Friday, October 3, 2008

Telephone Operators

This is a neat photograph of an old telephone exchange office from about 1915. The operators actually made the connections on the telephone by way of the pictured switchboards. It is amazing to consider that in the past every telephone call had to be routed manually by operators like the ones pictured above.

When I was growing up in the 1960's we had a "party line". This meant that a number of people along a road in a rural area shared the same line. The result was that only one family could use the phone at a time. If you picked the phone up, and another family was already using it, you could hear them speaking on the line. You would then hang up, and try again later to see if they were done. Sometimes when you were on the phone you would hear a click, indicating someone else on the line had picked up the phone. Usually when you heard this you would wrap the call up, freeing the line up for someone else. It is amazing how far things have come just in my lifetime.

4 comments:

  1. My brother and I used to stay with a lady rural Kansas on occasion when we were children. We sometimes entertained ourselves by listening in on conversations over the party line.

    I once had a telephone operators chair like the ones in the photo. The thing that made it very distinctive was that it had a "pocket" for a purse. The pocket was a formed from a piece of sheet metal that was sort of folded in half leaving a nice contoured void. It was welded to the stem of the chair's pedestal.

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  2. I remember having a party line. Seemed like someone was always on it. Sometimes I would just listen in till someone told me to hang up. So glad its not like that anymore.

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  3. This explains something I've done forever and learned from my parents. When ever I pick up the phone to make a call, I listen for the dial tone. Makes sense that my parents were listening to make sure the line was free.

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  4. In '80 & '81 I worked at an answering service that had switchboards just like this. It was a blast. It was my first 'real job' out of high school. It's cool to see pictures of those neat old switchboards. Lots of fun to work on too! :)

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