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The Old Switchboard
Part Four
by Romaine Walburn & Maricia Mlynek

Updated on Wednesday*:

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The Operator and Town Nucleus

The old switchboard, though it served many purposes, was actually rather small in size. It had only a 30 line hookup and two outside lines. It was called a ring down system.  The operator, Elizabeth, or as most called her Betty, had to use a crank to make it work. The sound of those 30 bells ringing all day long never seemed to bother her. She had such a lovely smile and never once said that she disliked the switchboard in her living room.

 Betty’s husband, Paul, was another story. He was more straightforward about things. He would fix the switchboard whenever it stopped working. He was known to say, “I don’t know how I am going to fix this old switchboard this time.” Yet, somehow he always got it working again. He would say that he kept it going with baling wire and binder twine.   He was loud, but Betty always explained that it was because he couldn’t hear very well. 

 Life was fun with the Haught family. Betty and Paul had two children in the little house and many friends. The switchboard sat in the best corner of their living room. Life began to return to normal after the war if you can call life in Key normal that is. There were a great deal of interesting individuals, and the switchboard kept everyone connected.

Betty’s duties went far beyond making telephone calls for her customers.  She was a delivery service, a nurse, a baby sitter, a cook, a seamstress, and she wore so many more hats. There was one time that one of the more colorful Key characters was waiting on a call for a new job. His wait was longer than one would imagine. In fact, he even slept on the Haughts’ couch a few nights waiting on the call. After waiting several days, he went home. As luck would have it, that was the night the call came.

 The new employers wanted him to come to work for the day shift the very next day. Well, there was no way to let him know except to go after him. Betty, by the way, never drove a day in her life, but she wasn’t about to let a dear neighbor miss a chance to work. She dressed and walked a mile in the dark.  This was before outside lights or streetlights. She always said that was the longest mile she ever walked in her life because it was so dark. 

 This wasn’t the first time she walked across the Key hills to a person in need. If a call would come in about a sick child, she was known for taking medicine to the family. If she got a call from one of the elderly, she often would stop everything to make a home cooked meal to take them. She not only worried when she got calls from some of the old folks, she worried more when she didn’t get any calls. Then, she would don her wrap and take a walk to simply stop in on some that she feared were getting too lonely.  She was the nucleus of the town of Key. Betty Haught’s voice and kind deeds were the “balm in Gilead” to many around her.











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