The Gunnedah manual telephone exchange cut over to automatic 50 years ago and now former local telephonists are planning a reunion luncheon, on Saturday, April 6, to mark the occasion.

While many former “hello girls” have sadly passed away, remaining former employees, including technicians and Post Office staff are invited to gather at the Railway Hotel from noon for a trip down memory lane.

Those on duty at the exchange on that historic day remember it as “like losing an old friend” when the manual exchange shut down and the room went silent as the automatic service came into being.

The telephonists remember their days at the exchange with great affection, with lifelong friendships formed, as they shared memorable moments like engagements, marriages, births and sometimes great sadness.

Long hours of shiftwork and split shifts, began at 6am with the “night boy” taking over at 11pm. In emergency situations like floods, day staff stayed overnight to assist with emergency calls.

With no mobile phones, the personal touch of switchboard operators was often a welcome voice over the line.

Local residents are asked to spread the word and contact Val or Marie with acceptances.


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