Working for the telephone company

I had completely forgotten last week, Happy Mother’s Day to all of my loyal Moms (and their moms). I seriously cannot keep track of the time with no activities to keep me grounded.

What a week we just went through. Some almost got fooled into thinking the winter was over and summer clothes came out. Judy and John worked on their asparagus bed all week, weeding, replanting, adding manure, and straw mulch with one goal in mind: Get it done so the snow can work with the manure. Perfect timing! Saturday morning she had to clean 3 inches of snow off of her car before she could leave. Val was worried about the tulips, but they bounced right back looking better than ever. I think we might be able to call it the end, now. There will be at least one more frost, but I’m predicting no more snow.

I have a special request. Many of you know Karen Coe from Route 17 in Jewett, next door to Jack Rappleyea’s garage. She is the OIC at The Pines in Catskill. She has young children at home, and with the virus appearing in Nursing Homes, she is always concerned about bringing it home to her family, even though she takes all possible precautions. Karen’s birthday was May 12, and I think that it would be very nice to send her words of encouragement and maybe a birthday card. 896 Route 17, Jewett, NY 12444.

Joyce Tompkins, who is in the Mountain Side Nursing home in Margaretville, is celebrating her birthday. Get well prayers and well wishes go out to Gordon Spaulding of Schenectady who is in the hospital, Cora Lee Barlow in the Pines, Christine Fisher Wayman is rehabbing at home and always keep Alvina Hitchcock in your prayers as she is at the Pines Assisted Living Facility. William (Billy) Richards Sr. is in serious need of healing prayers.

The father of Denise Alexides from Mill Street, who is 95, needs prayers. He also needs help with daily functions. If you know of someone who can help, please give me a call at 518-734-5360, and I will give you additional information.

Sympathy for family and friends of Vera (Lampeka) G. who passed away this weekend.


As I think about the White building, which is now an art gallery, the memories start flooding in. In 1947-48, there was an invitation to school girls to apprentice at the Telephone Company. The hours were after school, so you could walk there, from 4 until 7, two days a week, and half a day on Saturdays, two shifts, 8-12 and 1-4. My sister, Flo, Ruth and Dot Alle, Honey Pousant, Martha Miller, me, and maybe some others, jumped at the chance to make some money. Mrs. Van Loan was the chief operator. She and her son lived in the side apartment. Marge Deyo was the supervisor. At the end of the training session, which coincided with the end of school, some stayed and some moved on. My sister went to Hunter, while I stayed, starting my long career as a telephone operator.

A stairway divided the two sides of the house. In the beginning, there were only a few operators handling the calls. (Remember, not everyone had a house phone in those days.) Soon, with increased need, we had 10 operators. Jewett, Lexington and Prattsville had local direct dialing, so they only needed an operator for calls outside their villages, “Long Distance.” This was a time when the Boarding Houses were always full, Sugar Maples, alone, had 500 guests, so the need in the summer for extra help was great. Between guest reservations, and guests wanting to keep in touch with their families, each business had its own, dedicated operator. Greendell Packing, in Prattsville, needed the telephone to keep abreast of all of its orders. Stella Cross became their dedicated operator. Summers were always a very busy time.

The end of summer came, and I stayed on, but because I was “low man on the totem pole,” I got to work the evening and night shift. Generally, it was slow, with most of the calls being made during the day. But, beware if there was a fire! Last month, when Judy was here, her phone dinged, and it was a text from the 911 operator that there was a fire call in Jewett. The location came up, Judy hit the map button, and the exact map came up directing her to the fire. Now, when home, they run to the scanner, and all information comes, complete with the men telling the command center what was happening. Back in the day, the Telephone Operator was in control of the fire calls: Most of the firemen lived out of town, and the siren had a certain “code” as to where the fire was located, this way the men could go directly to the fire from their house. The call would come in, the operator would have to go all the way across the room to look up the code, and push the button for the siren. As soon as it went off, the first of the calls would start coming in. Run across the room and plug in. Explain to the caller where the fire was. Second tone, run across the room, press the siren. Run back and answer the next call. Now the board really lights up as EVERYONE wants to know where the fire is. The operator had to manually press the siren in the correct code, (there was no preprogramming,) so all she could do was watch the board lit up like a Christmas Tree while alerting the firemen via siren. Working alone was no pleasure during a fire.

Next week, I will go back for more Ma Bell memories.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1


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