When electricity and the telephone came

Posted by : Staff Reports | On : November 11, 2011

By Buddy Hazell

I was about 14 years old and was staying with Dave and Nettie for the summer. R.E.A. Had made it possible for people in rural Milam County to have electricity and telephone service. Dave signed up for both and it wasn’t long before trucks and men began setting poles for the light wires, but the telephone service would come later.

The light company sent a man out to wire the house, and because the house was built with logs, the wiring was all exposed with pull-string switches. As soon as the man finished the wiring, Nettie made Dave go to town and buy an electric refrigerator. Nettie thought this refrigerator was made in Heaven. She could keep milk, eggs and butter cold in the summertime, and no more putting these things in the well bucket and lowering them down in the well to keep them cool. She soon found the ice trays were good for something besides ice cubes; she also learned to mix milk, sugar, vanilla and sometimes fruit and freeze the mixture and have ice cream. What a treat!

Next came the telephone, but there was one problem, there was a law against hanging telephone wires on light poles. Therefore phone wires were fastened to fence posts, trees or whatever would keep them off the ground. We were on a “party line,” with nine other people. Our number was “a long and a short on 109.” That was one long ring followed by one short ring. If you were calling us from another party line, you would give a long ring for “Central,” which would be the operator, and when she answered you, you would say, “Central, give me a long and a short on 109.”

I was back the next summer just in time to help with a new chore. That being “running the phone line.” Twice a year, everyone on the “party line” had to pitch in and help clean up the phone line. You had to clean from your house to the road, and then everyone would work together to clean up the line all the way into town. That meant clearing the right-of-way, making repairs to the line and cutting any trees which might cause problems during the winter. But it wasn’t all hard work, there was laughter, good eats and sometimes there were teenage girls and boys doing a little “sparking” (if the girl’s parents were not watching too closely).