Jack Remembers: If smart phones are so smart, how come there’s no crank?

By Jack Hackley

My 9-year-old great-granddaughter, Kennadi, has her own cell phone that will do everything.
She was showing me some pictures she had taken, but got interrupted and had to text a friend. When I was her age, we had a wooden phone less than a foot wide and two feet in height. It was anchored to the wall and was about six inches thick.
It held a magneto with four horseshoe magnets that generated electricity when you turned the crank, which let the operator know that you wanted to make a call.
When I got out of the service, we still had the same phone system, and our phone number was 3423. The first two numbers were the number of your line. The last two numbers were your ring.
Our ring was two longs and three shorts.   RRRRiiinnnggg RRRiiinnnggg ring ring ring. There were nine other families on our line whose phones also rang when we got a call, and they could listen in if they so desired.
About two miles down the road was a widow woman who had two bachelor sons.  I went over to buy some hay from her sons and met her for the first time.
She wanted to know how Laura and the kids, Stevie and Jackie, were doing. It was obvious she had been “listening in”.
One time when I was in high school I tried to call my buddy, Daren Davis, and their phone didn’t work. I drove out to their farmhouse and we walked the line to see what was wrong.
Sure enough, an old farmer next door had pulled the telephone line down and tied it to his posts for the top wire on his fence. When we told him he shouldn’t do that, he replied, “I tied it with binder twine, I didn’t think it would hurt.”
I heard Kennadi ask her momma why her great-grandpa couldn’t operate her phone.  I am not sure it is any excuse, but I was 30 years old before we got a dial phone to replace the wooden one with the crank and nine other parties on the same line.

Jack can be reached at PO Box 40, Oak Grove, MO 64075 or  Visit

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