Did You Know?

The Light Keeper's Legacy is set in 1982, one year before the first cellphone systems began operating in the US. In the story Chloe uses public payphones to place several long distance calls.

Long distance calls were expensive in those days. Prepaid phone cards weren't introduced in the US until 1987. Chloe paid for her calls by depositing coins into the phones. Hence the name: payphones.

Back then callers using a payphone to make long distance call had to dial "O" to speak with a telephone operator--who would then place the call. Every few minutes the call would be interrupted with a request for more coins. If the caller ran out before finishing their conversation, they would be abruptly disconnected.

This happens in the book when Chloe calls Nika Austin, her intern back at Old World Wisconsin. Toward the end of the call Nika starts reading from an article about Rock Island that she uncovered.

"OK, here's the bit: 'The fate of James McNeil, and the fate of his gold coins, has long been discussed and debated by local historians. It is distressing to observe, however, that rumors of a second murder on Rock Island have been ignored. Could it be because the source was a woman? Even worse, a woman who had gained her information from a young girl? The community of traditional historians must begin to--'"

"Please deposit more coins," came a disembodied voice in Chloe's ear.

Chloe didn't have any more coins. "Nika?" she shouted, as if volume might prevail over the phone company's meter. "I gotta go, but I'll--"


"Call you back soon," Chloe told the dial tone.