Object: My childhood toy telephone
Occupation: Artist, Professor Emeritus
Location: At our house - Greenwich Street, New York, NY (on the chest of drawers in my study, the conversation room)
This toy telephone is something I got when I was a young child, maybe 4 or 5 years old or younger. Back then I really enjoyed playing with it, pretending to have phone conversations with friends or imaginary people. At that time our phone number in Chicago was MIDway 0027. When I got my farm on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, Canada our party line number out of Mabou was 17 ring 11 (one long turn of the crank and one short turn). That phone was like early models one can see in the Alexander Graham Bell Museum in nearby Baddeck, and is still attached to the wall of the dining room but is no longer functional. I remember calling our neighbor up there, Maggie Burke, from New York to tell her about the birth of our son Bracken. Phone conversations were always carried on in a very loud voice. She said later how clearly she could hear me. She was just not sure whether we said it was a boy or a girl, which indicated the quality of the reception. When we got a phone call one could hear all the neighbors picking up their phones to get the latest news and the reception would get less and less. Our neighbor Marie MacPhee spoke of how sorry she was to see the old phones and party lines go because now she could no longer keep in touch with the rest of her family as easily. At some point the toy phone came back to me, having been played with by children and grandchildren in my parents house. I enjoy having it now just as an object and as a very special memory of the past.