Sunday, February 27, 2005

switchboard memories

That's a switchboard, and one of those was a big part of my growing-up years.  My mom and dad were the operators... "Central", as it was called then... for several small-town telephone companies in Iowa and Missouri.  That switchboard in a corner of our living room was a fixture I almost came to accept as a member of the family. 

If we went anyplace, a girl had to be hired to stay with the switchboard.  Someone had to be available to answer it twenty-four hours a day.  If anyone made a call in the middle of the night, Mama or Daddy (usually Mama) had to get out of bed and put the call through.  My parents even had the privilege of listening to the conversation if they so desired, although I don't know if they did this or not; I do know they were occasionally accused of it, though.

If a house caught on fire, we were the first to know, and the information would be relayed to the proper people.  In one town, the last one we lived in before moving to the city, my parents were responsible for turning on the town siren in our yard.  Mother was usually the one to sit at the switchboard, although when she was gardening and canning in the summer, Daddy did his duty there. 

Sometimes after a wind storm, Daddy would have to uncross lines.  He had some sort of pole with a special attatchment on the end to do this; I believe when the lines were crossed, people could hear other people's conversations, which could be quite confusing.  I recall riding along with him on his rounds, and watching him.  It's really the only time I rode in the car with him driving, since Mother always drove when we went anyplace as a family.  Daddy preferred it that way.

It was around 1955 that modern technology made the switchboard obsolete, and we came to Kansas City, where both parents had no problem finding a job.

Memories.

12 comments:

bookncoffee said...

Wow. thanks for sharing that.  That's interesting.  And was quite a responsibililty for your parents as well.
Sonya

cyandfayedavis said...

Good memory!  What brought that to mind?  My Dad was a member of the Voluntary Fire Department (there was no paid fire department).  And we all listened for the fire alarm which meant that no matter what he was doing, he had to drop everything and head to the fire station.  A picture of the crew (50's) with thier truck now hangs in the local Golden Corral Restaurant along with other town memorabilty. <sp?>

simwarford said...

I guess there wasn't a local switchboard when I was growing up, but I know we had a 4-digit number--no prefix, and no area code--in the late 60's/early 70's. We were on a party line, and it never worked too well, either. We knew the operator by name, though I can't remember it anymore. To call anywhere outside the area of our little town, we had to go through her.
All the phones would ring when there was a fire; there was a small volunteer fire dept., and then anyone else who could, would go help.
We finally got a private line in 1979; and it was difficult to get it.

gypsytrader49 said...

Oh my God! It reminds me of Jenny...remember Lassie.

sanforized6 said...

Great memories, huh? rich

ksquester said...

Great entry and graphic. At the age of 14 my mother worker at the telephone company. Yes, I am old enough to remember party lines.........talk about gossip!  Anne

firestormkids04 said...

Great entry!  I worked a bourd like this as well when I was an operator for a doctor's exchange in the 80's.  My boss never replaced that board, she liked it the way it was - I enjoyed it, too.  Penny

bnanajm said...

In 1956 I got my first taste of the switchboard at a Chevrolet dealership back home in Milwaukee.  I had several jobs after that involving being a switchboard operator or their relief.  
I always enjoyed doing it because it was more fun than the usual office work I was learning to do, way back then.  And I got paid for it too.

Bnana

starstarj said...

I don't remember switch board operators but I remember when we had to get our mail at the post office and everyone had their own box that the mail was put into.  No mail delivery like today and I can still remember our box # 422. It's  funny what we remember. Like I can still recite our phone number and my aunt's to this day and that was like 50 some years ago.

ryanagi said...

How cool! I knew about switch board operators, but never realized these monsters were installed in private homes. Probably necessary in rural areas with no public buildings.

tendernoggle said...

Hey, Mosie, you brought back alot of memories! When I was small and lived on Horseshoe Bend, we once had a party line.....all the phones in our little section of the country had different rings, so you would know when to pick up! Sometimes my mama would be on the phone and someone would break in and ask her to get off so they could make a call! ( TYou couldn't use your phone if someone else was on ) I had about forgotten all this...thanks for reminding me!
Carlene

plieck30 said...

Yep its a switchboard alright except the one I worked on had the mouth piece hanging from the center. Wish I could sit down one more time and say "number please". I don't see a crank on this one. The one I worked on had a crank on the side to be used if the electricity went out I think. I never had to use it. Thanks for bringing back the memories. Paula