations.
I recall my parent’s telephone number which has been etched into my long-term memory of 84448, the number which any person could easily recollect with great ease.
Our first telephone was a green dialled type phone and installed as a “Shared line”, which meant we had to wait patiently for our neighbour to finish their telephone calls before placing ours.
Many unscrupulous people would listen into their neighbours’ conversation and would spread wild rumours from the information they overheard. Luckily our neighbour was respectful of our privacy and vice versa. I recall my Mum would ardently ensure nobody listened into our neighbours’ conversations, reminding us of how disrespectful it would be.
The village I grew up in had one solitary red telephone box which was only for emergencies and a meeting place for youngsters.
I left home like so many others at 18 to attend university and would call my Mum every Sunday morning at exactly 10am. That tradition continued all my life even when living in Paris, then New York and finally Australia. Whatever part of the world I was in I would religiously call at 10am Sunday morning UK time, and Mum would be waiting by the phone, picking up the receiver within one or two rings.
Those special moments when I was away from home and made the call to wish them a“Happy Birthday” or a “Happy Mother’s/Father’s Day”, or the first telephone call from a grandchild, captured that magical memory. Often my Mum would say “you remembered” as if I wouldn’t. Even so, she would always say the same thing.
When working with elders and using this technique of reminiscence I have received various responses, sharing so many memories, of how one would answer with the well-rehearsed number or with a simple “Hello”. This method of nostalgia encompasses so many phone calls of good and bad news and how they responded to the news. Either way, it was our first true way of communicating globally and for many a way of keeping in touch with loved ones.
One conversation I recall was with one lady who received a phone call from her daughter asking if she had been listening to the radio and that England was at war with Germany. She stated a cold shiver went down her spine, the emotion she had never forgotten at the thought of another World War and what the consequence of war would bring.
This type of therapy can prove to be so very rewarding in recapturing and recalling treasured memories stored away in the mind and bringing back a warm smile from a phone call of good news or even a reflection from a call of sad news.
If I could call from the future to my Mum just once more, I would simply convey a message of love and gratitude for the start in life my parents had given me. All the cherished memories I have are partly due to their love, support, values, and opportunities they put my way. Their encouragement and dedication have made me the person I am today and have hopefully will be passed onto my children and their children.