Dictionary of Sydney

The Dictionary of Sydney was archived in 2021.

Mr Peter Granville-Smith describes his work at Liverpool telephone exchange in the early 1930s, interviewed in 1986

Peter Granville-Smith was born in 1910 and interviewed in 1986 for the 'Looking Back at Liverpool: An Oral History of the Liverpool Region 1900 to 1960.' He describes his work as a telephonist at the Liverpool telephone exchange in the early 1930s.

PETER: It was a sleeping exchange. We had a bed, a folding bed, which was put down beside the switchboard, and [on night shift] I'd answer the calls from the bed. There were so very few calls at nighttime. I don't know whether you've seen a switchboard but there's a shutter for the jack of each number. You must remember that it's magneto, that's all hand operated. When you made a call from your own home you had to turn the handle of your telephone set and that dropped a shutter just above the jack. Well then the job was to put a plug – there were two rows of plugs, one for ringing and one for speaking. You pick up the plug from the speaking section, put it into the jack of that number. And then it had two rows of keys, one row is for speaking, the other for ringing. You press the speaking one backwards and say 'number please', and then you pick up the corresponding plug and put it into the jack of the number that was requested. And then there's a ringing key, and you pull the ringing key towards you and that sent the ring out to the subscriber.

Contributed By
(Excerpt from interview with Mr Peter Granville-Smith from the 'Looking back at Liverpool : an oral history of the Liverpool region 1900-1960' conducted in 1986 by Liverpool City Council, editor and project co-ordinator Catherine Johnson ; researchers Angela Imbrosciano, Verica Miiosavijevic, Kathleen Smith.)