Beyond the Byline: How communication has changed

Beyond the - Byline - Geri Gibbons

The other day my incredible cute cat Tabitha climbed into the dryer while I was doing laundry, making herself comfortable in the midst of a load of towels.

My immediate thought was to video call my son Zachary, who is attending college in Florida.

Not only was Zachary able to see Tabitha cuddling up to the beach towel we bought last year at the Jersey shore, he was also privy to my voice-over, reminding him that since he left, his cat has been seemingly out of control.

After we hung up, I started thinking about how times have changed.

My first year in college at LaSalle College in Philadelphia in 1980, “Third Floor Hilary” had one pay phone for over 20 girls. My mother called once a week on Wednesday nights. If I wasn’t home, she called back on Thursday.

Don’t think communication wasn’t important to my mom. She wrote several letters a week, which often included a $5 bill and quotes she had cut out from egg cartons.

Means of communication have changed over the years but what’s important is the attitudes of our hearts.

Technology is innately neither good nor bad, but rather reflects those using it.

Still, it’s often interesting to think back to the “good old days” when life seemed a tad more simple.

For example, who remembers a “party line?” Not only did you not have the option of carrying your phone with you, your home phone was shared with another household.

If you were waiting for an important call, your conversation would start something like this, “Mrs. Smith, can you get off the phone? I’m waiting for a call.”

If Mrs. Smith thought her call was more important, especially if you were not yet an adult, you were out of luck.

When our family did finally get its own line, my mother was careful to remind me not to become too dependent on the bright yellow object with a long cord and a rotary dial attached to the wall behind the refrigerator.

If the phone rang and you didn’t get to it in time, there was no such thing as voicemail.

“If it’s important, they’ll call back,” my mother would say.

But, our family had cable television right from the beginning — all 13 channels.

I’m not sure how much we paid for it, but I do remember that once a month my mother, extolling the virtues of board games, musical instruments and craft making, would threaten to have it turned off.

“It’s not worth the money,” she would say. “It takes time away from visiting with the neighbors.”

And visit with the neighbors we did. We sat at our kitchen table under our an ornate light and did crafts, played Pokeno and made pizzelles.

My father died when I was 7, but one of my best memories of him was listening to him and my uncle argue politics on Friday nights over a few beers.

I wasn’t old enough to participate in those conversation, but I remember sitting at the top of the steps, knowing that one day I would share my dad and uncle’s interest in politics; one day, I would be willing to argue about it.

Although these means of communication and interaction might seem more down-to-earth and direct, I have no doubt if my parents were alive, they would take selfies with their grandchildren and play Yahtzee on a phone app.

Still, I’ve renewed my resolve to send a few letters to my children away at college this semester and to anticipate their call saying they have received them.

And, of course, we’ll continue to play Clue — in person — on birthdays, sitting on the floor, eating popcorn and inevitably accusing the winner of cheating.

Beyond the


Geri Gibbons

Geri Gibbons is a correspondent for the Sunday Dispatch. Reach the Sunday Dispatch newsroom at 570-655-1418 or by email at

Geri Gibbons is a correspondent for the Sunday Dispatch. Reach the Sunday Dispatch newsroom at 570-655-1418 or by email at