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Das Erste Telefon (The First Telephone)
by Jim Gessele

Some of our Dobrudscha ancestors tell a little story about themselves and how the telephone came to be introduced into Romania, including the German Dobrudscha settlements. In every city hall or local municipal office there hung this box on the wall, protruding out a good 1½ feet, with accessories such as bells, cords and listening/speaking accoutrement that would leave a grin on today's face.

Romania was about to enter World War I and the call went out for all eligible men to report for military duty, quickly and with a horse if you had one. Reporting for duty was to be kept as secret as possible, meaning in some cases mum's the word even with family members.

Since our German brethren in the Dobrudscha were Romanian subjects, this call to duty included them as well. One strapping young German farmer had to report for duty in Mangalia but remembered he still had some words of instruction for his new bride back in Sarighiol, and he still wanted to whisper sweet nothings in her ear. He had a friend working at the local government office back in Sarighiol, so through him he arranged for a phone conversation with his wife.

The wife was summoned to the office where she was told her husband wished to speak to her. She assumed her husband was somewhere in the vicinity and couldn't understand why she had to hold the odd device in her hand if she wanted to speak to him. The official in charge carefully gave instructions so that she would understand to hold the thing to her ear. She finally complied with the directions and then it happened: In horror she heard her husband's voice come out of this thing! She was sure the voice had come from the box on the wall, the box in which her darling Michel had been stuffed! Weeping and sobbing she called to him: "Ach Gott, Michel, wie hen sie dich bloß zum Deifel en des Käschtle neikriegt!" ("My God, Michel, how in Devil's name did they ever fit you in this little box!")