Tales of a Salt Lake City switchboard operator

Turn a corner in your city, and you’ll be confronted with a reminder that history is all around us. Old trees call to mind the forgotten individuals who planted them. Certain buildings seem haunted by the ghosts of an earlier era. Walk through an overgrown alleyway and a once-familiar place is suddenly…different.

Digging into local history is like taking a voyage to somewhere else altogether. And you don’t even need a ticket to ride.

That kind of digging is something that Rachel Quist does all the time with her Instagram page and website called Rachel’s SLC History. This week, Quist put a spotlight on a brutalist building on the corner of 2nd East and 2nd South that is slated to get converted into (what else) apartments. She explained that this block of a building was once home to a data center and offices of the Mountain Bell company, part of the Bell System telephone monopoly that existed all over the country until its anti-trust break-up in 1983.

SLC Switchboard Operators in 1945 (Utah State Historical Society)

At one point, the telephone company had hundreds of switchboard operators working to manually route phone calls by inserting phone plugs into the appropriate jacks. A building on the corner of State Street and 1st South in Salt Lake City had two floors of operators and wall-to-wall switchboards.

In 1971, Richard Goers was the only man on the job. Today on “In the Hive,” tales of a Salt Lake City switchboard operator.

Guest:
Richard Goers, one-time switchboard operator

Play