How Long Have You Had Your Phone Number?

Phones in appalachia

A few months ago I came across an old phone book-1977. The service areas caught my eye. I had never seen Fontana Village listed on a local phone book.

The Suit listing made me smile. You don’t hear people talk about Suit much these days, but in days gone by it was a common moniker for that community.


After looking at the front I immediately flipped to the Ws to see if Pap and Granny’s number was listed. There it was in black and white. The same number they’ve always had.

My finger slid down through the Wilsons looking for Papaw and Mamaw. They were there too- Wilson Wade Rev Brstn. I was surprised to see their actual phone number because I never knew it. Mamaw died when I was in 5th grade and Papaw moved shortly thereafter. I guess I didn’t call them enough to imprint their number on my brain. But I do have other long time phone numbers floating around in my head.

There’s my closest Brasstown friend from childhood. Her parents’ number can still roll off my tongue in just seconds. They still have it too.

Martins Creek Elementary’s number lives in my brain too. Probably because I helped out in the office when I was in 8th grade and saw it a lot.

Sometimes the numbers in our heads outlast the actual phone on the other end. The other day I rattled off the number to the oil company Pap used to work for to Miss Cindy. She tried to call, but the number had been disconnected. Unbeknownst to me, the company is no longer in business.

We’ve had the same number since we first moved in almost 20 years ago. At about the 15 year mark, a bill collector kept calling for someone who didn’t live here. One day a rather persistent lady kept questioning me until I finally said “Look I’ve lived in this house with this phone number for 15 years and I promise you I’d know if someone by that name lived here!” She must have finally heard the honesty in my voice because she said she’d never call again and she didn’t.

Helping make calls at work recently showed me folks today don’t keep their numbers so long. Apparently many of them change numbers about every 6 months. I’m guessing the cell phone phenomenon has changed the longevity of phone numbers.


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  • Reply
    eva m. wike
    September 26, 2017 at 8:52 am

    Tipper: You are not going to get anything done today – that is if you read all these comments folks have shared with you. Back when we were kids, my Daddy ran a PHONE LINE from our house (Matheson Cove) all the way to town to the telephone office – right through the woods, down the Cheery Mountain and on into Hayesville. Aunt Lizzy Curtis was the operator and everybody knew her. She kept up with what was happening to everybody! AND TOLD EVERYBODY THE ‘news’ if they wanted to know – and sometimes if they didn’t want to know! Finally when we graduated from High School, we went to Atlanta and got a job at the telephone office down on Ivy Street. WHAT A LIFE!!
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    Janice Stout
    February 16, 2015 at 5:43 pm

    My mother still has the same number we had for as long as I can remember (and I am nearly 54 years old). My Aunt still has the same number for 50+ years.

  • Reply
    Keith Jones
    February 16, 2015 at 5:30 pm

    We’ve had what is now my ‘land line’ number in our family since July of 1960. It started as a 2-party line, with Epworth Baptist Church office being the other line, and our house the other. At the time we lived in the pastorium for Epworth Baptist. When Mom and Dad bought this house the church let them keep the number, and I kept it when I moved in, mostly out of sentiment, since we have two cell numbers. Debbie’s cell number was my first cell when I was a pastor in Atlanta, and we’ve had it for nearly 19 years now. WOW, time flies!

  • Reply
    February 12, 2015 at 12:49 am

    HiTipper,Its past 7;30 PM here in Hi.Got to comment on phone numbers,I’ll 75 next month and I still remember our number from early childhood -63r-and Grandma’s was-75f2.Shorter in the old days.God Bless.

  • Reply
    February 11, 2015 at 8:21 pm

    Ours changed when we moved to the country about 5 years ago; before then though, we had a number we’d had for several years. It was nowhere near as long as one of our aunts (Aunt Marge) who I believe has had the same number since I was a young child (I’m now 67). Now I do know at one point, there were letters in the number, like GL (for Glade) and TE (for Temple), etc., and of course, there was no area code way back then, but I believe even through that, her number was the same.
    Does anyone here remember party lines? We had 9 on ours at one time which made it a wonder anyone ever got through to us calling.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    February 11, 2015 at 4:43 pm

    I think I’ve still got one of the
    original Grey-looking Continental
    Telephone books back when we had
    “party line” numbers. I remember
    talking to a buddie one time about Deer Hunting and noticed the sound decreased. (someone had picked up listening in.) I already suspected who it was so I said “ain’t that right, Ted?” and he answered “that’s right.”ha

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    February 11, 2015 at 4:20 pm

    My parents didn’t get a telephone on Wiggins Creek until the early 70’s. When I got married and moved away, we didn’t get a phone for 8 or 10 years. Then my work required me to get one. That was about 1985. I have had that number ever since.
    If it was up to me, we wouldn’t have a phone now.

  • Reply
    February 11, 2015 at 3:25 pm

    I agree with Miss Cindy! Something to be said about a simpler time. We have had our number for over twenty years now.

  • Reply
    February 11, 2015 at 1:55 pm

    So many things have gone from names to numbers. The wide single lane gravel road I grew up on was called “Stewart Rd” (it is now 5 paved lanes and has a number) and our phone number (the first one I remember) was “Stewart – followed by 4 numbers”. Those numbers never changed in the 50 plus years my parents lived there but over the years the name “Stewart” was changed to “ST7” and that eventually became “787”. I can remember calling Daddy from Kansas and Momma telling the operator the state and town she was calling then giving the number. Later, an “area code” was given instead of the state and town. At some point (after we no longer used an operator) a “1” was placed in front of the area code when we dialed long distance. Nowadays we have to dial the area code for our local numbers as well as for long distance creating some confusion because some of our area code also need a “1” in front of them – haven’t figured out the rhyme or reason for which ones need the preliminary “1”.
    Back tracking a bit – I still remember how to “ring” my aunt who was on the same party line as my Kansas grandmother: crank once to ring once, pause, crank twice to ring twice, pause, crank once to ring once. It wasn’t unusual for someone else on the party line to pick up the phone just to join in the conversation which upset me no end because as soon as another adult got on the line, I didn’t get to talk to my aunt. Guess I didn’t call Grandma’s house much because I don’t remember her ring.
    As for current day phones – we have a land line because we are in a little valley and our cell phones don’t work here. We have cell phones because we wanted our folks to be able to reach us any time – which didn’t exactly work out since our church is in a “dead zone” also. . . .
    Then we could also talk about phone scams, don’t call lists that don’t mean a thing, voice messages that don’t appear until 3 – 5 days after they were placed, calls that don’t come through even though you are not on the line. . . .
    Like all technology – phones are both beneficial and bane!

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    February 11, 2015 at 1:43 pm

    When I was a boy, we lived outside Harriman, TN. Our phone number was 377-W. We were on a two-party line. We dialed “0” and told the operator who we wanted to call.

  • Reply
    February 11, 2015 at 1:27 pm

    Mom and dad moved a lot so we had several phone numbers because in those days the first part of the number was the line number and the second which came after a letter, i.e. 137F14, was the number of times the phone was to be rung by the operator; in the example above, it would tell the operator to plug into line #137 and ring 1 long and 4 short rings. Every phone on the line rang at the same time so the ‘ring code’ told us which home was being called. When we lived in Georgia we had a home number for about 22 years; we’ve had our cell numbers for 14 years now and even though we’ve moved to Kentucky, another area code, we have not changed the number, nor shall we..

  • Reply
    Paul Certo
    February 11, 2015 at 1:17 pm

    Since April, 1973. I never had a reason to change it.

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    February 11, 2015 at 12:45 pm

    We’ve had ours for over 40 yrs!

  • Reply
    Cheryl Soehl
    February 11, 2015 at 12:24 pm

    I can’t remember if I kept my parents’ phone number. I believe I may have, which would mean it’s been the same since the 60s. If not, I have had it since 1989 and it’s unlisted to try to keep away the random solicitation calls. Debating now giving up the analog landline for a digital phone that AT&T is trying to bribe me to do. They don’t want to maintain those analog lines any longer. Biggest advantage of an analog line is they still work even when the power is out.

  • Reply
    February 11, 2015 at 12:06 pm

    I think I still have my old rotary trim-line phone. It was light green and I loved that thang, sure could hear better on it. But now they have these Speaker Phones that’ll eat up your battery faster, but every person in the room can talk.
    I kinda have the attitude like Don, seems like they ring at the
    wrong times.(and too much!)

  • Reply
    Ken Ryan
    February 11, 2015 at 12:05 pm

    Smart cell phones have literally changed our society. With a device that can be carried in a shirt pocket, you can have instant communication with others all over the world, as well as a quality still camera, video camera, notebook, maps, alarm clock, calculator, photo album, calendar, music player, & research library. Truly amazing!

  • Reply
    Suzi Phillips
    February 11, 2015 at 11:57 am

    I’ve had my cell number for about 10 years- practically ancient in cell phone terms. My mom has had her landline number for over 50 years, other than Mitchell’s it’s the only number I still have memorized! It’s way too easy to just type a name into my contact list without ever really seeing the number-

  • Reply
    Bobby Dale
    February 11, 2015 at 10:48 am

    I well remember, as a 5 year old in rural Arkansas, our phone. It was like the one on Andy Griffith show. Wooden box, pick up the receiver, turn the crank and await the operator. When she answered we would say, “Gertrude, I want to talk to John Doe, please,” and she would ring John. No dialing of numbers. We’ve come a long way!
    Bobby Dale

  • Reply
    February 11, 2015 at 10:38 am

    I think my mom has had the same number for up to 50 years. It’s the same now as when I was a kid. Your mom might even know it by heart.

  • Reply
    February 11, 2015 at 10:21 am

    We’ve had the same number since 1960–but several years ago we had to put the area code in front even for local calls. Before 1960, the phone had a name and number. Tuxedo-9-xxxx and before that one, it was just xxxx.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    February 11, 2015 at 9:43 am

    After my Mother passed, I called the phone company to disconnect her service. Since she was 93 and on a fixed income she had gone to the minimal service.
    The call went something like this:
    Operator: Bell South, how may I direct your call…
    Me: Service department!
    Operator: Business or home or other?
    Me: home!
    Operator: New service, additional service, moving service (here I was attempted to say ‘moving’), billing or service cancellation?
    Me: Cancellation
    Operator: pause…just a moment!
    New operator: How may I help you!
    Me: I want to cancel service to this number!
    Operator: Name, address, city, state?
    Me: all info given!
    Operator: Are you the party at this address that needs to cancel service?
    Me: No!
    Operator: Could I speak to Ms. please?
    Me: No, I am her daughter and she died and I need to cancel her phone service!
    Operator: Why? Will someone be staying or living there?
    Me: Yes, on occasion.
    Operator: So, do you want to transfer to another address or name?
    Me: By this time being anxious anyway, I said…”Not unless you transfer to the PEARLY GATES HEAVEN address ALSO I am not sure how the BILL will get MAILED, it being LONG DISTANCE AND ALL!”
    Operator: (long pause) music playing…I’m sorry, would you repeat the address and name again?
    Me: Look, could you just cancel my Mothers phone service, we grown children have cell phones and there will be no need of this service anymore…(my voice breaking now)
    Operator: I’m sorry! We just hate to cancel this service. Do you realize how long this number has been in service at this address?
    Over 60 years!
    Me: Yes, my Mother was 93 and they moved here when the city started in 1943!
    Operator: Just a moment..(music)..
    This number is one of the longest standing in-service numbers I have ever seen.
    Me: I am sure, I don’t think it was ever changed at any time except when they added the area codes!
    Operator: pause…We are sorry your Mother passed. The number has been canceled and service will be disconnected in approximately one hour or 24 hours!
    Me: Why one hour, etc? Usually it is immediate? Will the bill be prorated from the time I called?
    Operator: Well, it was a long standing customer account and yes, the bill will be prorated. Will the bill still be mailed to this address and who will be responsible?
    Me: Yes, the estate of or me and I will get you a check in the mail as soon as you call back with the balance!
    Operator: Thank you, is there anything else I can do for you!
    Me: Not unless…(pause)…could you retire her number so no one else ever has it again?
    Operator: I’m not sure, but possible…Thank you”
    Me: Thank you, bye!
    Thanks Tipper,
    PS…Post or not it’s OK!..but that is how it went and that is how long her number was in service!

  • Reply
    Garland Davis
    February 11, 2015 at 9:28 am

    We have had the same phone number since we bought the house twenty-eight years ago. I got my first cell phone, for business purposes, seventeen years ago and still have the original number. With the phone book feature of todays phone, I determined to forget every phone number I ever knew. I think I have succeeded.

  • Reply
    Joyce Mullikin
    February 11, 2015 at 9:19 am

    My husband & I have had the same phone number since 1962. We have lived in three houses but we’re always able to take the number with us.
    Today we don’t remember numbers, we plug them into our cell phones & press a button when we call. The other day I didn’t have my phone with me & realized I couldn’t call anywhere but home. No other numbers in my memory.

  • Reply
    February 11, 2015 at 9:13 am

    My neighbor said I must be the only person around who still has a land line.
    I can still remember the phone number I had when I bought my first house back in the 70s. The number never changed until I moved to another county eight years later.

  • Reply
    February 11, 2015 at 9:13 am

    We have had our phone numbers for twenty years, except for my husband’s cell number which is about ten years now. Your post made me remember that we had the same home number for almost thirty years before we sold the house and moved out of the area. Interesting that people feel the need to change numbers. There must be reasons for the many changes! Hummm!

  • Reply
    February 11, 2015 at 8:45 am

    I also remember the 8 party and later the 4 party lines with different rings for each family. I was probably in high school before we had a private line. Before that when we heard some other family’s ring we wondered who was calling them. Most of the time we listened to find out. (eaves dropping it was called)
    You mentioned the calls for someone else. We had calls for some fellow over and over from bill collectors recently. I finally got it stopped by saying, “Hold on and I’ll see if he’s here.” I then pressed the hold button and went about my day. Sometimes the hold light would stay on for 10 – 15 minutes before they gave up.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    February 11, 2015 at 8:24 am

    I’ve had the same phone number since 1987. It was a land line till a few years ago then I transferred it to a cell phone and discontinued the home phone. When I moved to Murphy my cell phone and number came with me so that was one thing I didn’t worry about with the move.
    I live a conservative lifestyle. I would not get a cell phone without discontinuing my home phone. I was not willing to maintain two phones. This was only partly because of the cost but more because I don’t use the phone a lot and just didn’t want the hassle of two phone numbers.
    I made a decision to get a cell phone when I could get one for the same price as my land line and that’s exactly what I did.
    I do find it a convenience to be able to take my phone with me wherever I go.
    Life styles have changed a lot in the last few years. We are much more mobile in all respects. I suppose that’s good but sometimes long for the simpler time!

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    February 11, 2015 at 8:11 am

    Tipper–Being a tad older than Don (well, a decade, truth be told), my memories of the family phone go back farther but are also less vivid. What I do remember is that there were different ring patterns to let everyone on the party line know whether the call was for them.
    Like Don, I went downtown to do any telephone “sparkin’.” We had one party line member who was bad to listen in. Besides that, the phone was in the dining room, squarely between the kitchen and the living room, the two places where family were most likely to be and where they were perfectly situated to listen in. As a result I fed far too many dimes into the pay phone in the back corner of Bennett’s Drug Store in order to talk to gals.
    When I went off to college (1960), the converted house serving as a mini-dorm in which I lived did not have a phone. The remaining three years I did have access to a phone–there was a single phone for three floors of the dormitory.
    Maybe all that growing up with minimal access to or use of phones ruint me. I don’t own a cell phone to this day, much to the dismay or disbelief of most everyone around me.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    February 11, 2015 at 8:03 am

    After reading this I was surprised to
    realize I could remember lots of numbers from my childhood.
    We had the same number for over 50 years. When my mother sold her home and moved to an apartment the number went with her.
    I also remember the station-station and person-person calls and we called collect to ourselves if we wanted to let someone know we had arrived somewhere safely. That way we did not have to pay for the call.

  • Reply
    Carolyn Hunt
    February 11, 2015 at 7:39 am

    I remember my grandparents phone number. It was started with the letters c e. Which was 2 3. Does anyone remember using letters when giving out their phone number?

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    February 11, 2015 at 7:31 am

    We’very had our number since the early 70,s. My mom and dad had theirs even longer. It stared with letters then 4 numbers Howard which changed to 461 it only changed once the entire time I was growing up starting as a number you gave to the operator 3746M then to a number that could be dialed. Our area was one of the last to change, in the late 50’s or early 60’s

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    February 11, 2015 at 7:31 am

    We’very had our number since the early 70,s. My mom and dad had theirs even longer. It stared with letters then 4 numbers Howard which changed to 461 it only changed once the entire time I was growing up starting as a number you gave to the operator 3746M then to a number that could be dialed. Our area was one of the last to change, in the late 50’s or early 60’s

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    February 11, 2015 at 7:31 am

    We’very had our number since the early 70,s. My mom and dad had theirs even longer. It stared with letters then 4 numbers Howard which changed to 461 it only changed once the entire time I was growing up starting as a number you gave to the operator 3746M then to a number that could be dialed. Our area was one of the last to change, in the late 50’s or early 60’s

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    February 11, 2015 at 7:31 am

    We’very had our number since the early 70,s. My mom and dad had theirs even longer. It stared with letters then 4 numbers Howard which changed to 461 it only changed once the entire time I was growing up starting as a number you gave to the operator 3746M then to a number that could be dialed. Our area was one of the last to change, in the late 50’s or early 60’s

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    February 11, 2015 at 6:45 am

    Until sometime in the late 1960s, we had a four digit phone number in Bryson City – 2711. That four-digit number had been on a party line up until the early 1960s.
    Within my memory, you could always dial a local number (rotary dial, of course) direct, but any long distance call required dialing 0 and giving the operator the information. That persisted for awhile after we went to a seven digit phone number.
    I wonder how many of your readers will remember that when you placed a long distance call, you had two choices – a call to the phone number for which you paid one rate or a person-to-person call which was at a higher rate?
    The upside to the person-to-person call was that if whoever you were trying to reach wasn’t there, there was no charge.
    Then of course there were collect calls – which could also be number to number or person to person.
    One more thing – even though we always had a phone at the house, I would ride my bike downtown to make long distance calls on a pay phone to a girlfriend who lived in Waynesville. And lest you wonder – I didn’t ride my bicycle to Waynesville (actually Crabtree-Ironduff) to visit – I hitchhiked as far as I could go and walked the rest.
    Has civilization really advanced?

  • Reply
    February 11, 2015 at 6:43 am

    In the line of work I’m doing now (still with the Electric Coop) the Serviceman/Collector, We find most of the time folks that don’t have a land line use cell phones and change those number quit often to try to stay away from bill collectors.. But most folks are not home enough to answer a phone anymore so they just carry it with them, but they are the ones whose numbers don’t change..But with us phone or no phone your power gets cut off anyway if the bills not paid..

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