In my 32+ years at Comporium, I’ve experienced quite a bit of change. It’s amazing to me, when I look back, just how much! There are so memories to highlight but there are those that, even though they may seem insignificant, they will stick with me for a lifetime. I just wanted to share a few from the original Operator 12.
• Mr. Bennett used to bring in the change he’d collected from payphones throughout the day. I worked right down the hall from the counting room. I can still hear the sound of those coins being poured into the machine for counting. Anytime I hear change rattling today I get a spark of nostalgia. (Not to mention the smell of his pipe as he walked through the building!)
• Back in the late 80s there was no “911” as we know it today. Folks dialed zero if they needed assistance. We were instructed to remain on calls to make sure proper connections were made and our help was no longer needed. Most operators from that era have stories to tell about these experiences, bad and good alike, a few unforgettable. It was times like these that made the “stressless” job of being an operator one of the most stressful jobs you could have.
• Operators were on the receiving end of MANY prank calls. Mostly from small children apparently bored because there were no video games or iPhones to hold their attention. Our greatest joy in this was that we could call them right back and ask to speak to mama or daddy lol.
• We, at times, were “friends” to those that were lonely and needed to hear a voice. All it took was dialing 0. We knew their names, their numbers and most times their stories. We couldn’t keep them on the line for too long but sometimes it satisfied them just to hear another voice.
• I was there when the top three floors were added to the Headquarters building, when some of our offices were in the little houses lining Black Street, when our telephone switch filled the entire basement and when Frank, John and Ed Barnes all still roamed the halls and greeted you by name.
I was an operator for five short years, but so many memories were made in that time. Today I serve in a different capacity and many things (most things) have changed but memories are still being made. Catch me at our 150th anniversary for my next batch.
Amy Peeler Williams