Grace is kind of an old fashioned name. I have known more than one Grace in my lifetime and the first was a little old lady, a widow, living two doors away from us in Parma, Ohio. Grace lived alone in a 50s bungalow just like ours. She was a relatively quiet woman and had the luck to be our party line. For those who are not aware of what those were, back in the day, when telephones were not cheap after WWII, this is often how we afforded them. They didn’t do this everywhere, Mary Kay was not acquainted with it, but we had one in the 60s when we moved into our Thornton Drive home. Normally, you had no idea of the identity of the party line person. In our case, we quickly realized that it was the neighbor to our west, two doors away.

The party line was as if the two phone systems were all in the same house. We could pick up our phone and although we had more than one phone (not at first, they were too expensive for our financial situation, they had to be ‘rented’ from Ohio Bell), it was as if the two homes were two different rooms. We could be talking to someone and the party line would pick up to make a call. They would not be able to because we were on the line. If we stayed on too long, which we did once my sister came of age, Grace would ask us to please finish as she needed to make or maybe receive a call. As long as we were talking, neither Grace nor we could receive a call and this was before the age of answering machines or voicemail.

Hence, why people of my generation tend to answer all phone calls, it was bred into us from an early age. We were afraid of missing something and fewer people were making calls. Robocalls didn’t exist nor did phone solicitors, for the most part.

I remember being really bad and when I got a small Aiwa reel to reel tape recorder, my fun started. It came with a special microphone to put next to the phone and record your calls. With a party line, that meant that you could put it next to the phone and record even without lifting up the receiver. Thus, I was able to record Grace. Fortunately for her, her conversations were completely uninteresting and I quickly gave that up.

I thought of Grace because Grace had a recipe for scones and Mary Kay made them yesterday morning. She was a sweet lady and late in life, someone broke into her house and raped her, which was a huge shock in our relatively quiet neighborhood. Nobody ever figured out who did it.

The other funny or maybe sad moment, was when my mother looked at Grace’s long nails and said, « You look like a witch. » We had an interesting discussion with my mom about that. My mom was introverted as am I and relatively shy, but later in life some of the things that her waning filter allowed were less than nice.

Thank you Grace Koprek, for being a good neighbor and friend to my mom.

About Richard Koerner

Sixty something, father, papi, educator, organizer, Francophile, traveler, amateur photographer, gardener, cyclist, kayaker, calligrapher, cinephile, reader, and overall renaissance type human being.
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