The Speaking Clock

Downtown Portland. This photo has nothing to do with the post.

There’s a Facebook group for people who grew up where I grew up. This is another source of endless nostalgia that keeps clubbing me on the side of the head.

People have brought up a number of “do you remember …” places and things that I haven’t thought about in years.

One thing was: the party line.

I’m not even sure I can remember exactly how we did it.

This is how I think it worked. It was back when we only had landlines and there was a phone number to call for local time. Oh wow, look here’s an article about when the service was discontinued in SoCal in 2007. The phone number was 853-1212. I remember that.

“At the tone the time will be, 8 o’clock. Beep.”

I can hear the exact tone of the recording. Here’s a little bit about it.

When you called the local time number while the phone was ringing but before the local time lady picked up you could shout out your phone number, or you could write down a phone number that you heard. There would be lots of voices shouting out stuff but you had enough time to get or give a number.

I know it sounds crazy but we didn’t have any sort of computer-derived entertainment. We couldn’t stalk boys on Facebook (which I give thanks for on a regular basis because that would have made me miserable.) Another version of this game was we knew the phone number of the pay phones at the mall and we would call and try to get people to talk to us.

I had several friends that I called the partyline with and we successfully talked to people. Now that I’ve typed this all out I don’t have much for a dramatic finish. At the time we thought this was a fun game we were too young to drive so we never could meet anyone and never invited anyone to come meet us.

I remember doing this in high school while I was babysitting. (So much for exercising good judgment.) I ended up talking to a guy that I didn’t know who went to my high school and as I recall it was a really nice talk. But he was related to one of the popular kids who much have filled him in on my status between the night we talked and the next day we went to school because I never talked to him again.

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2 Responses to The Speaking Clock

  1. Marvin says:

    I miss the speaking clock. You probably know this song, if you’re a fan of speaking clocks.

  2. LuLubelle says:

    Our weather number to call was 936-1212, though I later learned that you could enter any digits you wanted to after the “936” part and you’d still get to the same place. I think our “time” number was 844-2525. I don’t know if our numbers were party-lines, though. Kids these days are missing out on so much.

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