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Corda was really her name but in my parent's generation, in our part of the country, many word endings were changed. Particularly when using people's names, the "a" sound was pronounced with a "long-e" sound.

In fact, on occasion Dad called Mom, "Dory", but being born and raised UP NORTH in Nebraska and Iowa that was not proper, and she would set him straight. "Joe, my name is Dora and that is pronounced Dor-ah not Dor-ee," she would inform him.

“Cordy”, and her husband, Alvin Davis, were our local telephone operators for years and lived catty-corner from our house. At that time, it seemed to me, the telephone office consisted of a desk, a switchboard and a big bunch of wires running from a corner pole right through a hole in the Davis living room wall. (At one time the telephone office was in our house, but that is another story at another time.)

Cordy's hobby was raising prize winning iris. She didn't have much of a regular yard with grass, most of it was all one big iris flower bed. Early in the morning, or during the cool evening hours, she loved to work in her flower bed. Every year she would call me across the street to see the catalog pictures of the new award winning bulbs she had ordered. I thought their names, such as Pale Pink Princess, Salmon Beauty, Lavender Velvet or Queen Victoria sounded like fairy tale names.

In the spring when her iris were about ready to bloom we anxiously waited to see if they would meet our expectations. Cordy had a magic touch with iris and they were always beautiful. Sometimes in a rare moment of generosity she would gently clip a lovely bloom and give it to me and I would tenderly carry it home and put in one of Mom's pretty vases and it would decorate our dining table. In the summer we often had some kind of a bouquet on the table from our own flower beds or Melessa Burton’s wonderful smelling lilac bush. We had some pretty flowers but never any award winning iris.

There were times when Alvin would be out repairing the lines and would not be available to relieve her at the switchboard. When she wanted to go outside she would turn on a loud bell that could be faintly heard from her yard if someone rang in to make a call. I didn't want to worry her when she was taking care of the flowers, there was no need to crank the phone and ring her bell, so I would yell across the street "Cordy, when you get in the house I want to make a call!" Sure enough in a few minutes I would see her go in and our phone would ring and Cordy would ask "Who do you want to call, Betty?" There was no need to bother with numbers, I didn't know them anyway. Party Line Telephone numbers were like codes, for example, 2 longs, 1 short, l long. I would just tell her the name such as, "I want to talk to Carrie". While the number was ringing we would visit, usually about why I wanted to talk to my girlfriend. Cordy was always interested in those type of details.

When the number didn't answer, sometimes she could give me a progress report such as, "Well, Betty, I don't think they are home, I think they went to Enid and won't be back until about two o'clock, do you want me to try then?" Notice she used words such as "think" and "about" because she didn't want me to think she had really definite knowledge, heaven forbid that anyone would listen in on another person's telephone calls. If you were on a party line (several customers on the same line) you could listen to anyone else on that line and knew the codes for everyone. In town we had our own line so it was more private.

Some Saturdays, when Alvin and Cordy went to Enid, she would ask me to run the switchboard. Oh my, did I love that? When all of the kids were calling each other making evening plans? Sometimes they would try to include me and ask “Are you listening, Betty?” Of course I didn’t say a word and was careful to breath very quietly.

Talk about User-Friendly Telephone Service! With the exception of after 11 o'clock at night. That was when she closed, except for emergencies. In fact she was never very friendly or helpful after 10 o'clock. You couldn't lie to her and tell her it was an emergency because you would mysteriously be disconnected. Dean tried that when we lived in Wichita!

We often had a minister at our church from out of town and the church members took turns "having the preacher" for Sunday dinner. Well, one Sunday it was our turn to have the preacher. After dinner, served at noon at our house, Rev. and Mrs. Linton and Mom and Dad were visiting and I was outside when I heard our old wall telephone being cranked and cranked. I looked in through the screen door and saw Rev. Linton at the phone and I heard him say "Joe, the operator doesn’t answer, I don't believe your phone is working". I thought I might as well explain it all to him because I had seen Cordy going down her back path. I walked in the house and helpfully said, "Rev. Linton, you might as well wait, Cordy's gone to the outhouse and when she takes her iris catalog it usually takes her quite awhile".

From the dead silence, and my Mother's red face, I knew I had made a serious error in "small child etiquette", even if there seemed to be a very tiny smile on Dad's face. There is usually a lesson to be learned from memorable moments like that one. After Mom had her talk with me I knew several proper ways to inform people when someone "was going to step outside". In fact it was not something I should normally even discuss, and I was never, ever, to even think about mentioning it when the preacher came to call.

By Betty Jo Gibson Scott

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