Back in the 1970s, when Levitz Furniture was opening a new store in Salt Lake City, Ol' Myrt here was hired to work in the front office. In addition to posting sales and processing loan applications, I cross-trained on the PBX -- a machine used "anciently" to answer incoming calls and then connect that caller to the desired extension in the building using a sometimes intertwining system of metal tipped cords. Be sure to click to view the YouTube video clip of an old television segment from Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In where Lily Tomlin had us all roaring with her telephone operator character.
Ol' Myrt here didn't wear her hair in Lilly's circa 1940s updo, nor did I tend to snort when giggling, but I can certainly relate to the machinery I came to know so well.
But I didn't know how the "Hello Girls" kept things connected during WWII and actually contributed in a significant way to the war effort.
"Soldiers were struggling to operate switchboards, rather than performing the
combat-related duties they had been trained for. Pershing wasted no time in asking the War Department for 100 French-speaking US telephone operators. Because switchboard operation was, at that time, an exclusively female occupation, this meant that Pershing was asking women to work for the Army."
Find out more by reading Patricia Daniel's "Switchboard Soldiers: The Hello Girls" from the Apr/May 2009 issue of History Magazine, pages 42-43.
Happy family tree climbing!
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