Rubbernecking Phone
Rubbernecking on the Phone

Rubbernecking is a term used with telephone party lines. As more and more rubbernecks got on the line at one time, the connection got steadily worse. So, usually, did the tempers of the two people who were talking. Sometimes pointed remarks were made: “If these rubbernecks would get off the line, I’d be able to hear you!” This would be followed by soft clicks as some of the culprits tried to hang up “quietly.”

Our ring was long-short-long-short. Ruth Jones’s was three shorts. Halgrims’—long-short-long. It was the “party line,” and it served far more than to telephone the one person with whom we wanted to talk.

Several nearby farm families were all connected to our telephone line, and when anyone’s signal rang, everyone on the line heard it. Unless it was their own personal ring, they didn’t lift the receiver to answer.

Maybe! Or maybe they listened in to hear other people’s conversations. That was known as “rubbering,” and the people as “rubbernecks.”. . .

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