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The Catalina Islander
Avalon, California
September 30, 2011     The Catalina Islander
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September 30, 2011

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A Pacific Telephone and Telegraph switchboard operator is seen above, connecting phone calls here in Avalon via the last manual switchboard of it's kind to be used before all offices were con- vetted to electronic models. GET YOUR W/NGS WINGS ACROSS THE CHANNEL CATALINA'S AVIATION HISTORY'. 1946.Present .The fascinating story of Catalina's legacy of aviation. Special segments include: United AMines and the famous "Mother Goose" N0w0n DVDJ Available at the following Stores: * Buoys & Gulls Catalina By-The-Sea * Catalina Island ConservancY * Catalina Island Museum Catalina Souvenir Shop DC-3 Gifts & Gdll Latitude 33 * Steamer Trunk Sugarloaf Books A Channel Catalina production Number, Please TALES FROM THE CATALINA SWITCHBOARD OPERATORS BY THERESA CUMMINGS In 1920, Pacific Telephone and Telegraph installed a local ra- dio-telephone system to connect Catalina Island with the mainland. Fifty-two persons were part of the initial subscribers to this service. Within a few years it was real- ized the radio didn't offer much privacy so PT&T installed two 23"-mile long submarine cables to the Island in 1923. A new central office was built in Avalon and the cables were terminated at the San Pedro central office. At the time, the cables were the first to be bui# in the United States and first to be voice-only. At the central office, a manual switchboard was installed to serve the Island residences. Over the next 50 years, various technologies of microwave radio were installed to supplement the two submarine cables. Manual switchboard service remained un- til 1978, when Pacific Telephone converted the manual service to a 1.6 million dollar remote electron- ic switch hosted from San Pedro. This was the last central office in the entire Pacific Telephone terri- tory that was still "manual" when it was converted. In following weeks, we will tell &BLAI00 1 310.510.0250 310.510.8957fx Insurance you can design to meet your ever-changing needs. Products and Services to meet all your insurance needs Farmers HelpPoint 24/7 claims service Si hablamos espanol Heather Dickerson RM E RS License #0758719 stories from the switchboilrd op- erators that remain on the Island to this day. Zella LeSieur worked for Pacif- ic Telephone and Telegraph from 1956 to 1964, She remembers her experiences well as a Switchboard Operator on Catalina Island. "I started working for them when I was 16 and spent three summers on the Island working the switch- board for Pacific. Their office was on Whitley where the AT&T office is," LeSieur said. "Those summers are some of the best memories of my youth!" In fact, every summer a group of young ladies would come to Catalina to assist the switchboard during the tourist season. To the operators who were residents of Avalon, the seasonal help was known as 'mobile girls.' "Six of us would come over on the Steam Liner," LeSier said. "Waiting at the pier for us was Judge Windell. He would be right there when we got off the boat and then assign us our bunks in a house on the flats. He would have a barbeque ready for us and treated us like his daughters. He watched over us closely over the summer months." We bought our own food and had a hot plate in our dormitory home," LeSieur said. "We found out quickly that the local men would buy us lunch and dinner, so we didn't have to spend much for food!" .Judge Windell watched over the mobile girls with a careful eye. If they didn't follow the rules, such Contact us at (310) 510-0500 or as being caught drinking under age or staying out past curfew, all of the girls were penalized. "'Alright girls--he would say--you're in for the night,'" LeSieur said. "This way, we were always watching OUt for one another." The girls had to be in their bunks by 10 p.m. during the weekdays, and 11 p.m. on the weekends. "He would tell us 'Don't mess around with that young man 'or 'he's too old for you to be seen with.' He al- ways watched over us for our own good. He would even occasionally bring us to court trials to see how criminals were punished so we'd stay out of trouble and it was com- mon to see him at the restaurants where the boys would take us to eat," she said. During the interview with Le- Sier, it was clear that working at the switchboard wasn't nearly as exciting as being a teenage girl on Catalina Island. Her eyes would sparkle talking about her interac- tion with the locals during her sum- mer visits. "During the winter, we worked at Disneyland," LeSieur said. "PT&T had the Circle-Vision 360 experience. At that time, dif- ferent companies would sponsor exhibits and we had the first 360 degree travel experience at that time." When asked about what she felt was most unique about Catalina's switchboard, she said, "We would have to take notes about where people were located which was unusual for us who worked on the mainland. So you had a notepad and would write down where ev- eryone was or what they were do- ing. It was a very personal form of communication and we got to know all the locals quickly!" THANK YOU to the Catalina community for your personal donations and contributions in the 50/50 raffle (organized by Jayne Sampson) towards rebuilding our home that was affected by hurricane Irene. We are so grate&/foryour support. Jeremy, Georgia and Fletcher Ayers (Waterbu Vermont) "Come Away With Me My Beautiful One..." Catalina Christian Women's Retreat 2011 Campus By The Sea October 21-23, 2011 Cost: $100.00 A registration deposit of $20.00 payable to Catalina Christian Women's Ministries is due no later than Sunday, October 16. Marl to PO Box 98 or deliver it to Avalon Community Church. The $80.00 balance is due upon arrival at Campus by the Sea_ For more info, call Avalon Community Church at 310-510-1889 I Call (310)510-0777 today for Auto, Home, Life and Business 4 ! Friday, September 30, 2011 THE CATALINA ISLANDER