By Wayne William Cipriano
We’ve only lived here about 30 years. Our kids went to school here but we did not. And, even though this is by far the longest we have lived in any one place, we will always be newcomers.
Even as newcomers, however, we have seen quite a few changes around here and one of those changes was brought to mind the other day when I was looking for a telephone number.
I noticed that whenever I’m searching for a local number I paw through all the telephone books we have collected over the years looking for one special book. We never throw away telephone books when they are replaced by more recent editions because they remain so useful. The covers serve admirable as gasket material for the various machines around the ranch, the pages for scribbling notes, wadding up for cushioning, even as rag replacements when liquid absorption is not a big deal.
The older telephone books gradually disappear that way. All of them except for one. That singular telephone book is sacrosanct, the first one we got when we arrived in Ava. You know the one I’m talking about: it’s 6”x9” and maybe ¼” thick, with a residential section (96 pages) and Yellow Pages (47 pages). Unfortunately, both covers are missing (I guess I needed a couple of small gaskets).
The arrangement of some of the entries are peculiar for example, Ava City numbers and those for Crane are both listed under “City” (City of Ava; City of Crane). Seems a little confusing if you’ve ever done much research, but you get used to it. The best part of the book is, of course, its small size and the fact that whenever we have looked up a number we placed a checkmark next to it and afterward finding it again is so easy!
Speaking of telephone ease, do you remember when a call anywhere in the county only required five numbers? You could forget the 6 8. I’ve always wondered why we had to dial the 3 since all the numbers were 683, but I guess that will forever remain a technological mystery. With so few places to call in the county, the convenience of five numbers (or four) didn’t save that much time, even over an entire lifetime, but when we changed to the new telephone system and lost the five number convenience I sure missed it.
Nowadays, telephones themselves with their cards, long distance fees, telephone books, etc. are less and less evident. All our kids have those cell phones / computers that they say are more powerful than the computers that went to the moon with the astronauts. Some of our kids don’t even have a “land line” telephone at all.
Progress? I guess. But when the storms rage, the lights go out and recharging power is no longer available, sunspots inundate the earth, satellites quiver, and cell tower switching stations go off line for reasons even their designers do not understand, it’s a blessing to pick up that land line telephone handset, punch in that emergency number and hear a voice. But, when it says “We’re sorry but the number you have dialed has been disconnected or is no longer in service. If you think you have….” Not so much.