Phone operators plug Atmore into the 1950s

Published 9:18 pm Wednesday, October 28, 2009

By By Lowell McGill
That mystery question a couple of weeks ago about those two people who had phone No. 1 back in the 1940s was further clarified this week in a conversation with Haskew Middleton.
Mr. and Mrs. W.F. Brantley and their daughter Luticia Cowart both had that number. Actually, Mr. Brantley owned the phone company prior to selling out to Mr. Corman.
My wife gained her first job with the Cormans in the early 1950s. At that time many of the operator’s main duties included “plugging in” or “patching in” incoming and outgoing phone calls.
I can remember some of those early 1950 operators who manually plugged in calls. Just to name a few, they included Emma Andress, Julia Bryars, Marvis Ward, Hazel Kunnert, Eleanor Daniels, Maggie Harper, Carolyn Coleman, Gail Byrd, Nell Rushing Bryars, Ruth Martin, Ellen Maddox, Thelma Heathercock, Laweida English, Margaret Grimsley McNeely, Audrey Martin, Clara O’Farrell, Ester O’Farrell, Patsy Maholovich, Nina Gates, Cornelia Mullins Williams, Willie Marie Strickland and Dot Smith. These were some of the “long term” operators. There were countless others who worked for shorter periods of time. (Hope I did not omit anyone).
The amazing thing about these ladies was their ability to memorize all those telephone numbers. When someone made a call they immediately patched in the call without having to look up the number.
I bet they knew when someone made calls to someone other than spouses. (Just kidding, of course.)
They also patched in the University of Alabama football games over WATM each Saturday during football season. And, on Sundays they connected local churches for radio broadcasts.
Now, some more news from 1955. The Atmore Jaycees and Jaycettes were very active in community activities back then. They especially worked with projects beneficial to local students.
Jaycee officers were George Keenan, Sam Ford, Taylor Faircloth, James Forte, Robert Faircloth, Robert Maxwell and Elam Fayard.
Jaycette officers included Virginia Ford, Ernestine Miniard, Thelma Pitts, Janelle Forte, Billy Gilbert and Sarah Fayard.
Two ECHS students were selected to attend Boy’s State at the University. They were Bobby Barnes and Gordon Bryars. Sponsors of the two, respectively, were American Legion Post # 90 and Atmore Lions club.
Sam Jack Cassidy received an honor that year as a member of the Crimson Tide. The former ECHS football standout was selected “the All-Around athlete” at the Capstone.
J. Whisenhunt, principal of Escambia County Training School, resigned his position here to take a similar job with the Anniston School System.
Brooks Memorial Church ordained two local young pastors, Douglas White and Wilmer Baker. These two later became well-known ministers at other churches in and outside the state.
Governor “Big” Jim Folsom paid us a visit that year. He spoke to a large gathering of agriculture enthusiasts.
The real big news was in May when a brand new Chevrolet was awarded to J.G. Toney for his selling the most subscriptions in The Advance’s subscription contest. The Bratt resident edged out two area ladies by less than six subscriptions to capture the big prize.
Some hit songs of 1955 included “Dance With Me Henry” by Georgia Gibbs; “Sincerel,” by The McGuire Sisters; “The Shifting Whispering Sands” by Billy Vaughn and narrated by Ken Nordene and “Moments To Remember” by The Four Lads.
In some current news all were saddened to learn of the death two weeks ago of Bobby Jackson in Mobile. He was one of the quarterbacks used by Paul Bryant in 1958, the first year “The Bear” guided the Tide. Jackson was in the game that night when the stands fell at Ladd Stadium. Alabama was edged out in a close contest with LSU that night.
Jackson played a few years in the NFL before going into business in Mobile.
Speaking of football I see another SEC coach has blasted officiating in the league. This time Mississippi State Coach Dan Mullen took issue with a call made against his team in the Florida game Saturday.
Conference officers suspended an entire officiating crew last week for negligence in their work in the Florida/Arkansas game last week.
Some of these officials are becoming as predictable as Nick Saban’s offense. (Or, lack of.) Now, I should be ashamed of talking about my alma mater like that. I’m not worried about our coach. If anyone can turn this offense around he certainly can. And, he will.
I received several answers to last week’s mystery question. The answer was Mr. and Mrs. Willie Griffin who owned The Cinderella Shoppe. The business was founded initially by Mr. J.C. Temple who later sold it to the Griffins.
James Smith, who also answered correctly, told me his parents, Agnes and Henley Smith, were close friends of Mr. and Mrs. Griffin. James said Mr. Griffin gave a handmade grandfather clock to his parents and it was handed down to him.
This week’s question is how many “shows” were included on the old “Saturday Matinee” at the Strand Theater? I’ll give you a clue. It was more than one show.
More next week.
Lowell McGill is a historical columnist for The Atmore Advance. He can be reached at

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