Elmer Cat

PBX Operating

My dad worked for a hotel; for many years he was the chief engineer who kept everything working. Years before, my uncle Norm was the manager there; my grandmother had worked there for a while; both of my sisters worked there at one time or another; and of course, I would eventually work there too.

When I was in third grade my sister, Susie, was working the front desk on Thanksgiving Day. My mom packed up a plate of food for her, and I brought it downtown to her on the Fifth Avenue bus. I was immediately enthralled by the switchboard, a Western Electric Model 551. The hotel wasn’t very busy on Thanksgiving, so Susie taught me how to run the switchboard!

I was just eight years old, but because I was so fascinated by the switchboard, I learned it very quick and soon could run the board better than the regular front desk staff (who basically hated the switchboard to begin with). Most of them were very happy to let me play with the switchboard while they took a break. That was nearly fifty years ago, and is just the very beginning of what became a diverse PBX operating career that spanned decades.