Memories for Miriam, Alice, Theo, Delia, Tessa
and anyone else who would like to be here
What do you do if you want to know what time it is?
- You can look at the clock ... but the clock might not be working.
- You can look at your watch ... but it could be broken too.
- You can look at a cell phone: cell phones find out what time it is automatically.
- You can look at your computer screen if you are near the computer.
- You might have some other electronic device that tells time. For example, the TV.
Before computers, electronics, and cell phones were invented, what did people do if their watches and clocks were broken? They called "the time lady." Every telephone company in every part of the country had a time lady. She was really a very complicated machine that told time with a lady's voice. A real lady had recorded all the words and numbers to tell the time.
When you called the number for the time you heard this message: "AT THE TONE THE TIME WILL BEEE... " and then she said the time. She always sounded funny. When Evelyn was a little girl, she thought the lady said "AT THE TONE THE LIMA BEAN..." and then said what time it was. In some places, she also said what temperature it was outside. The lady said NI-UHN for nine and other funny things.
People really needed the time lady. Whenever there was a storm, and electric clocks didn't work, people called the time lady. When you changed to or from Daylight Savings Time in the spring and fall, you might have to call her. If your watch broke, you might call her.
Some time ago, in Michigan, Virginia, and most other states the telephone companies stopped having the time lady. They said people had lots of other ways to find out the time. But today I read that the time number has kept working in California till now, but it's soon going to be discontinued. The complicated machines that figure out the time and make the lady's voice say "AT THE TONE THE TIME WILL BE..." are wearing out. The time lady still works in Nevada, but those machines might break down too. Soon there won't be any time lady at all.
(See this article in the Los Angeles Times
to learn about the entire history of the time lady and the end of Time. Also, you can go to www.time.gov
to see what time it really is!)