Do you remember when?

Anthony Baker

Do you remember when country telephone exchanges where manually operated? It isn't all that long ago and there may even still be some way beyond the black stump, but it seems like an age ago to me.

I was the Uniting Church minister in a small NSW Central West Slopes town and the telephone was essential to my work. If I was planning a pastoral visit to one of my out of town flock, the last thing I did before I left home was to ring the parishioner to make sure they were home, – nothing worse that travelling 50km out to a property only to find an empty house. If they were not home our friendly telephonist would come on the line and say, "the Jones's are not home Reverend, their daughter is having her baby and they have gone to the hospital." Valuable information, the hospital was only 2km away.

On one occasion The President of the Synod had come to preach. He arrived late on Saturday evening having had a breakdown on the way. Because he had to move on to another parish after the morning service, he needed to get his car fixed that night, But the local service station was closed for the weekend. I said I would ring Laurie the proprietor, and see what could be done. However Laurie's phone was not answering. On came the telephonist, "Laurie and his wife have gone round to dinner with Jimmy and Jenny (the local stock and station agent and his wife) is it important?" When I explained the situation she said, "Leave it with me Reverend." Ten minutes later Laurie rang and after talking with the President, told him to have the car round at the service station in half an hour. Two and a half hours later, the President returned all smiles, not only was the problem solved, but he had received helpful local information about road conditions to his next stop and a promise to contact the mechanic in that town just to check that he made it on time and to give the car the once over for his trip back to the city.

Try doing that with today's automatic person-less exchange!