"Party Line Patter"


































































San Miguel Telephone Company Open House 1927

by David Barlogio

During the 1940's when we had at least eight families on our party line in the Willow Creek area, I remember one day when my Swiss dad, Miles Barglogio, called his mother in San Luis Obispo. As he turned the crank to ring the operator for her to place the long distance call, everyone on the line could hear the ring, and he could hear the receivers being picked up. He began his conversation with his mother in English, then realized that he could solve the problem of the "rubbernecks" who were listening --- he and his mother changed from English to their Swiss dialect. One by one they could hear the receivers being put back on the hook!

By Violet Ernst

It was 1945 --- just after the end of World War II. My husband and I started our married life without many items as they were not available due to the war. One of these items was a telephone. Before the Pacific Bell era, LaRue Smith owned the telephone line that served the customers on Union Road. LaRue told us that no more customers could be put on the Union Road party line. But . . . if we would attach poles (2x4's) to our fence posts, he would string the telephone line from the area of the Huero Huero Bridge on Union Road across the field about a mile and a half to our house.

Somehow he connected us to the telephone of my husband's father and mother at their home on Union Road. Their number was 2F4. When their  telephone would ring four bells ours would also ring. Both families would pick up the receiver and listen to see whom the call was for. If it was not for us, we would hang up the phone and visa versa. We finally were able to have our own telephone on another four-party line. The same line was used on the fence post poles for many years.

By Gene Ernst

There was a lady on the same phone line my parent's line at their ranch on Union Road, and she was on the phone constantly. If you wanted to make a call, you would have to tell her you needed the line. Seldom could anyone get a call through to the ranch. If a call did come through, she always managed to say, "Hello" to whoever was calling my parents.

by Norman Bridge

My parents, Art and Myrle Bridge, had a dairy farm along the Estrella River, which was on past what is now the airport and Boys' School. We were on the San Miguel Phone Company line. There were thirteen on the line and it was usually busy, not with business, but primarily gossip! The radio had so much static that news was hard to come by, other than people "rubber necking" on the party line.

My dear mother used to start false rumors on the phone just to see how fast the news would spread. Our ring was three long and two short rings. Every time you phoned out or received a call you would her several receivers come off the hook to listen in.

By Bill Gerst

The following incident was one of several similar which occurred on the old Adelaida "party-line" telephone system, since all the bells rang at all residences on the system. This allowed the curious to "rubberneck" on what other people were talking about.

During one such incident when my mother and an aunt were in the midst of a conversation which had some uncertainty about it, one of the neighborly "neighbors" chimed right in and straightened them right out!

The system had its advantages also, though: times of emergency such as sickness, accidents, new births, you name it. I imagine that the system provided considerable entertainment.

By Ray E. Harden

The telephone line came to our ranch in Parkfield from San Miguel via Vineyard and Portuguese canyons. It consisted of a single wire strung between trees and 2x4's nailed to fence posts. The line to our place was eight miles from San Miguel. The small white ceramic insulators were made in two pieces with a hole through the center for a 16 penny nail. Some of these insulators and wire may still be seen in trees along the old route.

Our crank type phone hung on the wall in the dining room. Our ring was two long rings and a short ring. The system was a party line and one had to be very careful who one talked about.

The San Miguel Telephone Company was operated by Howard and Doty Neagly. While serving in the navy, I had the opportunity to call home from overseas. I believe it was from Keeling, Formosa in December 1950. The call, which cost about ten dollars for three minutes was to be my Christmas present to my folks. The overseas operator put the call through to the switchboard in San Miguel. Doty was on duty and got excited when the operator told her who and where the call was coming from. Mom came on the line and Doty told me to go ahead. I said, "Hi, Mom. This is Ray calling from Formosa. Don't worry, nothing is wrong." Then the line went dead. Later Mom wrote that Howard had gone right out to check the line and found a bad insulator about 2 3/4 miles from our house. Howard and Doty were very dedicated to their customers, and it upset them that the failure was on their part of the system.


The Good Ol' Days