In my sixties coming-of-age novel A Daffodil for Angie there's a “gossip bench” or “telephone chair” in the hallway. It was a piece of furniture common to homes in the fifties and sixties that looked a bit like a school desk. There was a small table on one end where a rotary telephone sat. The other end was a chair. That’s where many a teenage girl or boy sat to talk to their latest heartthrob. Angie’s older sister, Deedee, spends hours doing just that – talking to her boyfriends and then calling her girlfriends afterwards to tell them all about it.
There was no social media. No cellphones. No texting. No sending your friends selfies. Teens talked on the telephone. Or listened to each other breathe when they couldn’t think of anything to say.
And there was only one phone line. So if there was more than one teenager in the family, it wasn’t uncommon to have squabbles over who was hogging the phone. “You’ve been on the phone an hour! Get off the phone!” If your father was waiting for a business call, you couldn’t use the phone at all. Groan!
My family had a telephone chair very much like the one pictured above. It sat in a little alcove between the living room and the hallway. That was back when you memorized the important phone numbers. The other numbers you entered into one of those pop-open, rolodex phone directories. You had to answer the phone too because there was no answering machine, no way to leave a message. You had no idea who was calling. With three teens in my house, when the phone rang it was sometimes a mad dash to see who would get to the phone first, each of us hoping it was for us.
If you'd like to take a little trip to the 1960s, here’s a short blurb for A Daffodil for Angie: It's 1966. Angie's got a lot on her plate - the women's rights movement, school integration, the Vietnam War, a cocky anti-war activist and a sexy quarterback.