Frances Ellen Speaks!

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Archive for May, 2008

Party Lines – The Good Old Days

Sunday, May 25th, 2008

When I was a young, precocious, probably not so well-behaved youngster, I often stayed with my grandmother while my mother and father worked. Every chance I got, when my grandmother wasn’t looking, I’d pick up the telephone and listen for voices. Back in the 50’s, most people had party lines, a telephone line that was shared between two or three people. I didn’t know it at the time, but it must have had something to do with the scarcity of phone lines. I loved that party line.

But here’s another point of view from a blog written by Gifford Neill

We could not get a private telephone line as there were not enough phone lines running up to East Hartland. So we had to get a party line, and the only catch was that there was a lady in town there who seemed to spend all her time on our phone line. I was forced to build a little battery operated phone line detector, that monitored wheter the line was busy or not. If it was busy, a red light would remail lit; when the lady hung up, you could hear the relay “click”, and the light would go out. I’d grab the phone quickly then, as that was my chance. This provoked the lady as she liked to make a series of long phone calls one after the other.

Anyway, as much as Mr. Neill hated his party line, I absolutely adored my grandmother’s. Of course, it took me a while to perfect the art of picking up the receiver very slowly so that the two people already using the line would be unable to detect my presence. You had to be careful not to breath into the phone, too, but sometimes the talkers still could sense another person on the line. I didn’t find out until much later that the extra line created a hollow sound, and that’s how I got caught on the line. Needless to say, I got shouted off the phone a lot, but sometimes the women were so involved in their conversation that I went undiscovered. What bliss! Listening to grown-up conversations. It was like stepping into another world.

It was good, that is, until my grandmother caught me. When she saw what I was doing, she’d do this outrageous, crazy dance, her arms flying wildly in the air, which translated into “hang up before I murder you.” If you assume that after I hung up, I received a thorough tongue-lashing from my grandmother, you’d be wrong. Oh, she took a shot at it, but it would go something like this. “I told you never to listen in on other people’s conversations. That’s a very, very bad thing to do. What did you hear?”

Yes, my grandmother was just as anxious to hear the neighborhood gossip as I was. Gosh, I loved that party line. Did you have one?

(For those people who are following the astrology articles I write for, these are links to the Year of the Tiger, the Year of the Dragon and the Year of the Rabbit)

Year of the Ox

Sunday, May 18th, 2008

As I mentioned last week, I am currently writing astrology articles for If you were born in a Year of the Ox, or if you want to find out if you were, take a look.

Year of the Rat & Aura Color Test

Sunday, May 11th, 2008

I have recently become the Resident Expert on Astrology at So, instead of finding my usual post here, I will direct you to my latest articles at LifeScript. If you are interested in Chinese Astology, you might enjoy reading about predictions for the Year of the Rat.

Or you may be interested in Aura Colors . Take the Aura Color Test.

My Mother

Sunday, May 4th, 2008

It’s May, and Mother’s Day is right around the corner. This is the time of year I especially miss my mother. I’ve mentioned several times in this blog that I regret not asking her more questions about herself. But every year when May rolls around, I realize I do actually know a lot about her, if not everything.

For instance, I didn’t know it then, but I see it clearly now in retrospect, she was a feminist before that word even existed. Back in the early 50s, she decided she wanted to learn how to drive a car. There weren’t many women drivers on the road back then. Husbands usually did all the driving, or there was public transportation. That wasn’t good enough for my mother. She hired a driving instructor, passed her driver’s test and acquired a license long before her four sisters. As a matter of fact, she became their main mode of transportation, and even though she urged them to get their own licenses, it was several years before the first one found the courage to do it.

There’s no doubt she was the driving force in our family. She multi-tasked before that ever became a word, too. I guess that’s why I always regret knowing so little about this dynamo who was my mother. When I was a very young child, I thought there wasn’t anything she couldn’t do; I thought she knew just about everything. As a rebellious teenager, I hated that she was right about everything. And as an adult, I marveled at her wisdom.

I remember her facing off with our family doctor. Often, when I was sick with some childhood illness, the doctor would recommend a penicillin shot. At the time, penicillin was considered a miracle drug, but my mother insisted a person might build up an immunity to it. The doctor strongly disagreed, but grudgingly honored her wishes. One day, on the way home after one of these visits, she sympathized with me saying that she knew I felt very, very sick, but on the off chance I might need penicillin to save my life someday, she preferred to nurse me back to health without it. I was young, could hardly understand what she was telling me, but I felt her anxiety. Now I realize how hard it must have been to stick to her guns when all she had in her arsenal to defend herself was sheer conjecture. All I know is, while my friends almost always got a needle at the doctor’s office, I received very few. My mother took a stand at a time when doctors and scientists denied the possibility of resistance. Now we know that–

Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria change in some way that reduces or eliminates the effectiveness of drugs, chemicals, or other agents designed to cure or prevent infections. The bacteria survive and continue to multiply causing more harm.

If you wish to read more about how a body can build up a resistance to antibiotics, (information my mother was not privy to at the time) go to Pediatrics.

Although she could never convince me to eat red beets, she did manage to cajole me into eating carrots. She told me they were good for my eyes. Science has proved her right on that one, too.

And like many other mothers, she believed that chicken soup would make a sick person feel better. And according to the Mayo Clinic, studies show they were correct.

Generations of parents have spooned chicken soup into their sick children. Now scientists have put chicken soup to the test, discovering that it does have effects that might help relieve cold and flu symptoms.

However, when I purchased my first pair of reading glasses, she warned me not to become too dependent upon them because I would end up needing a stronger prescription every time I took an eye exam. Although the last part of her statement has proved correct, I’ve been told my eyes are going through their natural progression. As I age, my eyes age right along with me. So, I guess my mother was wrong on this one, or maybe…science just hasn’t caught up to her, yet.

Do you have a memory about your mother that you would like to share? This is the time and the place.