From the community

“Telephone Operators: Masters of Communication”

Posted July 25, 2014, at 9:49 a.m.

Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Location: The Telephone Museum, 166 Winkumpaugh Road, Ellsworth, Maine

For more information: 207-667-9491; thetelephonemuseum.org

A special Volunteer Day offering will be presented at The Telephone Museum in Ellsworth on Saturday, August 16. Entitled “Telephone Operators: Masters of Communication”, this two-part event will be headed by museum member and former switchboard operator Christopher Ricciotti.

Part one is free and will start at 10:00am in the museum’s Visitor Center. Chris will give a talk about the history of the telephone switchboard and telephone operators. It will be similar to a talk that he gave this spring at the Historical Society of Old Abington in Abington, MA – to a sold out house! So come early and grab a seat.

At 1:00pm, Chris will delve into the technical side of switchboards in the museum’s Main Building. This part is free to museum members, and part of the price of admission to non-members. The Main Building houses numerous working exhibits of switchboards and switching equipment as well as telephone sets, tools and memorabilia that convey the history of telephonic communication.

Chris Ricciotti started as a switchboard operator back in 1979. During his time as an operator, he had a chance to talk on the telephone with central office technicians from New England Telephone who shared their work experiences with him and inspired an interest in telephones and switching technology. In the early 1980’s, Chris worked for New England Telephone as a long distance and overseas telephone operator. Then, in the mid- 1980’s when all the old cord and jack switchboards were being ripped out, Chris explains “a part of me when with [them]”. Though he continued on as a switchboard operator and telephone switch programmer, he lost interest and left the industry. About 2003, Chris was introduced to Stan St. Onge (a member of The Telephone Museum board of directors) and found out that they shared an interest in switchboards and electromechanical switching. Stan invited Chris to The Telephone Museum in Ellsworth in August of 2003. When Stan asked, “So what would you like to do first?” Chris replied “Working the switchboards…” and the rest, as they say, is history.

As Chris explains it, “The telephone and the equipment it was attached to have a very exciting and interesting history. On the technology side, it was an amazing feat of accomplishment, the likes of which drove us into the lifestyle of the 20th century. On the home front, which was most of us, the telephone was a personal part of our daily lives, with many stories to tell. This presentation will bring together both sides of this amazing story in an easy to understand and entertaining format. Old timers, young folks, and people who worked in the telephone industry will all find this to be a fun and engaging presentation. Please come and join us for this special interactive event!”

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