Friday, August 27, 2010

"Julia, You Have a Call in Phone Booth Three"

Residents are moving into college dorms this week across the country, including my alma mater, the University of Memphis.  It was 46 years ago that my parents drove me the 100 miles to Memphis and my memories are still vivid of the building, the reception and meeting area, and my room on the third floor.

One feature of West Hall's reception area was to be almost as important as our own rooms.  It was "communication central" and is in stark contrast to the cell phones and other technology students have available today.  It was also a step down from the princess extension phone I had in my bedroom at home.  Across one wall were ten or twelve phone booths.  At first, it didn't register exactly how important the booths would be to my personal life.  The first hours and days were spent in getting acquainted with other dorm residents, making new friends, attending dorm meetings, and going to classes. 

Going to classes and the student center introduced another element to my life -- meeting new boys and developing new relationships with them.  This is where the phone booths came in and why they became very important.  There were no phones our rooms; there were no phones in the halls on our floors.  If someone called for us, we were notified through an intercom system and we went down to a phone booth to take the call.  I was not the most popular girl in the dorm, although I did receive my share of those exciting announcements of a call downstairs.  It must have been exhausting for some of the more popular girls, running up and down the stairs to the phone.  Since it was 1964 and not 2010, there were also expectations about how a resident should look in public; you never knew who might be coming in or going out, so you tried to look presentable when you took your call.

I learned about another means of communication after I pledged a sorority.  The entry to one part of the student center had a series of bulletin boards, one for each fraternity and sorority.  These were used for announcements of events and other chapter information, as well as honors, engagements, and other news about individual members.  The boards also served as a posting place for notes to the members.  We stopped by the boards several times a day to check for notes, the most important of which were from guys.  I think that, for some of us, you could trace a courtship from the early notes ("Meet me for a coke at the Sigma Phi table at 2:00?") to the engagement ("I love my ring and I love you!").

I still have some of the notes I received during that time, as well as some of the messages taken when I wasn't available for a phone booth conversation, and the "sign-out" cards which recorded where I was going, with whom, and when I would return.  Some of the notes are reminders ("Don't forget to pick up your Ole Miss football ticket. Larry") and some are sweet ("You are a fine woman with a great personality and much beauty. Ric") They are an informal record of my first months of college that now seem quaint.

Today, visits with children and grandchildren often include a third party -- the cell phone.  My college-age granddaughter places hers on the table while she talks to me and a vibration tells her that her boyfriend has texted her.  Instant connection - no waiting - no anticipation.  She's never picked up a love note from a bulletin board and I doubt that she's ever used a phone booth to talk to a boyfriend.  She doesn't know what she's missing.


Joy said...

I've been thinking about this recently and told a friend's granddaughter about the "olden days" when I was in school and what we had to do. I'm keeping up with her and my grandchildren on FB and by texting. We didn't have phones in our rooms the whole time and were paged on the intercom like you were and also talked in phone booths in the hall. Memories! Right? :-)

Annie Joy said...

Oh, yes, Joy! The reason I joined FB was to keep up with the younger members of my family. By the way, I stopped by your blog this morning and loved the Countdown post. I got frustrated because the video kept stopping and starting, but it was hilarious!

Elizabeth @ Miss Wisabus said...

I love this! My grandmother was the only person in my family to attend college before I did and her stories sound much like this one. I was disappointed to find that college in 2003 was nothing like the college Granny remembered.

Thanks for sharing! Found you through the Lady Blogger Tea Party.

Annie Joy said...

Thanks, Elizabeth. I'm happy you stopped by -- I see by your profile we are both rural Oklahomans and OU grads. I got my Master's in Library and Information Sciences there. Love your blog!

Anne @ The Frump Factor said...

Hee! We had phones in our rooms, but I seem to recall that my best friend, at another college, did not. I "met" many of her dormmates on the phone that first semester! Ah, good times....

Annie Joy said...

Anne, I guess that there had to be a level of trust for them to get your messages to her if she wasn't there! Thanks for dropping by -- loved your post on bargains!

From the Kitchen said...

I recently read that within twenty years, one of the most collectible items will be handwritten letters. I love blogging and those I meet doing so. I love e-mail and check it many times a day. I don't twitter or text. I have a cell phone for emergency/vacation use and don't turn it on unless I'm meeting someone. My greatest joy is finding a letter in my mailbox. I brew a cup of tea and find a quiet place to read it. I hope I get a letter today. We'll see.


Annie Joy said...

Bonnie, I agree with you completely. I don't twitter or text, and my husband is the phone talker in my family. In a recent post on your blog, you mentioned straightening your recipe file -- a project I will be doing soon. I think that the handwritten recipe will also be a collectible, don't you? Internet recipes are handy, I love my cookbooks, but the best and most precious recipes are those gathered from family and friends.

Sonia said...

Hi Annie,

This is my first time to your blog! I live in Oklahoma City too!
So nice to meet fellow bloggers!

Love your fall vignette with the squirrel and giant acron! Glad I found your blog!

Miss Bloomers


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