The telephone was a wonderful invention, though nuisance at times


Editor’s note: Telemarketers are still finding ways to interrupt Kentuckians despite the state’s best efforts to head them off.


When I was in elementary school we learned who invented the cotton gin - Eli Whitney; the steam engine - Robert Fulton; the electric light - Thomas Edison,  and the telephone - Alexander Graham Bell.  I have not been personally involved with the cotton gin or the steam engine, but Mr. Edison and Mr. Bell have enriched my life considerably.

In fact, I may owe my whole existence to Mr. Bell, as my parents’ families in the early 1900’s each had a telephone on an eight-party line, and as they lived about 10 miles apart, the 27-year-old Ervin Baxter called the 17- year-old Lura Beliles every evening.  All the other subscribers listened in to their conversations. One lady once asked them to hang up for a few minutes so she could go stir her beans!

After they married, they never had a telephone until after I married. I had no acquaintance with the telephone until I went to college.  We had a telephone in our dorm rooms.

When Harold and I married in 1950, and bought a house in Paintsville, we had an eight-party line phone. I remember Esther Richmond and Jewel and Sam Rice were on our line. I forget who else. We managed pretty well, but after our children got older, and my mother moved next door, we were on a two-party line with her.

After the children went away to school, I spent way too much money talking to them and my other relatives. Nearly everybody I wanted to talk to called for “long distance.”

When they became available, I got a “car phone,” but I only used it in emergency situations. I did not tell anybody my car phone number. I knew I needed all my brain power to drive the car!

Where we once had one telephone for five people,  when I lived by myself, I had five telephones for one person: one on the wall, where we had always had one; one in the bedroom by my bed; one in the bathroom; one at the computer, and one in the basement!

Now that I live in one room with a bath, I have a telephone land line at the head of my bed; in the bathroom; at my computer desk, and at the desk where I pay my bills. Now I pay for the Internet and long distance as well as local calls on my telephone bill. The bill is the same, no matter how much I use it.  However, now that I am 93 years old, all those friends that I wanted to call are either dead, deaf, or demented!

I haven’t been smart enough to learn to operate the new “smart phones” that take pictures and are photograph albums, so I can go out in public leaving my telephone behind. I am so grateful for the blessing of a weekly call from my son, Steve, in Alexandria, VA, and the regular calls I get from Patti in Little Rock, AR, and the daily calls I get from Cathy telling me when she will come by to pick me up.

What got me started on this telephone jag is that lately, it seems that I must be the only person in the Louisville area that has a land line and a number in the telephone book.

This is the normal scenario:

I am in my lounge chair, and the phone rings. Before I can get the (electrically operated) foot rest down so I can get up, it has rung twice. I know that the answering machine will pick up after the fourth ring. I try my best to make the two steps to the phone before I hear my voce saying, “Hello. This is June. Please leave a number!”

The last three days I have been asked three times what I think about the K.E.A. I think it is somebody who wants to start Charter Schools. Once I said,” Well, I was a member of K.E.A. for 34 years, but I wonder if they are not a little misguided about Governor Bevin’s Pension Bill.” Now I just say “I don’t want to participate.”

I am a little surprised when the caller advises me that my my car is no longer in warranty, as I haven’t owned a car in eight years.  I am even more surprised when the caller wants to help me with my student loan, as I worked three hours a day for thirty cents an hour for my meals, and graduated college in 1949 debt-free! Another entity wants to get me a better deal for my insurance. I can also give to various political causes.

They also want to help me with my credit card debt, which I have never had any, as I pay my credit card debt when I get the bill.

I love my telephone, but lately it is often a nuisance!

June Rice is a retired teacher and writer who resides in Louisville.

Kentucky Today’s Perspectives section provides a public forum for our readers to express their views on issues of importance. The opinions expressed are those of the writer and should not be construed as an official position taken by this newspaper. We encourage you to join in the conversation by sending your essays to We reserve the right to reject submissions deemed inappropriate.


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