Browsing through the Staten Island, NY telephone directory of January 1940, I found that certain phone numbers were printed with a suffix J, M, R or W. What do these mean? I've marked a few of them in the image below.
The phone book itself does not define these suffixes -- I checked carefully. These letters do not seem to represent calling rate zones, as Staten Island had only two zones.
Party lines? I'm aware that up to 4 customers could share a phone number and each would get a distinctive ring so the correct party would know to pick up, but I've never known how one would call a particular party on a party line. This phone book mentions that "party lines are available" but gives no further information about them.