Thread Number: 70425  /  Tag: Other Home Products or Autos
The Life of a Telephone Operator in 1969
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Post# 933460   4/20/2017 at 00:03 (428 days old) by Michaelman2 (Atlanta, GA)        

This is a video created by AT&T in 1969.   Technology has totally changed the human interaction that was so common place in years past. 


Loved the cordboard.




Post# 933464 , Reply# 1   4/20/2017 at 00:55 (428 days old) by funktionalart (Phoenix, AZ)        

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Loved seeing that! My mom was an operator for PacBell back in circa 1964-5. No young person today would have the patience or composure required to do this job if it still existed...

Post# 933469 , Reply# 2   4/20/2017 at 02:50 (428 days old) by DaveAMKrayoGuy (Oak Park, MI)        
Those switchboards would have to really expand!

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--That, and with more phones out there, I think you would need another pair of hands, plus how would this work with non-land line phones?

-- Dave

Post# 933478 , Reply# 3   4/20/2017 at 05:19 (428 days old) by toploader55 (Massachusetts Sand Bar, Cape Cod)        

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That was amazing. True Customer service.

I forgot all about that. : )

Post# 933594 , Reply# 4   4/20/2017 at 19:39 (428 days old) by CircleW (NE Cincinnati OH area)        

My mom worked as an operator for Southern Bell (now BellSouth) in 1944 & 1945. This was in Hattiesburg, MS, and she worked both the local and long distance boards. I remember her saying that even though all calls went through an operator, that her L.D. switchboard had a dial on it. This was used to dial calls to certain areas.

She went back to work for Bell in Hattiesburg in the early 50's when my dad was away for the Korean War. However, this time she was not an operator, but rather worked in an office for Western Electric. They were installing a new phone system there that was one of the first areas to have "intertoll" dialing, where customers could dial local and many long distance calls.

I kept in touch with one of her former co-workers she knew from the 40's until the lady passed away last October. Marguerite was 92, and lived about 30 miles from here.

Post# 933597 , Reply# 5   4/20/2017 at 19:47 (428 days old) by jamiel (Detroit, Michigan)        

There is some interesting stuff in YouTube about the operations of the Bell System, including a detailed film on long distance dialing for the operator.

Post# 933600 , Reply# 6   4/20/2017 at 20:20 (428 days old) by wayupnorth (On a lake between Bangor and Bar Harbor)        

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My mother was an operator for MA Bell in the 40's. Money was good thru her Union, stress was not good, she said. I came along in '54 and she was adamant I never work for the phone company ever. But I got a very nice job with Verizon, it swapped to Fairpoint, then the layoffs happened and last in, first out, thanks union dues for not doing anything to help me.

Post# 933603 , Reply# 7   4/20/2017 at 21:03 (428 days old) by Gyrafoam (Roanoke, VA)        

I think Allen is exactly right. The public is a different critter now.

When I grew up there wasn't anything for us other than Southern Bell Telephone.
There was NEVER a problem with our phone service either at home or at the "office" that I ever knew of.

After de-regulation, it all fell apart. Cellphones don't even come close to the service level we got from Bell Telephone. I always thought the Operators were awesome!

Post# 933604 , Reply# 8   4/20/2017 at 21:24 (428 days old) by Yogitunes (New Jersey)        

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if all operators were like this....

Post# 933632 , Reply# 9   4/20/2017 at 23:54 (427 days old) by GusHerb (Chicago/NWI)        

Is my favorite!

Post# 933646 , Reply# 10   4/21/2017 at 05:01 (427 days old) by Frigilux (The Minnesota Prairie)        

I explained the process of using telephone operators to make long distance calls to my nephew's kids (6th grade) and he looked at me like I was from the stone age, LOL.

Today's system is faster and more convenient, but, as with nearly everything else, you rarely have contact with an actual human being on the other end of the line.

I don't have a home phone anymore, but can you even get an operator if you press '0'? And remember when you could call 411 (I think that was the number) and get Information service to find a phone number?

Post# 933648 , Reply# 11   4/21/2017 at 06:06 (427 days old) by washman (Butler, PA)        

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Hi Frig!

Post# 933696 , Reply# 12   4/21/2017 at 11:30 (427 days old) by Davey7 (Chicago)        

My mom's great-aunts or second cousins (can't remember which, I think cousins is right) were the operators in a small town in east central Nebraska. The switchboard was in their living room. This would have been in the 30's-50's period. I think the last time my mom visited them would've been in the late fifties and they were close to retirement.

Post# 933710 , Reply# 13   4/21/2017 at 12:48 (427 days old) by joeekaitis (Rialto, California, USA)        
"The switchboard was in their living room. "

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In some small towns, it was in the operator's bedroom for 24-hour availability.

And everyone's acting like work-from-home is a recent invention. Oy. :)

Post# 933714 , Reply# 14   4/21/2017 at 13:24 (427 days old) by foraloysius (Leeuwarden, the Netherlands)        

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Interesting! I never experienced an operator. The Netherlands was the second country in the world after Switzerland that had fully automated telephone traffic. That was in 1962.

Post# 933716 , Reply# 15   4/21/2017 at 13:31 (427 days old) by Iheartmaytag (Wichita, Kansas)        

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Locally our phone system was automated by the time I came along in the 60s, but I do remember my mother making a long distance call to my grandmother in Missouri.  It would have to go through several operators before the connection was  finally made, and it was expensive in comparison to todays unlimited rates.






Post# 933743 , Reply# 16   4/21/2017 at 16:34 (427 days old) by CircleW (NE Cincinnati OH area)        

I did have to dial the "0" Operator a year or so ago when I was having a problem with my phone service. Local calls to certain areas weren't going through or were getting cut off, so I had to ask the operator to complete the call. I live in an area served by Frontier, which used to be Verizon, and GTE before that. Where I live is just over the border from the Cincinnati Bell area.

Post# 933752 , Reply# 17   4/21/2017 at 17:13 (427 days old) by ken (Ulster Hgts, NY)        

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We got direct dial service in 1966. My older sister, who was in 7th grade at the time, has mentioned how there was a lecture in the school auditorium on how to use the new direct dial phones.

Post# 933755 , Reply# 18   4/21/2017 at 17:33 (427 days old) by ken (Ulster Hgts, NY)        

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My, my how things have changed in such a short time. Well seems short to me anyway.

Post# 933759 , Reply# 19   4/21/2017 at 18:20 (427 days old) by wayupnorth (On a lake between Bangor and Bar Harbor)        

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I still have 4 of those rotary phones. Green and a black desk model as just shown, brown trimline and white wall. Plus an orange trimline touchtone. The green desk and orange trimline are hooked up and work fine if the power goes out, plus their bells can wake the dead. Perks from working at the phone company that no one wanted.

Post# 933800 , Reply# 20   4/21/2017 at 23:07 (426 days old) by Michaelman2 (Atlanta, GA)        

Loved the and watched all of them.   Thank you.   My first job at 15 was as a PBX / switchboard operator at a very large hospital in Atlanta.   This was a cordboard very much like the boards depicted in the Central Offices.    I still remember the extensions for the Emergency Room, Heart Cauterization, Surgical Intensive Care..etc...


We switched from a cordboard in 1983 to an electronic board (Dimension PABX) and I left shortly there after.    Our office was run as though it were a central office of a telephone exchange.   I learned customer service, customer expectations and telephone protocol at this position ( I lied about my age )......I loved this job and as mentioned above, I still remember the board set up.   I would bet I could go back in time and if offered, could work this switchboard like it were yesterday.  


One of the reasons we kept a cordboard was the PABX or electronic boards could not provide the various resources and services that our 608 cordboard provided.    


I know that someone mentioned how could older services and equipment provide the services that our cordboard provided?   There were may physicians and other professionals whom had mobile phones.  We provided the most efficient and complete services available at the time and I suffice to say we most likely provided more efficient and complete service than is available today.  


It was until 2005 that most cordboards were taken out of service.   From what I understand, there are cordboards still in use.    They NEVER fail.    Unless a direct lightening hit or some other irregular occurrence,   the telephone service was never interrupted......


Again, the human intervention is so lost now a days.....sadly.   Companies and ententes whom are valuing and embracing the "human" element are going to  continue to thrive.....


The link I provided shows exactly the switchboard on which I learned/operated.   There were six other positions or boards connected where there were other operators working.   This happens to be a photo of the type of board which which I am familiar.  It was the last of the cordboards that was manufactured and had many " modern" features.    




Post# 933844 , Reply# 21   4/22/2017 at 05:45 (426 days old) by Gyrafoam (Roanoke, VA)        

I had a friend who lived over in Decatur in the mid-60's and his parents still were on a "party line". We used to pick-up the phone and listen in on all the nonsense. Sometimes the chatterboxs would hear us click in and get huffy with us.One lady could always be counted on for her "well, ah deeeclaaah's" she would say that constantly while the other hen rattled on about her drama. We would just tee-hee-hee and hang-up.

Hard to imagine party lines lasting so long. I remember when you didn't have to go too far out of Atlanta into the countryside and you could find places with those old crank-box phones on the wall. You had to crank them a certain number of times to get the "exchange" you wanted, THEN ask an Operater to be connected to a number! Seems so primitive by today's standards.

My parents business phone started with the word TRinity for a number beginning with 87.
That galled my parents to no end!

Post# 934026 , Reply# 22   4/23/2017 at 10:15 (425 days old) by polkanut (Wausau, WI )        

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Our phone exchange here in Wausau was/is VIking for a number beginning with 84.  Our landline is still a part of the old exchange. 

Post# 934455 , Reply# 23   4/25/2017 at 11:53 (423 days old) by Davey7 (Chicago)        

New resume item: Ability to use a corded phone and knowledge of, and ability to understand a dialtone.

My parents had a party line for a while - GTE in their area offered them, but phased them out in the late 80's. They were even able to get the number they'd had in the 70's back in the 80's since it hadn't been re-assigned. A friend of my dad's had a business which was on a party line (about 20 miles from Branson, Mo) and he could tell when the neighbor was eavesdropping because her bird would be cawing...

One of my friends was telling that there was a scene in a movie when a young woman started crying upon seeing a rotary phone as she didn't know how to use it (and this was in the mid-90s iirc).

Post# 934459 , Reply# 24   4/25/2017 at 12:04 (423 days old) by Michaelman2 (Atlanta, GA)        
Movie with model crying over rotary phone

I believe the movie referenced above is " In and Out". Circa 1997? Kevin Klein .... funny movie and if memory serves there is a model that is relagated to a motel with a rotary dial phone. She knows it is a telephone but has no clue as to how to make a call ( dial ) from it. Watch the movie it really is a fun film.

Post# 934476 , Reply# 25   4/25/2017 at 13:00 (423 days old) by Travis ()        

This is one example of technology removing thousands of jobs.  Everyone with a modern phone, it's all YOUR fault!

Post# 934485 , Reply# 26   4/25/2017 at 13:30 (423 days old) by rp2813 (The Big Blue Bubble)        
$0.02 From the CYpress Exchange

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So true Travis!  One of these days all of those people whose crappy, choppy, delayed transmission -- not to mention highly vulnerable "smart" phones have become an appendage are going to wish they had access to the clarity, security and reliability of a land line with a telephone set built to last for decades, not just until next year's model is introduced.



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Post# 934495 , Reply# 27   4/25/2017 at 14:19 (423 days old) by ken (Ulster Hgts, NY)        

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Honestly I hate talking on a cell phone whether Im on another cell or land line on my end. I find the delay very annoying. I guess I take for granted Im simply talking on a phone. I guess I still have the mindset of the speed and quality of a landline call. At the point Im saying my next thought the reply of the other person to the first thing I said is just being heard so I stop talking mid sentence. Then they hear the broken sentence of the next thing I was saying so they stop talking. So I start to repeat what I was saying and then they also start talking again! I then realize give it time. Talk slower. Pause. Listen carefully so I can understand what the other person is saying because the sound quality is crappy compared to our old landline service. Im glad I have a cheap LG flip phone that I purchased for $28.00 and also that my service costs only $10.00 a month with TracPhone. It serves the purpose for what I need a cell phone for. This morning when I was across the street getting the mail at the post office the 20 something year old girl waiting on me took her phone out of her smock and set it on the counter. She must have received a text so she just had to answer it immediately which is what she proceeded to do while waiting on me. At least she showed she can multi task very well.

Here's an ad I just came across for some old rotary phones.

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Post# 934570 , Reply# 28   4/25/2017 at 21:06 (423 days old) by Michaelman2 (Atlanta, GA)        

Travis, correct.. technology killed the telephone star.

Louis, in 1962 even though you may never have encountered an operator, if you were making intercontinental calls, you encountered an operator. The technology in 1962 would not have been more advanced in the Netherlands.

You may have had "direct dial", however this information would have been transmitted to a human being / operator and then the operator completed the appropriate connection to an available trunk ( line ). You the client may not have noticed the transfer.

I guarantee you, had you dialed zero, a human being at a cord switchboard would have answered. There were no electronic TPSP console switchboards that early.

Post# 934579 , Reply# 29   4/25/2017 at 22:20 (422 days old) by foraloysius (Leeuwarden, the Netherlands)        

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Yes, international calls is possible, I don't know. But for calls within the country telephone traffic was fully automatic in 1962. Dialing a zero wouldn't give you an operator. The zero was the first number for the number before the local number. For instance our phone number local was 2003. People from outside our town had to dial 05190-2003.

Post# 934612 , Reply# 30   4/26/2017 at 03:12 (422 days old) by Stan (Napa CA)        

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House phone
Ringer box below.
This was original phone to the house, however even though it has a dial, there was no dial tone til about 15 years later. The old number was 805J

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Post# 934674 , Reply# 31   4/26/2017 at 13:01 (422 days old) by rp2813 (The Big Blue Bubble)        

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Stan, I had that exact same arrangement (1931 D-1 set with 1931 box) when I was serving as householder in a 1937 home back in the mid '80s.  I loved hearing the "brrrrinnng" sound from the bell box.   Upstairs in that same home I had a 1938 metal 302 model in the hallway on a 25' cord.


These days, that phone and box rig is in the guest bedroom.  I disabled the ringer for a couple of reasons:  I don't want to disturb guests, and the old ringers draw so much current that my '60s chime box in the den stops chiming.  I have three vintage phones that are set to ring in addition to the chime box.  Any more than that and the chime reverts to a loud clang.

Post# 934706 , Reply# 32   4/26/2017 at 15:23 (422 days old) by Gyrafoam (Roanoke, VA)        

I remember when my father's desk had two of those.
They made great doorstops later on as they must have weighed 25 pounds.

Post# 934795 , Reply# 33   4/26/2017 at 20:07 (422 days old) by jamiel (Detroit, Michigan)        

Michaelman, need to agree with Louis. What you're saying is true for the NANP (North American Numbering Plan), but not necessarily for the rest of the world. 0 for operator is common, but wasn't standard in smaller countries with less of a concept of "long distance" like the Netherlands. They certainly had a way to get an international operator (may have been "11" or "12" or ...). I've been in the phone business since of the more interesting museums I've been to was the Telephone Museum in Stockholm...Ericsson is to Sweden as AT&T is to the US...very interesting to see the development at their museum (similar technological steps as the US had, but what we see as "exotic" was the norm for Ericsson...they did a much greater portion of their business overseas than AT&T (which didn't really operate overseas except for licensing their stuff to Canada...IT&T was the US company which was more engaged internationally.

Post# 934858 , Reply# 34   4/26/2017 at 23:05 (421 days old) by foraloysius (Leeuwarden, the Netherlands)        

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Actually it was 0018. It was an information number for international telephone traffic. You could call it for an international telephone number. If you were able to call it yourself, you would put the phone down after you were given the number and call it yourself. If you would let them connect you to it, there was an extra charge. Calling to countries that you couldn't call yourself was more expensive anyway.

There was also an information number for national telephone traffic. It was 008. They didn't connect you, just gave you the number. Only in later years you could let them connect you as an extra service, but there was an extra charge too.

We also had numbers for a time signal (002) and for the weather forecast from our national weather institute (003).

There were more such numbers, they were all listed at the back of every phonebook.

BTW, every phone cord had four wires, I don't know if that was different than in other countries?

Post# 934860 , Reply# 35   4/26/2017 at 23:08 (421 days old) by Michaelman2 (Atlanta, GA)        

Hey Jamie, 


Read your posting....however in 1962?   TSPS boards were not even produced until the early 1970s.   (quick edit...I just found a TSPS board from 1961, so I was wrong).


Hey 1962 was a year before I was even born, so you may indeed be correct.  I just remember that in the US cordboards in certain areas (central office boards) were still around until 1980.   Catalina island was a still a completely manual exchange until 1978.  Meaning the operator had to complete the residents telephone calls.   There were no dials on the telephones.  A resident or business of Catalina would simply pick up a telephone and the operator would be notified and the customer would be connected to another resident/business or an outside trunk and then the call "dialed" by the operator.   There was another completely manual exchange on the east coast and I believe somewhere in Maine that was modified / modernized in 1978.


There were of course many Private Branch Exchange cordboards still in use until the 1980s.   These usually were large multi position switchboards that could handle cellular / car phones and other technologies that the early electronic boards could not handle.


I did learn after some more research that the first telecommunications satellite was in operation in 1962.  I did not realize this until after reading the timeline.      


So you may indeed be correct....I shared a link below...interesting.   


Thanks for your post.  


Post# 934871 , Reply# 36   4/27/2017 at 00:07 (421 days old) by rp2813 (The Big Blue Bubble)        

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Through a good friend, in 1980 I met another friend who lived in Napa, CA.  At that point in time, he said it had only been about a year since Napa exchanges no longer required dialing Operator for long distance.   In the more populated parts of the SF Bay Area, direct dial long distance was widely available by the mid '60s.


In Crockett, CA,  not too far east of the SF Bay Area, they didn't have dial phones until the mid to late '70s.  That exchange may have been the last in the state to transition to dial service.


While I was working at Pacific Bell, the old timers would often say that Pacific Telephone had always been Ma Bell's ugly stepchild.   We got everything last.  Even the heavily recycled 302 type telephone sets, introduced in 1937, were still being deployed for residential service into the early '60s, a good dozen years after the modern 500 models had been introduced east of the Rockies.  There was one mechanical switch still remaining here in this city that was closing in on population 1,000,000 back in the early '90s.  Subscribers in that exchange couldn't even get Call Waiting over a dozen years after most others in the area had been using it and other features, which became available with upgrades to electronic switching equipment.  Ma Bell's legacy was a tough one to shake for Pac Bell until the Telecommunications Act of 1996 changed the telecom game forever, and not necessarily for the better.

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