Thursday, July 14, 2005

The Preacher’s Corner
By Rev. Dr. Milton Winter

One ringy-dingy, two ringy-dingies...

The members of our church are “getting used” to a new burglar alarm. The old one was disabled by a lightning strike. Not only is the new one cheaper, I do think the sound of the horn is more pleasant — this for the sake of our neighbors who have had to endure their share of “false alarms.”

Our organist Ruby Tate has had quite a time, too, due to a lightning strike from the same storm near her home at New Albany. That lightning disabled the telephones of the neighborhood, and the phone people were delayed in getting to the situation, so Ruby and her neighbors had to rely on cell phones until the land lines were back in service.

However, even after they worked on the lines, things were not right. Ruby’s number rang her neighbor’s phone and the neighbor’s number rang at the Tate’s house.

Once they figured this out, they just told callers to dial each other’s numbers and they at least were in communication with the outside world.

This brings up an age-old problem of crossed lines and wrong numbers which have plagued the population ever since Alexander Graham Bell installed the second phone. History records that Holly Springs once had two telephone companies in competition with one another for local telephones. Half of the town signed up with one company and the other half with the other. Because the lines were not connected, people could not talk with their neighbors.

Chesley Smith’s father was a doctor and he had to have telephones from both companies, so that all his patients could reach him. Eventually the situation was resolved and since then we have pretty much been able to call up whomever we please.

I came along after phones with dials. We did not have to call the operator except for long distance. But in the days of my childhood, I marveled that my father did not have to identify himself to the operator. He made many long distance calls and the operators recognized his voice. Where I grew up in the Delta it was said that Rosedale was the last town in the state to have operators for local calls. When I arrived here, Holly Springs claimed the distinction. Whichever one it is, the old Rosedale switchboard is on display at the state museum in Jackson.

The trouble is that I get lots of calls that are not intended for me. Typically these come just after I have gone to sleep or well before it is time to wake up! I suppose people are sleepy when dialing at such hours and prone to mistakes. At any rate I try to mumble something kind as I find this encourages a return to peaceful sleep. 

I do receive so many wrong numbers in the early morning that I have no need to set an alarm. In fact, I find myself waking up, almost expecting the phone to ring. My number is so popular a pizza parlor should have it. They would get lots of business if they exercised a little persuasion.

The most interesting number I ever had was while at seminary in Richmond, Virginia. That number had belonged to an auto mechanic, and every morning without fail, the calls would start about 6:00 a.m., with people wanting to bring their cars in for repair.

Why the shop ever gave up the number, I never knew. It certainly could not have been for lack of business.

Richmond’s phone service was interesting to say the least. Denton O’Dell, who lived in Rich-mond in the 1960s and was back in the city a couple of years ago on a visit, was startled to find while thumbing through the phone book, that his old number was still listed in his name even though he had not lived in Richmond for almost forty years! (I wonder how many old numbers are scattered through the pages of telephone books across the country?)

Hard as it is to admit, I confess that I sometimes dial the wrong number. Once when calling one of our town’s nice ladies, I realized that I had dialed the number of a good church member. I quickly regrouped and pretended I had intended to ring, as a pastoral call.

Mark Miller’s store is just one digit off from my number, and I receive lots of calls for the store. I always tell them, “we’re open and having a sale,” and they seem to hang up satisfied. A shoe salesman from Brooklyn, calling Mark, was harder to deal with. He would not accept that he had the wrong number. I told him to try and dial with a Southern accent.

That got him off the line and I have not heard from him again.

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