Number, Please

The distant ringing of the phone brought her out of her slumber. She rubbed the sleep from her eyes and slowly sat up in her bed. Yawning, she looked at the bedside clock. It was almost time to get up anyway. She reached over, picked up the alarm clock, and switched it off. It was probably someone calling for the donut shop again. The two phone numbers were so annoyingly similar, and she received calls from the shop more times than she could count. She made her way to the kitchen to start her coffee. Just as the coffee began to perk, the phone rang again. She grabbed her notepad and pen. She said hello, and the guy on the other end asked, “Is this the donut shop

mama (1)
Dotty Allen – 1950s – Alameda, CA

“It is,” she smiled to herself. “What can I get for you?” She scribbled down his order and repeated it back to him. “See ya in a few,” she told the man. She laughed as she hung up the phone.

This woman had moved to Alameda, California, in the 1950s. She loved The Neptune Apartments on Central Avenue. Her home was close to the bus stop, and it was just a few blocks away from the beach.

That morning, Dotty began her morning ritual as she made herself ready for work. She slipped into an outfit that showed off her tiny waist. With her job at the telephone company, she made just under $50.00 a week. Every week or two, she would splurge and buy a new outfit for work. She also saved her money, so that she could pay to have electricity installed on her parent’s ranch in Colorado.

As she headed out the door, she walked to Webster Street to catch the morning bus going to Broadway in In Oakland. She enjoyed her job as a telephone operator for Pa Bell, and she loved the independence it gave her. The ride would take her under the Posey Tunnel, and into the heart of Oakland. Her trip to Foothill and 34th Avenue was about five miles from her home.

During her shift, she would connect hundreds of calls daily while working on a large switchboard with many other women who shared the board with her. She also provided help by giving out telephone numbers for businesses and for personal names too.

She had the perfect speaking voice, polite and precise. She handled multiple lines and was a professional in providing information and connecting calls. She was calm in an emergency and kept meticulous records of each call. She had strong verbal skills and remembered the necessary details of each call as she transcribed each record. As a child, I enjoyed listening to my mother tell us about her days working for Pa and Ma Bell.

Although my father was in the Army and transferred twice, my mother continued working for the telephone company. She worked as a telephone operator in Seattle, Washington, and Colorado Springs, Colorado. Within a year of my birth, my parents decided that my mom should leave her career since I didn’t like staying with a sitter. When they would pick me up, I would “tell them off.” According to my mom, when I was about nine months old, I would grab my mom’s face so that she would have to look at me and let her know that I wasn’t happy with the daycare situation. My father didn’t like it either and believed my mom should stay at home and raise her children. And just like that, my mom became a stay at home mom.

Neptune Apartments – 600 Central Avenue

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Alameda, California

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Oakland, California

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Seattle, Washington

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The Daily Post

5 thoughts on “Number, Please

  1. You holding your mother’s face so reminded me of my son. When he wanted you to hear what he had to say, he’d come up, lay a palm against your face and tell you what was required, very calmly, politely but pointedly. What a delightful memory to recall, thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

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