Guest Column

Times long gone

by Norma Haynes, Special To The Newnan Times-Herald

As I sat eating with a group of people, I watched as two engaged for many minutes looking at their Iphones and another who left her meal to receive a phone call. A third reached into her purse, pulled out her phone and responded to a textv — all of this while we were having a friendly lunch. 

While enjoying my supper at our Wednesday night church, I watched as the young people sitting at a nearby table, though in a group, were each absorbed in their phones. I have to ask myself, “What is happening?”

I know I am old, and I know that technology is helpful in so many ways, and I know that our lives have been improved in some ways because of the development of all this technology. But I also see some changes in our lives that are not so good because of all this technology.

Back in the forties and fifties, every home had one telephone. At first we were on a party line where another family shared the same line. Our phone number was 1239J, which meant it was a two-party line. When you needed to make a call, you picked up the receiver and an operator answered, “Number, please.” You gave her the number of the party you were calling and she rang that number for you. If that line was busy, she informed you of that. Later, we still had one telephone in the hall in our home, and we finally got a private line. Our number became 1231.

This was true in all the businesses located in our town — one phone, one number. It was true for the doctors’ offices as well. If you did not get your party by closing time, you waited until the following day. Doctors, unfortunately, were reached at their homes after hours, and they either doctored you over the phone or came to your home when possible. There was no such thing as an answering machine, a pager or an answering service. During those years, I don’t ever remember being totally inconvenienced.

Because in the early years of the forties, there were no televisions and even into the early fifties when television was first introduced, people enjoyed sitting on their porches after supper. There they watched as their children played outside with their neighbors and so often, neighbors would gather on one porch to visit until dark.

My mother and daddy did a lot of visiting with neighbors after they ate supper and washed the dishes by hand. I can well remember Mama saying, “Well, I guess we better get on home before it gets dark.” 

Discussions in those days around supper tables were centered around the happenings of the day, whether it was the children talking about school or the parents discussing their day. We always ate our suppers together as a family, and when you finished your meal, you asked to be excused, thanked your mother for the good meal, took your plate to the sink and scraped it. Every meal began with a blessing of the food. There were no fast-food places and no microwaves. No telephone calls came during the meal because there were no “toll free” numbers and friends and family knew that you would be eating your supper.

I now have a cell phone, and as I sat at the lunch table the other day, I made a resolution. I decided that I was not going to let that phone rule my life. I got along without it for many, many years, and I can certainly get along without it for however few years I have left on this earth. Yes, it will be nice if there is an emergency, but it does not have to be a “part of my body.” With the violence and horrible language now taking over our movies and television, I find I can do without that “technology” as well.

It is nice to have a phone in my car should I experience an emergency, and for that I am very thankful. However, I don’t ever want that phone to take over my life as I see it doing for so many, many people.

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