A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from August 03, 2009
“You’re in Texas—it’s a local call (to God)” (joke)

An old telephone joke is about a person who asks the operator about his long distance charge. The charge is very high. “Why, in Texas, I can call hell for that!” the person says. The operator responds: “Sir, that’s a local call!”

This joke appears to be first cited in print in 1920, with the person calling from Texas to Cook County, Illinois (where a phone call to hell is a local call). The joke is cited in 1955 and 1956 in the usual Texas form.

In the 1980s, the joke switched from hell to heaven—usually becoming a Jewish joke. The pope calls God, but is charged heavily. A rabbi in Jerusalem calls God, but is charged only pennies. The reason for the difference is because the Jerusalem call is the local call.

In 2000, the God/heaven version was written as a Texas joke again. A person looking for true religion tries churches all across America. Each church has a phone line to God, but the charges are in the thousands of dollars. Finally, the person arrives in Texas, where the phone line to God costs only a quarter. “You’re in Texas,” the person is told. “It’s a local call.”


Basic Jokes
Phone call to God
Billy Graham went to see the Pope in Rome. While he was waiting, Billy noticed a red phone. As he was ushered in to talk to the Pope, he asked, “What’s the red phone for?”

“That’s to talk to God,” came the reply.

“Really,” Billy gasped, “how much does such a call cost - it’s an awful long way?”

“$10,000 a minute, but it’s well worth it.” answered the Pope.

Some weeks later, Billy Graham went to see the Chief Rabbi in Jerusalem. He noticed that he, too, had a red phone. “I don’t suppose,” asked Billy, “that this phone is to talk to God?”

“Yes it is.” came the reply.

“And how much does that cost?” Billy inquired.

“Twenty-five cents a minute,” shrugged the chief rabbi.

“How come it’s so cheap?” Billy asked, “the Pope has a phone like that and it costs $10,000 a minute!”

“Well,” grinned the Chief Rabbi, “From here it’s just a local call.”

Google Books
Proceedings of the Constitutional Convention of the state of Illinois
By Illinois Constitutional Convention
Pg. 1923 (June 30, 1920):
That brings to my mind a little story that I once heard. There was a man from Cook county down in Texas and he was making some long distance telephone calls and the charges were quite exorbitant. He objected to the bill that he had to pay. “Why,” he said, “in Cook county we can telephone to hell for that.” “But,” the Texan replied, “that is only a local call.”

9 August 1955, Ada (OK) Evening News, pg. 2, col. 6:
LOCATION FIXED
NACOGDOCHES, Tex. (AP)—Texas towns take their rivalry seriously.

A Nacogdoches man made a long distance call to nearby Lufkin.

“That’ll be $4.50, plus tax,” said the operator.

“Why, I could call hell for that much,” said the man.

“Mister,” replied the operator, “all you have to do to do that from where you are is make a local call.”

6 February 1956, Dallas (TX) Morning News, “Moidel Challenges All Texas Haters!” by Frank X. Tolbert, pt. 3, pg. 1:
ISADORE MOIDEL, senior partner of a Los Angeles law firm with the formidable name of Moidel, Moidel, Moidel, Moidel, Moidel & Smith, claims to hate Texas worse than any other Texas hater.

And Mr. Moidel has sent this story to illustrate his feelings about this state: Seems that a Dallas man was making a long distance call to Los Angeles. And he got a little sore when the operator asked him to deposit $1.60 for a 3-minute call.

The Dallas man yelped: “That $1.60 is outrageous! Here in Texas I can make a call to hell and back for a dime.”

The California operator said: “Yes, sir. In Texas that is a local call.”

Google Books
American Flint
By American Flint Glass Workers’ Union
v. 50 - 1960
Pg. 17:
“Back in Texas I could talk to hell and back for 60 cents.” “Maybe so,” replied the operator politely, “but from Texas that would be considered a local call.”

Google Books
Proceedings ... biennial convention
By United Glass and Ceramic Workers of North America
1966
Pg. 125:
...Saskatchewan about the Texas oil man who was staying in the Saskatchewan Hotel in Regina and he put in a long distance phone call and when he had finished the call, he said to the operator, “Ma’am,” he said, “how much was that call?” And she said, “Sixteen dollars, sir.” He said, “Ma’m, sixteen dollars, why,” he said, “in Texas, for sixteen dollars I can phone to hell.” She said, “Sir, in Texas that would be a local call.”

Google Books
Proceedings [of] the Constitutional Convention
By Oil, Chemical, and Atomic Workers International Union, Constitutional Convention, Montana
Description based on: 26th convention day (Feb. 17, 1972).
Pg. 76:
Our people like to tell the story about the Texan who was staying at the Saskatchewan Hotel, and he put in a long distance call, and he said, “Ma’am, how much was that call?” She said, “$16.00, sir.” He said, “$16.00! Why,” he said, “in Texas for $16.00 I could phone to hell.” She said, “Sir, in Texas that would be a local call.”

Google Books
Proceedings of the Constitutional Convention
By International Chemical Workers Union
v. 12 - 1973
Pg. 115:
“Ma’am, how much was that long distance call?” She said $16.00. He said, “$16.00? Why,” he said, “down in Texas for $16.00 I could phone to hell.” And she said “Sir, in Texas that would be a local call.”

Google Books
The God Bit
By Joey Adams
New York, NY: Manor Books
1974
Pg. 211:
The first thing our astronauts did when they reached the moon was pray—from there it was only a local call.

Google Books
Canadian Transportation and Distribution Management
v. 87 - 1984
Pg. 22:
“You have a direct line to God?” said the Pope in a surprised manner, “May I use it?
(...)
“Yes,” said Begin, “It’s a local call.”

Google Books
Robert H. Schuller tells you how to be an extraordinary person in an ordinary world
By Robert Harold Schuller and Robert A. Schuller
Old Tappan, NJ: F. H. Revell
1985
Pg. 67:
Reagan said, “Yeah, what does it cost to call God?” Begin exclaimed, “Oh, just ten cents — here it’s a local call!”

Google Books
Getting Through the Going-Through Stage
By Robert A. Schuller
Nashville, TN: T. nelson
1986
Pg. 51:
“How much does it cost to call God from here?” Reagan asked the prime minister.
“Ten cents,” Begin replied. “It’s a local call.”

Google Books
The Belle of the Belfast City;
Did you hear the one about the Irishman?

By Christina Reid
London: Methuen Drama
1989
Pg. 81: 
‘Do you know that it costs fifty million lire to phone God from the Vatican? Why is it so cheap from Belfast?’ ‘Because it’s a local call,’ said Ian.

Google Groups: alt.texas.highplains
Newsgroups: alt.texas.highplains
From: (Alice Chauvin Bradshaw)
Date: 2000/02/05
Subject: YAHOOOOOOOOOOO

Makes a Texan PROUD!
It seems that a man in Topeka, Kansas, decided to write a book about churches around the world, but thought that the place to start, since he was American, would be the United States, and with that in mind, he decided to fly to San Francisco, and start working east from there. He goes to the very large Grace Cathedral in that city and begins taking photographs, etc., when he suddenly spots a golden telephone on a wall with a sign, which reads $10,000 a minute. Intrigued, he seeks out the priest and asks about the phone and the sign. The priest advises him that this golden phone is, in fact, a direct line to Heaven and, if he wants to use it, he can talk directly to God. “Thank you very much,” says he and continues on his way.

His next stop is Clinton, Nebraska, and while attending a church there, notices that there is exactly the same type of phone, with exactly the same sign on it. Again, he seeks out the parish priest, asks the same question, and again is told that it is a direct line to God, etc. He thanks the priest and continues on his way.

Next in Milwaukee and Chicago, two cities rather close together, he
discovers exactly the same type of phone with exactly the same sign beside it; makes inquiries of the local priests and receives exactly the same answer. Again, he thanks them and moves on his way.

Arriving in New York, he goes into the Cathedral of St. John, the Divine. The golden telephone is on the wall with the same sign reading $10,000.00 a minute. He checks with the Dean of the Cathedral, and gets exactly the same answer.

Continuing through many other states, he finds the same phone, same sign and gets the same answer, until, finally, he arrives in Texas. Upon entering Sanctuario Guadalupe Cathedral in Dallas, lo and behold, he sees the usual golden telephone with a sign. But THIS time, the sign reads “Calls 25 cents.” By now fascinated, he gets hold of the Bishop and says to him, “Bishop, I have been in cities right across the country, and in each church I found this golden telephone, was told that it was a direct line to Heaven and that I could talk to God, but, in all the other churches across the country, it was $10,000.00 a minute. Your sign reads 25 cents a call. Why?” The Bishop smiles benignly at him and says “Oh, my son, that’s very easy to explain. You see, you’re now in Texas and, of course, it’s a local call from here.”

Google Books
Road Kill
By Emily Mathews
iUniverse.com
2008
Pg. 140:
I heard one Sunday morning that a man, trying to figure out if he should start going to church, decided to visit as many around the country as possible. In the foyer of each church in California, he would see a gold phone with a sign that said “Phone Call to God - $20,000.” On the East Coast, he saw the same sign but the call was $10,000. When he reached a church in East Texas, the phone was there but the sign was changed to “Phone Call to God - $0.25.” Somewhat confused, he asked the preacher why the call was so much cheaper in Texas. The preacher responded, “Son, you’re in Texas now. It’s a local call!”

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Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (0) Comments • Monday, August 03, 2009 • Permalink