Party lines were found everywhere, especially in rural areas where wires had to be run miles to remote homes and shared service meant that more homes could share with fewer wires.
However, in Alabama, we lived within the city limits, and telephones lines were available. We had a phone but still shared with other neighbors. I suppose the reduced monthly cost outweighed the drawbacks.
If you picked up your phone while somebody else on your party line was talking, you’d overhear their conversation (and could join in). The shared line meant not only that you could not make a call if somebody else were using the line, but that nobody else could call you. If one person on the party line was using it, anybody trying to call any of the other people on that same line would get a busy signal.
As a teenager, I wanted to use the phone on several occasions, only to find someone else sitting around talking about absolutely nothing. Also, certain people did gain a reputation for being nosey and always trying to listen in on other people’s calls to hear the latest gossip, or for still tying up the line with excessively long calls. That’s what I didn’t like about party lines, ”NO PRIMACY.”
Then we got a single line, and it still seemed as if it was a community line; our neighbors again didn’t have a phone, and they would give out our number. When one of them received a call, we had to either go and knock on the door or start screaming….Lisa, you got a phone call.
We used more energy screaming 😱 than just walking 🚶 to the door and merely knocking.