Invisible Diplomats – how telephone operators were essential to the telephone business – connection, business links, customer service 1960s. Switchboard operators provide assistance to a telephone callers and make the business work.
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Yes, believe it or not, switchboard operators are still playing a role in the town of Rockland, Massachusetts. This has all come about because of a historical lecture and exhibit that I am putting together, being hosted by the Historical Society of Old Abington. This event is entitled: “The History of Early Telephones & Switchboards” This will take place on Sunday, March 2nd at the Dyer Memorial Library, 28 Centre Avenue in Abington, MA, starting at 2:30pm. This is free and open to the public.
Part of the exhibit that follows the lecture is to have phones of all different eras and styles out and available for people to use, which are connected to these switchboards and encouraging people to pick up the phones and call one another through the operators, as they had done in our town of Rockland, MA until 1957, when the switchboards were replaced with a dial service.
In organizing this, I was able to get 2 delightful kids to volunteer to be trained as switchboard operators, using the old cord and jack style switchboards. We got a group of friends and interested town folk together to come together play a series of games, sharing riddles, trivia & gossip and stories to one another via telephones that we had hooked up through these old switchboards, as a way to help generate telephone traffic to help train these operators.
What transpired from this was an amazing group of people coming together to share in laughter and in the spirit of community, friendship and good fun!
This video was filmed during our last switchboard games practice session which took place on Sunday, February 16th. 2 Western Electric 555 Cord switchboards are the equipment used to connect these calls.
We hope to host more of these game parties in the future as a way to help keep alive this piece of history, to help keep this old equipment alive and running, and most importantly, to bring together a community of people and friends experience first hand a piece of history of what it was like to be on the telephone back in the days before you could dial your own calls.
After watching this film, if you have any interest in the technology side of this project, or have an interest in helping us to develop more engaging and challenging games for this, or if you would like to be trained as a telephone operator, or have stories of being a telephone operator that you would like to have documented, I would love to hear from you!
If interested please contact Chris Ricciotti at (617) 852-4042
or by email at [email protected]
Many thanks for your interest, and I hope you enjoy the film!