DARKE COUNTY -People have it made today with their cell phones and all of the different apps available, but it hasn’t always been that way.
These phones, with their ever-changing technology, allow the users to do much more than they ever could before. They can do such things as play games with them, access the Internet on them, listen to music, text on them and even take pictures, in addition to placing a phone call.
Approximately 60 years ago, countians never heard of such an invention.
However, there are people who are still around who remember the makings of a telephone call. They worked as switchboard operators and placed phone calls for customers before things were modernized.
Carolyn Castle of Ansonia was one of them. She started with United of Ohio in 1952.
“I saw an ad in the paper where they wanted an operator,” she said. “I started as a local operator above Whitecotten’s Drugstore on the Circle in Greenville. [Husband] Jim and I lived above the Moore’s Store, where Sportzters is today, and the job was a block away from where I lived.”
The work, she said, was very simple.
“You sat at and faced a board, which had two rows of cords. You’d pick up the back cord toward you. You’d have the rags ring code, ring it and that was it,” she said. “After a while, they had local calls in one room and long distance in another.”
She said there were 10 local boards and 10 long distance boards, all filled with people doing their jobs, except at nighttime when only three boards were in operation.
“There were up to 10 people on a party line in the country where there were four in town,” she said. “It kept getting cut down until there was only one on a line.”
Most of the problems with the system would stem from people leaving their receiver off the hook.
“It was done by accident,” Castle said. “A lot of times we had to send a man out to tell them to hang up.”
Once the office moved to the new building at South Broadway and Water, she said it was all strictly long distance and went to dial.
“When it first went to long distance, we had to time their calls, fill out a ticket where they called, put it in a card and stamp it,” she explained. “Sometimes, we had to check to see if they were still talking. Back then we were placing calls from Versailles trucking companies, because they couldn’t dial direct at that time.”
Castle, who retired in 1985, said she started out as an operator, then worked in the records department and ended up on the test board. At the latter, she said, people reported trouble, she tested the line and then would dispatch a man to repair it.
“I loved it,” she said. “People worked well with each other. It was nice. I don’t know anybody I didn’t like. I wouldn’t have retired when I did, but they closed the Greenville office. You could either go to Mansfield or Bellefontaine, but I retired. If I were not married, I would have gone.”
Castle only made 84 cents an hour when she started working as a switchboard operator.
“But, I could get four or five sacks of groceries with that,” she said. “You can’t do that now. That might only pay for one bag. But, I made good money operating the test board.”
She believes the telephone system was much simpler back then.
“Now, you call information or repair and don’t know where that call is going to go,” she said.
Still today, Castle, who suffers from macular degeneration, is good at remembering telephone numbers. People even call her if they need someone’s number.
“I have a pretty sharp mind,” she said.
Betty Andrews, who started with United of Ohio in Greenville in 1957, still has proof that she worked as a telephone operator. She has a ticket which connected Ohio Gov. James A. Rhodes to President Lyndon B. Johnson in a person-to-person call.
“Rhodes must have been in Greenville because it was a Greenville number,” said Andrews. “They probably didn’t talk very long.”
Yes, she and other operators had their work cut out for them.
She was among those who worked above Whitecotten’s Drugstore.
“I worked 28 years altogether and retired in 1985,” she said. “I worked there and when they went to the new building. In two weeks, they had done away with that stuff and we had to have training to do the toll board, because there was no more local board.”
Andrews said she had been working at General Athletic when she got the job as a phone operator.
“I was happy to get away from there,” said Andrews, who was Operator 5. “It was nice work at the telephone company. I enjoyed it. It was clean. After they made another switch on the other side, it was really easy and automatic. Calls just came in to you. I liked that.”
Susan Fowble, who is still with the Century Link, said the telephone system was modernized in 1969.
“They got away from the cordboards,” she said. “The next year is when I came on.”
Ardith Grimes, who was a supervisor for the telephone company. said it was her job to write up monthly reports, keep records, keep track of the answer times and payroll on weekends.
She worked at the office at Broadway and Water in Greenville until they close that office.
“Everything in the western part of the state went to Bellefontaine and everything in the eastern part went to Mansfield,” she said. “I went to Bellefontaine for training, moved there and, three months later, they closed that office and all went to Mansfield.”
Grimes also transferred to Mansfield and remained there until she retired in 2001, when that office closed.
“A year later at my retirement party, they announced they were closing out the offices in Ohio to one of the Carolinas and Florida,” she said. “A few of them took transfers. There is not an operator in Ohio anymore.”
Grimes said she enjoyed working for the phone company, which changed names five or six times, to and including United of Ohio, Embarq, Spring and Century Link.
“It was nice,” she said. “They still had the old cordboards when I began there. If a customer called in and would talk, we’d let them talk. We had old cardboard tickets and had to use a calculagraph clock to time the calls. We’d pull the handle and we’d mark the tickets then mailed them to billing.”
According to her, there were only two boards, an inward board and the other, in which each surrounding town had a section on the board. There were only so many lights that could come on.”
They even handled calls made from pay phones.
Some names these women remember having worked for the telephone company over the years around the county include Berniece Bickel, Dottie Gustin, Lisa Nash, Frances Ditmer, Ruth Rudy, Naomi Rank, Jeannie Miller, Ruth Rodeheffer, Mary Margaret Spille, Ann Spahr, June Leeper, Janet Leeper, Almeda Lowry, Harriet O’Dell, Orleda Deubner, Ginny Selander, Susanne Buckingham, Elsie Shahan, Shirley Blackburn Yohey, Rosella Christian, Rolla VanDeGrift, Aline Dickey, Helen Eley, Barbara Caupp, Fay Gerber, Esther Roll, Mabel Clark, Geneva Bailey, Norma Shahan, Sandy Printz, Anna Lee Printz and Sharon Brown, Cheryl Mann, Frances Enochs, Wanda McCune and Maxine Fowble.
Additional names that were recalled were Dick Pierron, Kenny Hemmerich, Ersal Riegle, Ralph Knick, Jess Mikesell, Keith Schlechty, Bud Dancer and Red Tinkham.