Area Code First

Melissa SandfortAgricultural Anthropology

I can imagine how it sounded:
“Can I have your phone number please, starting with the area code?”
“I’m sorry, I just caught the first number. Can you give it to me again?”
“Yes. 6. That’s my phone number.”

I can’t even keep up with the latest in cell phone technology. Pretty soon, we’re going to have a chip implanted in our ear and we just have to blink to dial someone. Once for home, twice for the office.

Back in 1947, however, my grandfather’s family was on the rural farmer-owned telephone exchange where the central office was upstairs in an old farm house. His family’s number was 6. Just 6. The poles were installed and lines strung by the farmers themselves.

It wasn’t until the REA was given authority to install rural phone lines in 1949 that the installation of rural phone systems took off. By 1975, farmers overtook and surpassed their urban neighbors in the percentages of households with telephone service.

The phone pictured here hangs on the wall as decoration, but I think it was less than 10 years ago when they finally took down the rotary phone in the kitchen and installed a touchtone phone.

Until our next history lesson…