Editorial: New becomes old: Technological leaps part of our historyMost of us get so caught up with instant forms of communication, from emailing to texting, that we forget how far we’ve come. Until they malfunction or the battery runs low, we take our cell and smart phones for granted.
Most of us get so caught up with instant forms of communication, from emailing to texting, that we forget how far we’ve come. Until they malfunction or the battery runs low, we take our cell and smart phones for granted.
Yet back in the day — after World War II — local communications also took a giant leap. We can chuckle now at how primitive it seems, but the leap was every bit as significant as today’s highly touted 4G mobile phone networks.
And just like with the latest computing functions, there was a steep learning curve to overcome. Here’s how the post-WW II communications leap was depicted in “Kinnickinnic Country: River Falls in the Forties and Fifties”:
One day at the end of November 1948, Alderman Ray Henneman picked up the telephone in the office of Mayor John Bartosh, dialed a number, and “a moment later, the bell in the new and modern dial telephone in the Journal office emitted a cheery ring and Editor C.E. Chubb was present to answer this history-making telephone call.”
The dial system had come to town. To prepare for the change, efforts were made to educate the public, helping them drop the old system which involved taking the receiver off the hook, speaking to the operator to tell her the number they were calling, and waiting while she made the connection.
Art Wilmot, the Wisconsin Telephone Company’s local manager, planned movie showings before local groups to explain the new system. Chubb noted one of the changes that River Falls folks would have to get used to:
With the switchover will vanish old-fashioned telephone service we have enjoyed for many years. For instance, now if you are expecting a long-distance telephone call and you do not plan on being home or in your office, you can call central and say: “I’ll be at such and such a place when the call comes through. Call me there.” That will be out under the new system. You will have to take the call at your number.
Replacing the old system of three digits per subscriber, the new phone book gave each family a four-digit number. The directions given in a Journal ad specified what to do in dialing the example of 2801:
Place the telephone receiver to your ear and LISTEN FOR THE DIAL TONE – a steady humming sound.
With the receiver off, place your finger in the opening through which the numeral 2 appears and turn the dial until the finger strikes the fingerstop…
In the same manner dial the numerals 8, 0, and 1.
When you have dialed, you will hear either the ‘ringing signal,’ a burring sound, or the ‘busy signal,’ a steady buzz-buzz sound.
The Journal pointed out, however, that it would not be a totally machine existence under the dial system: “If you wish information on the new dial system, you can dial the operator, and the ‘Voice With A Smile’ will answer.”
Dial phones may have been unwelcome to some because they meant less personal contact with an operator, but telephone usage increased…
Published in 2010, “Kinnickinnic Country” can either be checked out from the public library or bought there. Freeman Drug on Main Street also sells copies, as does former Mayor Don “DR” Richards, who assisted Mark Wyman in writing the book. DR says anyone is welcome to call him — on his cell phone — at 715-441-2397 if they want to buy a copy from him.
Like the introduction of the new dial-tone phone system, “Kinnickinnic Country” is filled with delightful reminisces of what the River Falls community was like and how it grew and changed. It’s not hard to relate to the apprehensions that people back then felt — as they still do today — by the pace and scope of change.
The Journal’s online poll question this week is: Has your view changed on gay marriage? So far there’s been a huge response. Early results show:
--UNCHANGED, have always supported the marriage idea for all, 43.5%
--NO, it’s morally wrong, period, and I still oppose it, 40.9%
--YES, I’ve come around to accept the idea as being just and fair, 11.7%
--UNDECIDED, I’m conflicted and influenced by arguments on both sides, 3.9%
Add your voice by going to www.riverfallsjournal.comGo to www.riverfallsjournal.com and cast your vote.