Tuesday, May 09, 2017

The Telephone Call

The time was the 1930s. My parents both worked nights, including Christmas Eve. I was too young for our small family to have formed any traditions at this time of the year. On this particular evening I was staying with my dad at his job. He was a telegrapher for the Postal Telegraph Union, later to be called  the Western Union. 

In those early days there weren't many  crayons and coloring books, so my responsibility while waiting for daddy's job to end at midnight was to stay quiet. People came and went sending their families a beautiful Christmas telegram.  Noise from electric machines was loud in the back of the room. Local messengers came in and out to grab local 'grams to deliver immediately.

1938 clipping

The office was one large room with a small area entered by the front door where a counter ran from one end of the room to the other. Here, patrons composed and finalized their  telegrams. More telegrams were sent in those days because many people didn't have telephones. To receive a telegram--strips of paper upon which a message had been typed then pasted onto a sheet of paper with a big banner at the top declaring: POSTAL TELEGRAM could be joy or sadness.

For a time I sat looking out the wide windows at the rushing people outdoors. In those days much purchasing occurred Christmas Eve.  When people became less, I'd get up and hop across the front of the room from one linoleum block to the other, counting the entire time. Never did the numbers change.

At one end of the counter for patrons was a telephone booth. The phone rang. I didn't move. I had never heard that phone ring. I continued to sit, the phone continued to ring. Finally, one of the workers in the back yelled, "Get that, Vivian, I think that's for you!" I didn't rush. Who called little girls? With a bit more effort from the man in the back, I opened the door, stood on the seat and picked up the small black receiver, leaned into the phone and said, "Hello?" 

"Ho, Ho, Ho, is this Miss Vivian?"

"Yessss, sir."

"Well, Miss Vivian, this is Santa calling you from the North Pole. I'm about to leave and wanted to be sure I have your list filled."

My heart pounded like a hammer on a nail.  Santa had called me! Nervously I recited my three requests: a pink dress with pockets, a Sonja Heini doll wearing ice skates, and a barrette for my hair.

"That's what I have on this list, too, little lady. When you get home, go right to sleep, and I'll be there before you know it! Bye now."

I dropped the receiver, ran through the swinging door separating the front from the back and jumped up and down like a toy clown, and yelled to the night workers, "I just talked to Santa Claus. " They hugged and danced and said, "What a lucky girl you are!"

After closing time Daddy and I hurriedly walked the six blocks home. I jumped into bed without any supper. I couldn't wait to wake up the next morning.

Many years passed before I asked my Dad who called that night. He admitted it was he; but I declared "it surely didn't sound like your voice." That story became a part of our celebrations every Christmas until I left home.

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