The "Little White House"

I started working for Southern Bell in Miami in 1947 in the traffic department. I remember one of my first assignments in 1948, given to me by the district traffic manager. He had a call from Atlanta saying that President Harry Truman was coming to Key West, and I was being sent down to oversee the President’s calls to and from Washington. WOW!

We went to the naval base and to the admiral’s quarters, which became the “Little White House” every time Truman came to Key West. Two black manual telephones and lines were installed back to the manual switchboard. I had red lamps placed on both lines and designated them President #1 and President #2. That was it! No formal orders, no fanfare, simple two-way circuits from our board to the White House.

I often compare those communications requests with what the industry does today when a President comes to town. Private switchboards, mobile, cellular, all types of special services to keep them constantly in touch from plane to car to hotel. Some call it progress, but the personal touch of the people of Key West in 1947 met the needs of the day for one of America’s best-loved Presidents.

John B. White, Jr.