Monday, January 2, 2012


One afternoon while my mother was next door with Granny Harris, rocking and chatting with her on her front porch, Granny’s telephone rang. The call was for my mother. Mrs. Goodier, the telephone operator, could see from her switchboard directly across the street that the reason my mother wasn't answering her own phone was because she was next door with Granny Harris. So Mrs. Goodier rang Granny's number to get in touch with my mother (a.k.a. call forwarding).

The time was the mid-1950s, when women were known as Mrs. or Miss, a time when a small town's informational superhighway was nothing more than a lady with a headset and a memory for details. 

In the village where I grew up, there was no Ma Bell conglomerate, just the Dimmock Hollow Telephone Company situated in the living room of a home on Main Street. Owing to the low population, the phone numbers were just three digits. Ours was 112 and my grandparents' was 290. But it really wasn't necessary to know anyone's number since the operator knew everyone anyway.  That picture is of Mrs. CA Bruning, switchboard operator and German translator, in Iowa,  but it looks pretty much the way I remember the Dimmock Hollow Telephone Company back in the mid-1950s.

On one particularly nasty winter's morning, my mother had trouble driving to work because the roads had not yet been sanded. When my mother called her boss -- which meant, of course, going through Mrs. Goodier first -- he advised my mother not to bother until the roads were safe. Later that morning, Mrs. Goodier rang my mother to inform her that the roads had been plowed and sanded.

There were no cell phones or beepers in the 50s, just the switchboard operator. Doctors made house-calls back then, and should you need to contact him while he was making his rounds, the operator knew exactly where to reach him. You could always count on the operator during any emergency -- fire, accident or whatever. Best of all, the operator was the first one to learn when school was closed for a snow day.

What generated this flood of memories was The Attack of the Pridefully Ignorant: "I pointed out that we were in the Information Age and that practically everyone who communicated did so using digital tools. About five seconds into my response, I just changed the subject; I am not prepared to argue with the pridefully ignorant." 

I'm not a Luddite; I'm not one to thwart progress. We have one PC and two laptops at home. I readily admit cell phones are indispensable. Each of our four grandchildren has one. They master technology long before I ever do. They can txt ms and tweet and type their stream-of-consciousness into their FB pages with ease. But suggest they write a letter...? Which is why in this reach-out-and-touch-y'all society, we seem to communicate less on a personal level. I'm from an age when there used to be an informational highway without much of the fuss. It has been my experience that for the acquisition and dissemination of data, you couldn’t beat the switchboard operator.

Speaking of cell phones... My butt just hung up on you.


On to today's news...
We have our first snowfall of the season. It's a blustery 30*, with a wind chill of 16*. Tonight the mercury will dip to 4*.  This should please our neighbors, a young couple from Florida who have been anxious to see snow for the first time.

Since New Year's was on a Sunday, today is a legal holiday. Of course. I'm waiting for tomorrow when life should kick into gear again, when the mailman is back on his route and Rush is back on the air and all's right with the world.


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