JUMP TO PAGE   100  >  200  >  300  >  400  >  500  >  600

Shorpy members who are Patreon contributors get an ad-free experience! (Mostly -- there's still an ad above the comments.) Sign up or learn more.

Well-Connected: 1935

Well-Connected: 1935

Washington, D.C., 1935. "Woman at Western Electric telephone switchboard." Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative. View full size.


On Shorpy:
Today’s Top 5

That dress

I'm fascinated by the draping collar with covered buttons and neckline of that pretty dress. I don't think I've seen one like it before. I wish there was a better view of it.

Too complicated for me!

When I was a bellman at the old Cove Inn in Naples, Florida, in the late 1960s, they wanted me to run the PBX board during the evenings. Maybe the fellow who tried to explain how it worked was not good at explaining or just didn't understand it himself—I never saw him operate it—but he had me so confused that I panicked and refused the assignment.

I have never looked at a PBX board since without a sense of admiration for those who could operate it. It sure was beyond my ability.

Putting the "old" in my moniker

I'll confess I ran one of those nights for three years during college. Actually, not one, but three, with a well-oiled rolling chair to scoot between them. Only difference I see is that ours had been updated to include a microphone on the headset which the operator would plug into whichever board was active. Most nights averaged 700 calls, but busy nights ranged to 3,000. Usually from 3:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m., I could put a second chair under my feet and get two hours of sleep so I could be fresh enough to fail my 7:00 a.m. tennis class.

Hello Girls

My grandmother was a "Hello Girl" in the 1910 - 1920 era in the Los Angeles area.

Western Electric 551 PBX

This is a typical old Western Electric switchboard used in hotels and businesses. If you want to play operator, there are a couple of these in the lobby of Hotel Congress in Tucson, remnants from the Pioneer Hotel down the road.

Hotel Congress still uses its slightly newer 555 switchboard located behind the front desk to talk to the antique phones in the rooms. I maintain the thing, as all the real Ma Bell telephone techs are long deceased.

Dialing adapter

On the end of the operators pencil is a sleeve with a ball to spin the dial with out shredding her manicure. My grandmother (1910-1976) had many of these as standalone pieces: no pencil. They were made of brass and some were silver and they were quite ornate. Geez, those must have been special because I can only find mechanical pencil examples online.

This is a person to person call

Remember those? If the individual to whom you wished to speak was not available, you did not have to pay anything for the call. This lady does sorta resemble Lily Tomlin, but Lily is not old enough to be her as she wasn't even born in '35. My sister was an operator for SNET (Southern New England Tel.) in the late 50's through the middle 60's (so give me a cookie). She loved it.

Syndicate content is a vintage photography site featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago. Contact us | Privacy policy | Site © 2020 Shorpy Inc.