Do You Remember… Life Before Cell Phones

Remember the old days when there was no such thing as cell phones?  From home, you’d call up a couple friends – at their home – and made plans to go check out a movie or something.  If they weren’t home when you called – oh well,  too bad.  And when they came home and were told that you had called them, they’d try to call you back.  But if you left the house already, ruff-ruck.


Or remember when you were trying to avoid someone and you’d have another member of the house answer the phone for you and tell the person calling that you weren’t home?  No caller ID back then.  We had to use live screeners.


Or how about when you were out on a date?  You didn’t have to worry about your date being interrupted by a ringing cell phone.  Or text message alert.  Or a bored date checking his/her Facebook page.  Or an overzealous date posting pictures of the car, restaurant, food, drinks, shoes, bathroom, etc.


Remember when there were more than 1 car load of friends – like after a social or dance – and the 2 cars would be following each other around town?  If somehow you got separated, then it was impossible to find each other.  It helped to have a planned-ahead-of-time rendezvous point for such occasions – like McCully Zippys.


When we got separated, there was no chance of finding each other.  It wouldn’t be until the next day that we’d find out what happened.  “Eh, what happened to you guys last night?”  “Well brah, if you never blast through the yellow light, we would’ve followed you”.  “So, where you went?  We was waiting for you guys at Zips”.  “Zips!?! – we was looking for you guys at Ala Moana beach”.


I remember after we got married and our girls were about 4 and 5 years old, shopping meant everyone hanging out together.  If we had cell phones back then, I could take the girls somewhere while Paula shopped on the 3rd floor of Liberty House.  But we didn’t have cell phones then.  So it meant that when Paula shopped at Liberty House – we all shopped at Liberty House.  Me and the girls knew exactly where all the chairs were in the store.  And we would race to grab the available seat.
Then later as the girls got older, we did the “Okay, meet back at the ‘nook’ next to the escalator in Macy’s at 3:oo” (it was no longer Liberty House by then).  Then I could go looking at electronics and tools in Sears while the girls shopped at Claire’s and Hot Topic, and Paula shopped in – you guessed it – Macy’s.


When cell phones became available, but they weighed 4 lbs, held a charge for only 5 hours (stand-by), and cost $3.50 per minute – we went with the poor-man cell phone:

Walkie Talkies


Yup, Motorola personal walkie-talkies.  They only worked as far as half of the mall at a time and caught mostly only on the mall level – sometimes on the street level – but they served their purpose.  I must’ve looked dorky wearing that thing on my belt…


I must say though – before cell phones, it was much easier to ice out someone.  And you didn’t have to worry about them trying to find you.


I wonder how today’s kids would react if we told them that in our day, we had only 1 phone that the whole family had to share.  And the phone couldn’t leave the house.  And you couldn’t walk around the house with it.  You had to sit by the telephone base and have your conversation – even if everyone else could hear.  And if you stayed on the phone too long, you’d get scolded.  And it was only good for voice communication.  They probably wouldn’t believe us.


Do you wish we had cell phones when we were growing up?  Or are you glad we didn’t have cell phones in our day?  Where you one of those who waited until later in life to get on the cell-phone wagon?  Or did you jump in early?  If so, who was your original cell-phone carrier?  Me, I had Primeco, which later turned into Voicestream, which later turned into T-Mobile.  Can you imagine how different things would be going on a date nowadays with cell phones?


Edited:  Thanks AnkleBYTERS for sharing this picture of a Vette with a CB antenna.  I forgot all about the CB craze in the 70’s.

CB Vette


49 Responses to “Do You Remember… Life Before Cell Phones”

  1. LINDA KATO says:

    Lots of interesting stories ❗ 😀

  2. Mark Shelby says:

    I forgot to say…..

    In 1976…..after college in San Diego. I worked for my Dad’s friends company. Crossroads Gallery. We did art sales all across America, Canada and even Australia.

    I drove an 18 wheeler and pulled a 40 foot trailer full of framed art work. We held an art sale in a hotel ballrooms in a different citys every weekend.

    In 1976, we were in Portland Oregon having an art sale in the Portland Coliseum. My Dad had just bought a brand new Lincoln Continental at the dealer in Park Rose, and they gave Dad a Free Johnson CB Radio.

    Dad gave me that CB Radio in 1976, because he knew I would be driving the 18 wheel rigs for the company. And doing art sales all across the country.

    That CB saved me on the road more times than I can count!

    I still have my Dad’s Johnson CB Radio in my mint 1988 Toyota 4Runner 4×4 today! And it works perfectly!

    CB is a good thing! Just be sure to tune your antenna well with an SWR meter.

    What good memories!

    My CB Radio has served me very well!

  3. volleymom2 says:

    Yeah, Rod- tapping the phone!

  4. Hbh says:

    I know this is OT but you mentioned tap da phone. I was a very small kid when i was very young like 4 or 5. So i could goto a soda machine and stick my hand up into the machine and grab cans of soda and pull them off the tracks to get free soda. But it had to be a can machine. I had really skinny hands and long arms lol.

  5. Rodney says:

    Clicking the pay phone to make a free call – we called that “tapping”. Eh, jus’ go tap da phone. Save your ten cent.

  6. Rodney says:

    @hydorman72 – I was just hypothesizing. Luckily, I never experienced “the date from hell”. LOL

  7. dihudfan says:

    again… 5 dan a 4… auwe

  8. dihudfan says:

    correction… I think they just added a 5 dan lattahs a 5…

  9. dihudfan says:

    I think we had a 5 digit phone number too… don’t remembah wen they changed to 6 and 7, but I think they just addded a 4 dan lattahs a 5…

    used to use the pay phone at the service station wen I had to call girls… wuz too shame talking at home in front of the family…

    learned how to cheat the pay phones… using a papah clip… stick it in the speaker and just tap it on the metal, sometimes took a couple of tries but it work…

    while I wuz in the jr. bowling league, the coach gave me a nick name, which sticked with me while bowling… my friends used to call our home and ask for me, using that nick name and who evah answered at home would say wrong number… my friends used to get mad at me for not answeering the phone…

    made lots of calls while I wuz in the army, collect… had to think about the time difference before I called or noboby would answer cuz they were at work…

  10. Mark Shelby says:

    NaPueo….that’s kewl you remember 5 digits. Maybe it was 5 when I first came to Honolulu in 1955, but I was only 6 months old. I do remember 5 digits from old print advertisements I have seen.

    Do you remember what year 5 digit ended? This is interesting.

  11. 4G says:

    In the days of hardwired telephones, cordless phones were a godsend! LOL. Answering machines were another good innovation.

    Remember collect calls? LOL – does anybody even do that anymore?

    I remember when long-distance calls were expensive. You would actually write letters . . . . Today most mobile phones come with nationwide long-distance for free. I think that cheaper long-distance phone calls also factors in (in addition to email) the decline of handwritten (USPS) letters.

    I mean, we used to think twice before calling to the neighbor islands. Not so much today . . . .

  12. M says:

    What about life without Microwave? How did we do without it? Everybody may not have a cell phone but every household has a microwave.

  13. M says:

    Guud morning MLCers!

  14. NaPueo says:

    Didn’t have a cell phone til just last year. Still don’t use it as a phone much.

    @Mark: I remember when phone numbers were just 5 digits. 75-???. When they went to 6 digits ours didn’t change. People thought I was kidding when I gave them my number. Our number changed when they went to 7 digits.

  15. hydroman72 says:

    @Rod – Ok, after reading what you wrote, the only questions that keep popping up in my head…Wow, Rod, what kind of dates you had??? (after reading….Or how about when you were out on a date? You didn’t have to worry about your date being interrupted by a ringing cell phone. Or text message alert. Or a bored date checking his/her Facebook page. Or an overzealous date posting pictures of the car, restaurant, food, drinks, shoes, bathroom, etc.)
    All these things happened to you??? LOL

  16. keoni says:

    I didn’t get my first cell phone until Nov. 2009. I knew I wouldn’t have a land line here and it was the only way to communicate. I don’t have a smart phone; iff I want to surf the net or watch TV, there the computer for that.

  17. Mark Shelby says:

    Remember when Oahu had only 6 number for your home phone number. Then maybe late 1960’s they changed it to 7 because too many people moving to Oahu.

    Mine started with 734-*** <~6 numbers

    Then later they changed it by adding one same number. Then my number became.

    734-4*** <~now 7 numbers

    They extended the last three numbers into four numbers.

    Hey volleymom2

    Cool you knew the clicking too! I bet once that secret got out back then, all the kids started doing it.

    I remember then not long after, all of a sudden clicking did not work anymore.

  18. volleymom2 says:

    Sorry for mistakes.. leftover.. food, lol! I think I need to take a nap!!

  19. volleymom2 says:

    I wish we had cell phones back then, but I probably wouldn’t have one anyway-economics. Just wish we had fb so I could still keep in touch with my college buddies… altho some of us have found each other throughout the years. Can I leave without my cell phone? yes, I could. However, I cannot live without the microwave oven! Thats a must for me. I hate to put left over phone in pots to heat up… just nuke it.
    Didn’t get into cell phone until way later like 2004 only becuz I am co-head on my reunion committee, we were going to Vegas and I had classmates calling me. My daughter wanted a phone so bad, but I wasn’t going to pay for it so she saved enough money and then one day said… I am ready to get my phone- T Mobile it was.
    @Mark- we used to phone click all the time, yes it did work!
    At the moment, I do not have a smart phone or android- dont need one. I have an ipad and laptop, enough… Maybe in the near future.. but I am doing my homework as to which one I would buy.
    Hey, anyone text in their sleep??

  20. 4G says:

    Way back when, it was a bit of a thing if your home had (phone) extensions. That was kind of cool – especially remembering what it was like to have a party line.

  21. Mark Shelby says:

    I experienced all of those same things Rodney. I bet I sat in those same benches at Liberty House as you when I went shopping with my Mom. But as I grew, I later told my Mom were and what time to meet for lunch and I would go exploring

    I am glad we did not have cell phones in the good old days. That helped keep our lives much more simple, to me.

    Before I could drive, I would leave the house with dimes in my pocket so I could make a call from a pay phone if I need a ride, emergency and call some friends to meet up.

    I will tell you my little secret about the old rotary dial pay phones. My story goes like this.

    One Sat. I was at Makapuu bodysurfing with my friends all day. It was starting to get dark. I had dimes in my swim trunks pocket in the morning. But by nightfall my dimes were gone, and I needed to call Mom for a ride home. We didn’t even have money for the bus. And there was nobody around to borrow a dime from.

    I had heard that you can click on the hung up lever, your phone number and if you click it just right you can make a free call.

    Because the rotary dial just clicks and makes the same sound.

    So if your first number is 7 ….for Kahala area.

    You click the hang up lever 7 times then pause for a second

    Then if your next number is 3….you click three times and pause

    Then if your next number is 4….you click 4 times and then pause

    And so on….you click your entire number in

    It took me 4 tries to get the pause correct and then I made a free call to my Mom that night for a ride home from Makapuu!


    When you were little and had no money, we always had to learn tricks to get by.

  22. Mark'75 says:

    When the kids were little, we had no cellphones. At Disneyland, I’d wear a bright orange t-shirt so the kids could spot me from a distance. (kinda like a traffic cone) Back then, no one else wore orange t-shirts, not like now.

  23. Mark'75 says:

    I think we did okay without cellphones back in the day. Besides, they were just things of fantasy, like Dick Tracy talking on his wristwatch or Maxwell Smart talking on his shoe.

    Without cellphones, we had to be more aware of our surroundings and time. (Regroup at the birdcage in front of Shirokiya, for example) Dad would always have a back up plan, like, ‘if we get separated, meet up at center stage.’ And we darn well better know where center stage was.

  24. 4G says:

    Dern! Looks like I missed a question!

    Can you imagine how different things would be going on a date nowadays with cell phones?

    I’ve been on dates with mobile phones . . . . LOL. It’s a miracle for that “phantom call” capability when you want to end a date early. 😉 LOL – just kidding; I haven’t done that. That “trick” is pretty good for getting out of long-winded, get nothing accomplished meetings, though! 😉

  25. M says:

    That irritated me yesterday at church that the kids in front of us were allowed to play with the cell phones thoughout the whole service. Even more so when the lights were dimmed and you can see the glow from the cell phone. The mom was just as bad because she was using it too. Parents use cell phones and iPads ar baby sitters and if you don’t let them us it they throw temper tantrums. There’s a time and place for using cell phone or iPads and in chruch during prayer or service is not the place.

  26. Masako says:

    Yesterday in Church there was a mother with two kids. During the whole service and even during the prayers they were playing with their phones. There is a time and a place to be playing with a phone.

  27. Masako says:

    My gripe about cell phones is the cost. When I look at the end of the year how much we spend for phones for us and the kids, versus paying for a house phone it makes me wish sometimes that there was no such thing. I know its a choice to have a phone but to function in todays world you need to have a cell phone.

  28. Masako says:

    Good Afternoon!

    Do you wish we had cell phones when we were growing up? Nope.

    Or are you glad we didn’t have cell phones in our day? I’m happy with the way it was. First of all, they are expensive and I know my parents wouldn’t have bought me a phone or airtime until I could pay for it myself. I am glad my kids were in High school before it became a thing to buy phones for your little kids. Things just kinda went with the flow back then, if we missed a call a home and missed out on something, oh well, next time. Plus parents can always call and bug you. The only reason I would have wanted it back then is in case of an emergency.

    Where you one of those who waited until later in life to get on the cell-phone wagon? Or did you jump in early? I guess I got in during the middle, when they started giving phones away for free. It was only for emergency’s back then. It took me awhile to get a smartphone because I didn’t think I needed one. Now I’m attached to it.

    If so, who was your original cell-phone carrier? AT&T,

    Can you imagine how different things would be going on a date nowadays with cell phones? Actually a cell phone had something to do with my first date with M. I was going out to eat with a bunch of friends and M called. My girlfriend told him to meet us at the restaurant. I think its more the smart phones that interfere with dating or other social activities, some people just can’t put the darn thing down.

  29. Lowtone123 says:

    I mean OK Appliance. Sorry.

  30. Lowtone123 says:

    Do you wish we had cell phones when we were growing up? Or are you glad we didn’t have cell phones in our day?
    I’m glad we didn’t have cell phones or even computers or game consoles for that matter. We had to create our own games and entertainment. Summer days lasted forever and we spent every minute of it outside.
    Where you one of those who waited until later in life to get on the cell-phone wagon? Or did you jump in early?
    Pretty early. I got my first cell phone at 18. Not a Motorola brick but shortly thereafter. It was a Panasonic I bought at OK Electronics when they had a store in Pearl City (where IHOP is now).
    If so, who was your original cell-phone carrier?
    Honolulu Cellular.
    Can you imagine how different things would be going on a date nowadays with cell phones?
    Do you mean without a cell phone?

  31. 4G says:

    I totally agree that there is such a thing as being “too connected”. I try to avoid this. 😉 I think it’s pretty funny that there is now an “anti-social” app that allows you to avoid your social “connections”:

    I know many people that are like Sheldon Cooper – if the phone rings, they feel compelled to answer it. Likewise for receiving emails, texts, alerts, etc. Like something bad is going to happen to them if they don’t . . . . LOL.

    Looks like the app only works with Instagram and Foursquare right now (and only for iOS), just wait for Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. integration! LOL.

  32. 4G says:

    @LK – good to “here” from you again! 😉 Just kidding!

  33. LINDA KATO says:

    Oops, here should read “hear” haven’t had my coffee yet…. head can’t spell check! LOL!

  34. LINDA KATO says:

    I got a “brick cell phone” when I became a Realtor. I still have the same cell phone number for 25 years now…. but am my Realtor status is on inactive….. am retired but thinking of activating it one day….. too busy flying to VEGAS to see our daughter there. I always leave my phone on the slot machine so I can here when our daughter or hubby calls me for meals. One day, I took my players card out of the machine and forgot my cell phone…. we went into the restaurant to eat and I always put my phone on the table to wait for ph calls…. I ran back to the machine and it was gone…. the lady sitting next to me turned it in to security so hubby got the phone for me….. thought I would just die without it! I don’t have anyone’s phone number written down…. they are all in my cell phone list. I have to make a point to write all of those numbers down somewhere…. Can’t imagine life without my cell phone and I only have a camera phone, no internet like many of you do.

  35. LINDA KATO says:

    Good morning, MLCers ❗ Happy Monday ❗ 😀

    Have a great day everyone ❗ 😀

  36. HbH says:

    Truth, i love cellphones for convenience, but hate technology because we lose wonderful things from the past like what we talk about here on MLC Hawai’i.

  37. 4G says:

    Way back when, like @ankles said, you would actually memorize a ton of phone numbers. Not so much anymore. I don’t think I would be lost without my phone, but I certainly wouldn’t know anyone’s phone number! Where’s my cloud address book? LOL.

  38. 4G says:

    Ever notice how telephone usage has changed? For a lot of people these days, especially the younger one is, it seems likes actually talking to someone over the phone is a foreign concept. I first noticed this happening when email started to become prevalent. All of sudden, people didn’t talk to each other as much.

    I look at email usage often and just shake my head. Sure, it can be a more effective communication medium, but sometimes? Just pick up the derned phone! LOL. And, people are so lazy – rather than start a new message (umm, like when the topic changes/morphs), they would rather just “forward” or “reply all”. Emails at work are usually some really long-a$$ threads that you either have to read through to figure out what you’re supposed to do, or are a long thread UNRELATED to the latest message in the thread! LOL.

    It amazes me, the number of people who will call on the phone, and if no one answers, they just hang-up. Leave a derned message! LOL.

    Since I’m on a roll . . . . 😉 Voicemail messages – I admit that sometimes, it’s appropriate to leave a voice message that says, simply, “Call me back”. But for the most part, this irritates the hell out of me. LOL. I call back, I get your voicemail – “Umm, returning your call”. And the cycle continues. Voicemail can be used like email – if you leave a meaningful message, I can leave a meaningful response on your voicemail, if in case I get your voicemail when I call you back . . . .

    Now texting – that would have been cool to have growing up. 😉

  39. ankleBYTERS says:

    …make that “1 MB file would take almost 7 minutes to download at like 33kbits/sec.”

  40. ankleBYTERS says:

    I got rid of my land line in ’99…only needed it to dial up to work back then before getting high speed internet connection. A 1 MB file would take almost a minute to download at like 33kbits/sec.

    I would use a long distance calling card, $0.10/minute back then when I’d be out of town and needed to call home from the hotel…the 800 number calls were free until they caught on and started charging and placing time limits on the calls. It was a bargain to pay $6 for an hour of talk. Before my kids had their own cell, I would buy then preloaded calling cards for emergencies

  41. ankleBYTERS says:

    How many of you would be completely helpless if you lost your cell phone? I have to keep my kids phone numbers in my wallet….no idea what they are if you asked me…had that happen to me as I asked my neighbor to borrow his phone….in fact any number, except work. It’s usually ‘Call son’ , ‘Call daughter’, ‘Call SM’, ‘Call FWB’, ‘Call mom’…. lol…even using Facetime or Skype, no idea what number is associated with it if you ask me.

  42. 4G says:

    Do you wish we had cell phones when we were growing up? Or are you glad we didn’t have cell phones in our day?

    In general, yes- but it would depend on at what point in mobile phone evolution we’re talking about. Early on, not so much because usage was too expensive. Those long, uncomfortable silences would have been really expensive! 😉 Plus those early Ni-Cd rechargeable batteries – what a technology, eh? 🙁

    I remember, way back when, actually leaving the house to go find a pay phone for those “private” conversations. LOL. Pay phones were a lot more prevalent back then. They were still pretty gross, too. These days, the phone company is leery of installing any more of them!

    *Sigh* – I don’t even have a landline anymore, purely for economic reasons. And why don’t they make cordless phones without answering machines? LOL. Like ankles, I have a cordless phone (even though I have no landline) that hooks up to my mobile via Bluetooth – the ring is louder! Can you say “hearing aid”? 😉

    Where you one of those who waited until later in life to get on the cell-phone wagon? Or did you jump in early?

    Relatively early – not the “bag/pack” style of phone or car phones that were the true first generation. First phone was the original, full-sized Motorola Brick! LOL.

    If so, who was your original cell-phone carrier?

    Honolulu Cellular

  43. M says:

    There’s good and bad about having a cell phone. It’s good that if you have an emergency or if someone in your family has an emergency. The down side is that you get calls for every little thing all day long and sometimes it gets irritating. I hate those calls when they leave a message to return the call and when you call back you have to leave a message. Sometimes I don’t want to be so reachable.

  44. ankleBYTERS says:

    I had a CB radio back in the early ’70s in 808 land. My friends and I used it frequently. When I moved to the mainland, it was used by our Corvette club to keep in contact during our many road trips. When you have 40+ vettes in a caravan, the line of them would stretch out to several miles….and the “rubber band’ effect comes into play as the front slows down or speeds up and the ones in the rear needs to be cautioned….especially when traveling at high speed on the back roads where the brave ones will hit 150+. I’ll send Rodney a picture of how the antenna is mounted to the rear. We eventually replaced the CBs with FRS units…compact and easy to use without needing a mounted outboard antenna.

    My first cell phone was a Courtland bag phone…no bundled air time package…it was $0.45 a minute….plus monthly access charges. I traded that in for a Motorola StarTac phone when it first debut in ’96….after that, a succession of different phones and carriers I’ve only lost one phone in the 20+ years of cell phone usage…misplaced a few but was always lucky to have someone turn them in. Currently my cell phone connects to a Bluetooth enabled cordless phone system. I have a cordless phone downstairs and one upstairs so I can answer a cell call from anywhere in the house and it will announce who the caller is by name, if available.

  45. M says:

    Guud morning MLCers!
    I had a pager but you had to find a phone everytime you get paged.

  46. KAN says:

    I don’t like spending long time on the phone these days. Which my dad finds amazing considering how much I used to hog the phone when I was in my teens!

    I was late to the cell phone revolution, mostly because I knew my boss at the time would call me at all hours regarding work. I changed my mind when I wanted to leave early for a music festival but I had to stay at the office so a vendor could reach me for a last-minute arrangement. If I had had a cell phone, I could have had the vendor call me there and I could have left.

    I have a dumb phone. It takes photos, but can’t email, and certainly no web access. But it’s all I need.

  47. 4G says:

    I remember having the original Motorola brick – not the “mini” brick, either! LOL.

  48. 4G says:

    HCTC – Honolulu Cellular Telephone Company. After a fee incarnations, ended up being AT&T, again! LOL!

  49. 4G says:

    Before there were mobile and cell phones, there was FRS, before there was FRS, there was CB radio! Breaker, breaker! LOL! CB radio was a little after my time, but I played around a little with it. Some of those hook-ups were extreme! LOL

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