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GPO Telephonist

(22 Posts)
AlgeswifeVal Wed 23-Sep-15 19:45:54

Was any one else a GPO Telephonist in the 60's. I worked at Brentwood Exchange, (one of the number please girls) All these years later I think/know I could still operate a corded switchboard.

Lona Wed 23-Sep-15 19:58:51

When I worked at Midland Bank, I was one of the relief telephonists (lunchtimes and holidays). It was a corded 10 line switchboard with about 35-40 extensions. I loved it! grin

Freespirit2015 Wed 23-Sep-15 20:33:24

I too trained and worked part-time in the evenings as a GPO telephonist. Do you remember how when repeating a telepone number we had to break up the numbers into pairs except where there were an odd number of digits, when we gave the first digit singly, followed by the remaining digits in pairs. I continue to do that to this day. Old habits die hard!

boheminan Wed 23-Sep-15 22:35:26

I worked and trained at the Bedford GPO Exchange in 1968

feetlebaum Wed 23-Sep-15 23:27:27

@Freespirit2015 - I find it irritating when people announce a telephone number containing 'triple' something, instead of, as you describe, something double something.

Did you say 'hold the line', instead of 'hang on'!?

POGS Wed 23-Sep-15 23:56:41

I was a GPO telephonist at Free Lane Leicester. It was my first job.

Absolutely loved the Job, not all of the people but I won't go into that, mentioned it before on GN in context with other issues.

Do you remember 'signing in'. Your shift could be 8.20, 8.22. 8.25 and if you were as much as 1 minute late you had a cross against your name! People wouldn't believe the discipline of how the 'working practice' was in those days.

I loved being on Emergencies but detested Directory Enquiries.

I remained a 'Call Girl' grin for most of my working time (not with the Post Office) until redundancy / ill health in 2000.

I did deviate ' for a while selling second hand clothes and goods on a stall at Leicester Market as we were very hard up and a regular job was not an option due to family commitments (needs must scenario).

ninathenana Thu 24-Sep-15 00:22:05

I wasn't GPO trained but I operated a corded switchboard at a factory as a teenager. I loved the job except when Mr X came on the line, I could never understand him and had to ask him to repeat himself, sometimes more than once smile

whitewave Thu 24-Sep-15 07:06:34

My Aunt was a telephonist. I also had a rebellious period at 16 and decided that I wanted to leave school. Got accepted as a telephonist, but was told I must go back and finish my GCEs! The best thing anyone did for me! Needless to say I did not take up the job! I finally left after my A levels -by then I was keen to go on to university, but my father thought that girls like me (working class) didn't do that so I got a job in the civil service.

AlgeswifeVal Thu 24-Sep-15 07:26:13

I remember all of the comments about working life at the exchange. We had set expressions, hold the line please, sorry to keep you waiting, still trying to connect you. Also if you needed the loo you had to put your hand up, ring a bell on the switchboard , the supervisor would come over,(she sat in a high chair behind you ) you would then ask is it alright if I could have a casual. Yes, signing in and out was a must including lunchtimes. Good days though for me, even though it was strict. We still have reunions every year but most of the girls/women are dead or moved away.

Teetime Thu 24-Sep-15 09:38:39

My mother was a telephonist in the SATs during the war in Leicester Square. She said it was a brilliant job and she always answered the telephone at home very formally and correctly.

KatyK Thu 24-Sep-15 10:19:19

I worked for a large company in the '60s. There was a huge switchboard with several telephonists. Us juniors were sent in observe them as part of our training. They had such posh voices when they were speaking on the telephone. When they were speaking to each other they had broad Birmingham accents. It made me giggle.

POGS Thu 24-Sep-15 11:03:29

Katy K

I adopted a 'GPO Accent' very quickly smile. I had a strong Somerset accent as I had just left school, moved to Leicester and started my first job.

I remember my dad and I at a meeting with the careers officer and she laughed because I said I wanted to be a telephonist or join the Wrens. Dad was furious because she more or less laughed in my face saying I could never get a job in the Post Office hinting I was too thick and my accent would be a non starter. Dad just jumped up and said 'Come on, we are leaving". and we did.


No such luck for me I was like the many poorly educated and just accepted that at 15 you left school and got a job.

Mamie Thu 24-Sep-15 11:10:57

I am GPO trained. I worked evenings, bank holidays and weekends when my children were babies, after I finished university and before I did my PGCE. I loved it, especially 999. We used to go in early to get on there. It was a large northern city and I had to modify my posh southern accent a bit in order to be understood.

Mamie Thu 24-Sep-15 11:14:12

One legacy is that I remember phone numbers very easily. I think we were taught to lean them in threes. This makes it hard here in France where it is always pairs and I have to think really hard about "soixante dix-sept" etc.

numberplease Thu 24-Sep-15 17:41:08

I was a GPO telephonist at Rochdale exchange, from 1959 to 1963, loved the job, but left when we started a family. I liked being on one of the 2 emergency positions, and also loved Directory enquiries, wasn`t too keen on fault enquiries, and didn`t like being on a duty that involved clerical work. When we were feeling mischievous, we`d answer with "rubber knees", nobody ever seemed to notice! I once almost had a row with the singer Dorothy Squires , but stayed polite, and she hung up on me, but tried again several times with other operators, but still got the same answer from everyone, till one girl put her through just to shut her up, she was a most unpleasant person.

Falconbird Fri 25-Sep-15 06:50:08

When I worked in offices in the 1960s I often had to operate what was called "A Dolls' Eye Switchboard." It was called that because a piece of white plastic came down when a call was coming in. I loved it and the switchboard was easy to use when you got the idea of it. Us small switchboard operators were in awe of the GPO

I had to make complicated calls from The West Country to Scotland and they involved different operators i.e Birmingham, Glasgow etc., I loved hearing the different accents.

It was the 60s but offices then often had a Dickensian feel about them and I think some of the older managers may have been Victorians. In those days you were considered really old at 65 and given a great deal of respect and only expected to come in when you felt like it.

AlgeswifeVal Sat 03-Oct-15 21:49:30

Thanks for the memories girls. I would love to go back in time and do it again.

numberplease Sat 03-Oct-15 22:13:48

I went for an interview in 1977 for a GPO telephonist job at the exchange here in Boston, but when they took me round it put me right off. There were no more plugs and cords, it was all lights and buttons, I couldn`t have got used to it, so decided to not bother.

Eleanorre Sun 04-Oct-15 19:40:07

I worked in what was called the " staff branch " for London telephonists which would be human resources now. We did all the pay sick leave etc for a couple of exchanges each. I really enjoyed the job.My husband also worked for what was then the Gpo .We moved eventually to Inverness and he was in charge of lots of highland exchanges . He loved going off with his fishing rod for a couple of nights to Tain Ullapool and such remote places leaving me with the children and the dog to care for. Iused to get mad with the night shift men who for forgot ordinary people went to be at a reasonable time and would phone when I was in bed and no DH at home . Donnie form Ullapool I remember you .
DH would come home from dealing with all these women and their problems and come in the door and say " Don't tell me " so I could not tell him what was bothering me .All these exchanges are long gone now .

vampirequeen Mon 05-Oct-15 07:59:30

My mam worked as a GPO telephonist in the early 1950s. She wouldn't let us speak with an 'Ull accent. We had to speak GPO English. So that's what I did at home but at school I was pure 'Ull otherwise I'd have been beaten up for being posh

numberplease Mon 05-Oct-15 17:37:00

Vampirequeen, I used to speak broad Lancs/yorks mix, but once I was plugged in, the Queen`s English just came naturally, then disappeared again when I unplugged!

grannyactivist Mon 05-Oct-15 22:32:46

This is virtually identical to the switchboard I trained on in 1969. I once became overwhelmed with calls and at serious risk of getting important callers mixed up, so I 'accidentally' pulled the plug out before quickly plugging the machine in again and apologising to those who called back for the 'technical fault'. I am still ashamed of my action that day. blush