One Minute after Midnight

For many years I served as a coordinator for the interchange of business between Southern Bell and the independent telephone companies of Florida. This story goes back to the time when all long-distance service was established by telephone operators. Groups of towns or cities were connected to toll center operators then connected the caller to the world.

At the time of this event, the town of Port St. Joe was a local office getting its long distance from the toll center in Apalachicola. The telephone company owned and operated both points and planned to switch the toll center from Apalachicola to Port St. Joe. I was sent to coordinate the changeover.

All work proceeded as planned until about two days before the changeover. At that time a repeater station carrying all the new St. Joe circuits failed. As you would expect, my boss called me and asked what we going to do. I told him not to worry, and that the changeover would go on as scheduled. He then personally checked with the supplier and found no possibility of a replacement being available for about a week.

Well, in those days, all changeovers were made on weekends and at midnight. By the time of the scheduled changeover, my boss was absolutely frantic. At precisely 12:01 he went to the toll board, inserted a cord pair in the Port St. Joe strip and rang the circuit. You can imagine his surprise when the operator responded, “Port St. Joe”.

He could not believe the changeover had been made, and immediately called for me. His first words were that it was impossible and how did we do it. I replied that it was simple.

We placed a card in front of the Apalachicola operators and instructed them to answer “Port St. Joe” on all calls after midnight.

J. Walton Alfred