'Hello Girls' who never said 'Hello'
The present generations who are using and enjoying the latest smart
phones will be shocked to hear that 'Hello girls' (telephonists) never
said 'Hello' in the past.
There was a time upto the late 1980s when the telephonists of the
Postal and Tele communication Department rendered a yeoman service to
the public. The Central Telephone Exchange (CTE) was the main centre of
There was an exchange in every district. A postmaster was in charge
of the exchange and there was a chief supervisor at the CTE. The
telephonists at every exchange started their duty at 7 a.m.
They worked seven hours a day, and were on rotation. The last shift
was from 11 am to 6 pm.
Whether there was rain or sunshine the telephonists had to report for
duty. The latecomers were punished. The girls worked under the strict
supervision of lady supervisors.
The work was methodical.
During that period the Governor General, the Presidents, Prime
Ministers, Members of Parliament and all the heads of departments had to
get the assistance of the telephonists to have their (trunk) calls
connected. The telephonists were busy as bees right throughout the day
helping subscribers. It may be from one station to another, eg Colombo
to Jaffna or Kandy to Nuwara Eliya. Sometimes the subscribers had to
wait for long hours after booking calls to distant stations. Priority
was given to VIPs. Thousands of calls were connected between the
subscribers. Overseas calls were booked through the exchanges. A time
and a date was given according to the subscriber's wish.
Not only assisting the subscribers with trunk-calls, the telephonists
worked at the telegram section.
Nowadays the present generation knows nothing about a telegram. In
the past all the urgent messages were sent by telegram from one post
office to another.
The government departments and ordinary and people sent their
messages by telegram. These were not delayed. Telegrams to distant
stations were sent on creed.
Then comes the "Account section" where the telephonist had to price
the tickets (the calls are booked on tickets) sort according to the
stations, enter th em in the bills and at the end of the month balancing
The subscribers received the bills by post.
Now the CHOGM is over in Sri Lanka, my mind goes back to 1976 when
the non-alligned Conference took place.
The telephonists did their best without any of the modern electronic
equipment.Although we were called 'Hello Girls' we never said 'hello'.
We answered by the name of the station we worked. eg. Kandy, Galle or