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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Old Time Telephone Operators Had Connections

Many of you probably read Leon Hale's column in The Chronicle. He's written for Houston newspapers for years. He celebrated his 90th birthday recently, so The Chronicle has rerun some of his best columns. Here's one about old-time telephone operators in small-town Texas.

Hale's story is true of Sugar Land's operators. I remember Margaret Albritton Hill telling me that Etna Schindler could find anybody in town. In fact, she once tracked down Robert Hill as he drove to Austin for a family funeral. Her reach went well beyond Sugar Land!

I remember talking with Buddy & Billie Blair and Buddy's sister Bertha a few months ago. Buddy told me about an incident when he was stationed in Korea in the early 50s during the war. He had a chance to call home & talk with his family. It was all very spontaneous, so he couldn't tell them when to expect the call.

The day finally came when it was his turn to use the trans-Pacific line, so he put in his call to Sugar Land. I can't recall who the operator was, but I think it was Etna Schindler. She tried his parents' house but they weren't at home. She said they were probably at the Lions Club Carnival which was underway that evening in 'downtown' Sugar Land.

I don't recall the exact date, so the carnival may have been north of the railroad tracks, or south of the tracks in the parking lot of the 'new' shopping center. Anyway, Etna got someone to track Buddy's parents down and get them to a nearby phone. Nothing was going to stop them from taking Buddy's call from Korea!

1 comment:

  1. My Grandmother, Nola McMeans Hughes, twin sister to Nora McMeans Blair, Buddy's mother, was a telephone operator in Sugar Land. I used to love going to the office over the old post office/bank building. The beauty parlor was in front and the telephone office was in the back. Sometimes she would let me plug in the calls and time the long distance calls. Ah, sweet memories of a wonderful grandmother. Aunt Nora worked at the candy counter at the 'new' grocery store. You could buy a lot of candy for 25 cents. Cherryl