, Derry, New Hampshire


June 20, 2013

Column: Robert Frost really was a telephone eavesdropper


I quickly put in a $400 bid through my bidding service, which means my bid wouldn’t go in until the last four seconds of the auction. This prevents anyone from topping me by seeing what I bid and typing in a slightly higher bid. Of course, if another bidder has a similar bidding service and told his program to bid up to $425 then he would win and I would cry. Now I had to wait for seven days for the auction to close.

I left the next day for a vacation in Puerto Rico so I had to watch the auction on a very small and slow computer. On the last day of the sale there were six other people bidding. The auction was to end at 2 a.m. so I set my alarm clock to get me up right before the auction ended. I was hopeful but was prepared to lose.

There was a lot of last-minute action among all the other bidders. Finally at T minus 4 seconds, slam, bam, my bid went in. Joy of all joys, I won with a bid of $398. That was close, too close! A week later the phone book came by mail and I spent a couple days studying it.

I learned by studying the telephone book that there were 133 phones in Derry for a population of about 5,000 residents. Rob Frost’s number was 33-4. On his party line there were eight other subscribers and all had their own ring. Frost’s personal ring was four short rings.

A telephone cost about $20 a year, which was about $500 in today’s money. Any call beyond your party line was a toll call. A 3-minute call made to other phones that were less then 5 miles away was 10 cents; a call to Lawrence would be 30 cents for three minutes of gabbing. There were 3 public telephone booths in town — one in each of the 3 villages. In Londonderry, there were about 30 telephones and a public pay station at the railroad depot.

Text Only | Photo Reprints

Latest News