Murdo Girl…1960 phone etiquette

I grew up without caller ID. We had a rotary dial phone upstairs and one on the wall downstairs. If you were home, you had to answer the phone, because there was no way to screen the calls, nor did anyone have answering machines.

Mom had some great strategical compensation methods to substitute for things that weren’t invented yet. She was also very impressed when she learned of a new strategy from someone else.

You’ve probably heard about the idea of putting get well cards all over your house which would explain why your house looked like it hadn’t been cleaned in weeks. This was great in case someone dropped by unexpectedly, but what about those unwanted phone calls. You know, the ones from people wanting you to do something.

Mom was no different from most people when they’re caught off guard. If you have no time to think, the answer out of your mouth is usually…yes. It’s hard to say, no. Without a well thought-out reason for saying no, it doesn’t “ring” true to the caller on the other end. A long silence on your end, doesn’t cut it either. What a dilemma. After you said, yes, it took a lot of time and trouble to back-peddle.

It was actually my aunt who came up with the solution. She began to answer every phone call sounding like she was sick. “Helooow,” she said in a voice you could barely hear. After a couple of weak coughs, she added, “who iiis this?”

If it was someone she wanted to talk to, she perked right up. If not, she had a ready reason to say no if she wanted to.

It was Mom who came up with a plan to take care of long-winded callers. She would say, “Please, tell me all about your granddaughter’s visit, and don’t leave anything out.” Then Mom simply hung up on herself. Her thought was, no one would believe she hung up on herself.

“What if the caller thought they had unfortunately been disconnected?” You might ask.

Well, Mom took the phone off the hook for thirty minutes or so, which was very irritating to those of us at home. We had to listed to the beep, beep, beep of the busy signal.

In later years, I had to laugh when Mom suddenly hung up on me. By then, she had gotten into the habit of hanging up when she was finished talking. She didn’t bother with good-byes.

I wrote this poem a few years ago about the calls between Mom and Aunt Ella, (Val’s mom).



Hi Mom, I called to…Mary is that you?

Yes Mom, I want to…I called Ella today. I had some “news” to tell. To get a word in edgewise, I really had to yell!

Well, Mom how long…Oh, we talked an hour, and it was on my dime. If she wants to talk again, she’ll have to call next time.

So, Mom…I’d tell you what she said, but it was blah, blah, blah. If you really want the truth, I forgot it, ha, ha, ha.

I only have a minute Mo…I went shopping with my coupons. I thought I’d save a ton. They told me they were all expired, no more two for one. Say, last time I saw you, I was constipated. Did I tell you prune juice, is highly overrated? I use Metamucil now, two teaspoons to a cup. You should try it dear, you really sound bound up.

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I have a question Mom…I have a tickle in my throat. I’m sure that I’ll start coughin…It’s been fun catching up. You should call more often.

I’ve been trying to reach you Mom, but it’s been really hard….

Oh never mind, this Mother’s Day, I’ll just send a card.

I heard her hang the phone up. She was in a tizzy.

I knew, if I called her back again, the line would still be busy.

She’d be calling sister Ella, so they can talk in rhymes.

I know for sure that every day, they talk at least three times.



Ella and Loretta Sanderson…sisters and friends

4 thoughts on “Murdo Girl…1960 phone etiquette

  1. sanjuan831 January 17, 2019 / 9:18 pm

    Such an excellent one. I wonder if our Mom’s would text each other if they were around in these times. Another thing Your Mom would do is call a friend with one sentence about the latest gossip, then hang up and go on to call the next person.


  2. slmret January 17, 2019 / 5:45 pm

    Toward the end of her 96-year life, my mother began hanging up without saying good bye — she just forgot it. And she would call me and leave one word messages: “Computer,” “Bank,” etc — I was supposed to call back to find out what was going on!

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