March 19, 2009

Party line between Kilcowera Station and Zenonie, Outback Queensland.
Party line between Kilcowera Station and Zenonie, Outback Queensland.


Sometimes all this activity on the phone was a good thing.  If it rained anywhere over where the straggly little phone line went, the line would go out, if a little tree touched the line, it went out, sometimes the mulga post the line was attached to would fall over taking the line with it and it was said that if a bird flew over the line and did a poopsy the line went out.

So sometimes I would find myself swinging off the handle of the phone ringing, ringing trying to get the attention of the exchange ladies and they couldn’t hear me as the line was down somewhere. Usually someone along the line would eventually pick up and act as a relay between me and town and I would get my message across via a neighbour.  Then we would have to drive along the phone line to fix the problem and try not to get bogged if it had rained.  Sometimes a cow might have decided to have a scratch up against the mulga post and knocked it over.

Acacia Victoria 

There were times when we had no communication with the outside world because it was too wet to try and fix the line.  Also when it was wet the phone line didn’t work so well and the exchange ladies had to act as a relay between you and whoever you were trying to talk to.  I had to interview a job applicant with the assistance of the exchange lady and a neighbour once.  It was a novel experience.

If you ever wanted to know any goss these were  the  girls to ask, but they were mostly very discreet.  Mostly.  It paid to be discreet and mindful of what you said on the phone at all times. The phone exchange was manned by about 6 ladies rostered on one at a time and was a 24 hour service. If you were on a long distance call they would come on periodically and say “3 minutes are you extending?”  This might be after you had been on for 10 minutes, so that was nice. But you never knew how much they were listening.  To contact the exchange you would grab the handle of the phone wind it around as hard and fast as you could for about 10 seconds. If that didn’t work you’d go harder and faster and longer.

Old telephone at Kilcowera Station, Outback Australia.

5 Responses to “”

  1. Rita said

    Hi again Zenonie,

    I really like to read your stories about life on your station, and in the Australian Outback. It is great to have someone talking about the old times.

    I was wondering if you got some rain in your area, after all, Qld has even been in the news in Germany with the floods on the coast. But I also read that Lake Eyre is filling with water, so the Channel Country must have got some rain too?
    Do you already see changes? I mean wildflowers, fresh green everywhere, wildlife activities? Did nature awake, and where does it happen?

    I wish I could travel in your beautiful region now.

    Keep up the great work, I’ll come back to your blog. And hopefully to the Channel Country as well some day.


  2. zenonie said

    Hi Rita thanks for your positeve comments. Unfortunately even though the weather bureau says we are in the channel country, we’re not. And haven’t had any rain and are now in our 9th year of drought and sick, sick, sick of it too.

    The proper channel country will look a picture by now and in a months time the vegetation will be a metre high. It’s not the best time for wildflowers but many will appear anyway as all things living in a semi arid environment are very opportunistic. And yes Lake Eyre is filling and creating quite a stir amongst travellers as it does so. It looks like the pelicans will have somewhere to breed this year as well!

    A local pilot and a small tour operator have gotten together and are running a 5/6 day tour of the area which would be stunning. All the best Toni

  3. Rita said

    Hi Toni,

    what a pity you didn’t get any rain. This tells me how vast the country is, and not everyone is lucky to get rain.

    I’ll keep my fingers crossed for Kilcowera.
    All the best,

  4. zenonie said

    Reblogged this on Kilcowera Station – Life on an outback Queensland Cattle Station and commented:

    And the second part all about our wonderful party line back in the 80’s.

  5. Julia Steele said

    Hello Zenonie,

    Like Rita I enjoy your ramblings of life in the outback. I’m a country girl myself, though northern NSW, your descriptions of the party line telephone bring back childhood memories, especially all on the same line listening in and sharing the gossip. A strange phenomenon for my European father, consequently he became very secretive.

    I trust your long 2009 drought gas broken, and good seasons have returned.

    Please keep writing,
    Best wishes,


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