Springfield, MO

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by Eddie Bass

I got to thinking the other day about how things used to be in Springfield.

I don't know why, but my thoughts turned in particular to our telephone system. Like how we used to make a call before we had dial telephones.

In those days, there was no dial tone when you picked up the phone. Instead, an operator came on the line and asked, "Number, please?" You'd give it to her, then she would place your call.

One of my hobbies in those days was remembering telephone numbers. I still do remember some of them.

Since I was in charge of writing obituaries as a cub reporter for the daily paper, I had a lot of dealings with funeral homes.

The telephone number of Thieme Funeral Home was No. 8, Herman Lohmeyer was No. 33 and Klingner was 919.

My father had a produce house at the corner of Campbell and Pacific, and his telephone number was 1506. And I remember the phone number of the Crown Drug Store on Commercial was 1516.

Sometimes the operator would ring the number of my father's store when somebody ordered a bottle of booze to be delivered by the drug store.

In those days, the newspaper's telephone number was 7000.

And there was a special line that went straight to the news desk. The number of that phone was 860.

I remember a funny thing that happened one Saturday night.

With a manually operated switchboard on a multiple-line system, plugging out the lines for after-hours operation left a tangle of crisscrossed wires and cords.

A newly hired janitor passed by the newspaper switchboard one evening after it had been carefully plugged out for after-hours operation.

He viewed the tangle of phone cords, and shook his head in horror.

"Oh, Miss Hermes wouldn't like this," he said, as he straightened out the mess by unplugging all the lines.

Needless to say, there was chaos in the newsroom that night.

I might explain that Miss Hermes was the business office manager, who was viewed by many of us as the most powerful person in the organization.

For one thing, she wrote the paychecks and had them ready for distribution every Monday.

To get your paycheck, you had to

go to her desk in the business office, and, hat in hand, wait for her to look up, put down her cigarette and fish your check out of the stack in her desk drawer.

Pearl Hermes was a capable guardian of the newspaper's cash. For example, the newspaper furnished pencils for us reporters but Miss Hermes' frugality caused her to insist that you turn in a stub before she'd give you a new one.

As Randy Little of PFI would say, "And I'm not kidding!"

I well remember the night when Springfield's telephone system was changed over from manual to dial.

As I recall, it was a Saturday night, at midnight, when telephone traffic was light.

At the stroke of midnight, the plug was pulled on the manual system and the day of dial telephones dawned for Springfield.

At the time of the cutover, Springfield had two dial exchanges UNiversity (86) and TUxedo (88).

If I count correctly, there are 20 exchanges now listed for Springfield. Need any more evidence of the growth of Springfield?

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