Believe it or not, there was once a time in Griffith’s history when communication was almost as slow and convoluted as it is under today’s NBN roll out.
Up until the 1940s, if you wanted to phone someone, most people had to first phone a manual telephone exchange centre in Griffith, where an operator would manually plug you in to the person to whom you wanted to speak.
Pioneer Park Museum have preserved the telephone exchange equipment used in both Griffith and Goolgowi. It is kept in a building that includes the original counter and windows of Griffith’s first ever post office.
John Robinson, who taught at Griffith High for 31 years, is now at volunteer at Pioneer Park Museum. He explained how the telephone exchange worked:
“People would have to call the manual telephone exchange. At the exchange, a button would glow on the switchboard. The operator would put a plug in to that button, and find out what number the caller wanted to connect to, and then pull the plug out and connect it to the button corresponding with the one the person they wanted to call”.
From the 1940s onwards, automatic telephones because more popular in Griffith, enabling direct calls without the use of an operator. But the Goolgowi manual telephone exchange was use up until the mid-1980s, with a gentleman named Lou Friend making the final call on September 24, 1985.
“There would be about twenty girls working in the telephone exchange during the day, and around two or three at night. It was staffed 24 hours”.
The telephone exchange also housed a morse code machine, enabling people to send written telegrams – the closest thing back then to text messages.
Mr Robinson said there was once a one-stop shop in Griffith for all your communication and banking needs.
“We had the Post Master General's office, from where you could send letters and telegrams, make calls, and do your banking at the Commonwealth bank”.
Over the next few weeks, John Robinson will be showcasing some of the buildings at Pioneer Park Museum. Up next – the first Griffith hospital, and how it operated.