If you were a second- or third-year girl at St. Hilda’s during the 1950s, you were required to manage the switchboard as part of your “light duties.” First-years lived at “Freshie House” at 101 St. George, and fourth-years were supposed to be more serious about their studies, so mainly all they were required to do was to take attendance at the St. Hilda’s Chapel. It wasn’t too daunting for the second- and third-years, though— there were about 24 girls per year, so you only had to work the switchboard once every three months or so.
There were phone booths at either end of each floor, so when the switchboard operator buzzed a room to let a student know when she had a call, the recipient would have to race around to find a free phone. Some girls tied pop bottle caps to strings to their intercoms so they could sit in another room—the caps would rattle if their intercom was buzzed.
All visitors had to check in with the Porter’s Lodge where the switchboard was located, and the reception room was right across the hall. So if you were on the switchboard, you had a “birds-eye” view of the gentleman callers waiting in the yellow chintz room—and a first-hand source of all the gossip!
Harriett Goldsborough ’55, shared this memory. Despite becoming adept operators, she, along with pals Ann and Margaret (pictured), Mary F. Williamson ’55 and Marion Magee ’59, never used their switchboard skills again.
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