“My tree house based hand crank telephone is long gone. Today’s communication tools include social media sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.” Jonathan Smith
I collected social media success stories while writing the book “Success Using Social Media.”
To a 6th grade boy in the 1960’s in Tennessee, adventure could come and go in the blink of an eye. This story is about how my experience with social media a few years ago sprang from my boyhood adventures.
I lived in a safe, small town. Dad taught Forestry at Sewanee. The 10,000 acre domain, to him, was a science lab, but to me, it was a playground without borders. The technology available to Forestry in those days consisted of weather instruments, surveying gear and reeled tape measures that estimated the number of board feet in a tree. The Monroe calculators were my perennial favorite; at least until the day Dad’s department inherited three obsolete hand-crank telephones.
My interest in long distance (then measured by how long it took to ride my bike to the movie theater) took a quantum leap the day those phones appeared at his office doorstep. Ever the teacher, Dad made a make-believe call to show me how they worked.
Obsolete also meant they were doomed to the scrap pile. I begged Dad to let me have these relics and he did. The next day, out of boredom or scientific endeavor (probably not) I cranked one phone’s handle as fast as I could. I opened the door. I saw for the first time a generator; a geared armature set inside five horseshoe magnets. The armature spun 100 times faster than my cranking handle. Curiosity blossomed. I touched my fingers to two wires coming off the generator. In an instant, I discovered what 100 volts feels like, entering my body beneath my finger nails; massive lightning bolts. I lugged the wooden phone box up and into my tree-house for more testing. Intrigued with the possibility of communicating with the outside world (consisting of three other sixth grade guys with bikes and firecrackers), I needed to wire my newly found tree-house crank telephone to the outside world. I fetched Dad’s extra-long extension cord, snipped off the ends, whittled away insulation and twisted connections until I heard a dial tone. Absent a “rotary dialer” my work-around was to jiggle the switch-hook until an operator took the bait and said, “May I help you?” And I’d respond, “Uh, yes, ma’am, my dialer is broken could you please dial LY8-0232 for me?” To which she reply, “Sure sonny. Be sure to report that broken dialer so we can fix it for you.”
Fifty years after that first tree-house crank telephone, my desire to connect with others, in purposes that matter, that give meaning to my life and family, still burns. My tree house based hand crank telephone is long gone. Today’s communication tools include social media sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.
The Lighted Christmas Balls, started seventeen years ago by my then college sophomore daughter Alison, has grown by leaps and bounds in the Triad and beyond, and these new ways of communicating have made their reality richer. Social media communications helped to propel the Lighted Christmas Balls community-wide into hunger awareness and the giving and sharing of countless cans, bags and boxes of non-perishable food for the hungry. The old tree-house crank telephone took on the forms of social media to create, develop and foster many new and fantastic relationships in my life.