History Matters || How we used to communicate

Lyn Giles, Gail Lee, Marie Romer, Carol Shannon and Amelia Winterton in 2016 with a photo from c. 1961 of the manual switchboard they operated. In the old photo is (from left) Gail Lee, Lyn Giles, Carol Shannon, Helen McBurnie and Amelia Talbot.
Lyn Giles, Gail Lee, Marie Romer, Carol Shannon and Amelia Winterton in 2016 with a photo from c. 1961 of the manual switchboard they operated. In the old photo is (from left) Gail Lee, Lyn Giles, Carol Shannon, Helen McBurnie and Amelia Talbot.

Our museum communications display contains items and photographs of the various telephone instruments etc. we have used and some of the people who have assisted us.

The first Glen Innes Post Office opened in 1854 and the pioneer mailman on his irregular trips from Brisbane and Armidale would drop off the mail in the middle of the night, and after it was sorted, a trumpet blast announced it was ready for collecting,

A daily mail service commenced in 1877 and the first telephone service in 1900 was merely a private circuit - allowing calls between Dr Wrigley in Church and the hospital in Ferguson Street.

By January 1906 Glen Innes was connected to Inverell, Warialda and Moree and other places west and there were 178 subscribers.

Stock and Station Agent, Duncan McIntyre had phone number 1.

For many years until 1973 we had a telephone book that was much more than just a tool to find a number - there was a map of the areas covered, and each town, village or locality had its own exchange e.g. Dundee, Deepwater, Glen Innes etc., everyone with a telephone had an entry and out of town, usually a property name.

Who can forget running the telephone line, often strung between trees, to fix a crossed or broken line?

Friday 27 February 1981 the Gen Innes Examiner announced: "A further step in the progress of communications at Glen Innes will be taken tomorrow at 7am when Glen Innes will be linked in to the national subscriber trunk dialing system.

"This historic event is the culmination of years of and months of work by Telecom and is one which will give the people of Glen Innes and district access to the most modern system of telecommunications in the world."

How we miss those telephonists!

The human voice 'Number please?' 'Three minutes, are you extending?' the quick chat when we booked Christmas calls to overseas numbers.

The party line where the post mistress would take messages, especially of wool prices and could often tell you the person you we calling wasn't there, she'd seen them go to town.

If help was needed, immediately there were telephonists to assist and more complicated problems dealt with by their supervisor.