Friday, January 13, 2012


Recently, one of our friends donated a 1959 Milledgeville telephone book along with a vintage phone (now displayed in Louis Cline's bedroom in the back parlor). The ads in the yellow pages of this directory are a real eye-opener and a sobering reminder of just how segregated things were back in the '50s. But I digress. The real point of interest is the listing for the O'Connors:
O'Connor Edw. F. Jr., Mrs.
Andalusia-Eatonton Rd. .....GL2-4335
Times sure have changed. For those too young to remember, in those days the phone in the house - they had only one - was rotary dial and owned by the phone company. Wondering about the "GL?" It was a mnemonic chosen by the phone company (in this case it stood for "Glendale") to help people remember phone numbers. Just as today, numbers on the phone corresponded to certain letters. Therefore, the O'Connors number was 452-4335. There were no area codes in those days and, hence, no direct dialing of long distance numbers. If you needed to make a long distance call, you dialed the operator. Calling long distance was expensive and rarely done. The other feature about phone service back then was that several parties shared the same line. It was possible that if you tried to call out you might get a busy signal if someone who shared your "party line" was using the phone. According to a letter Flannery wrote to Fannie Cheney, phone service was established at Andalusia in July 1956. She writes: "Lon called up the day before we got our telephone and that afternoon I went in and tried to get him...Our phone number is 2-5335. I run in all directions everytime I hear it ring." (The Correspondence of Flannery O'Connor and the Brainard Cheneys, p. 40). She may have "run in all directions," but according to a friend of the family it was Regina who always answered the phone, not only to screen her daughter's calls, but also to save Flannery the physical exertion it would have taken for her to get to the phone on crutches. At some point subsequent to this time the O'Connor's number changed by one digit. In a 1962 letter to Brainard Cheney, Flannery writes: "Our telephone no. is 452-4335 but it's hard to get us on it as there are 8 parties on it representing about 150 head, 2/3 of them idiots." (The Correspondence of Flannery O'Connor and the Brainard Cheneys, p. 160). Ah yes...the good old days of telecommunications.
- Mark

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