Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program
Bonnie Hahn
Bonnie Hahn
Bonnie Hahn talks about life in Nome, Alaska, and her first job working as an operator for the telephone company.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2007-03-02 & 06

Project: Nome Communities of Memory
Date of Interview: Feb 3, 1996
Narrator(s): Bonnie Hahn
Location of Interview:
Location of Topic:
Funding Partners:
Alaska Humanities Forum
Alternate Transcripts
There is no alternate transcript for this interview.

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Sections



Father's job history in Nome, including Light and Telephone Company

Working as a telephone operator

Wages of a telephone operator

Relieving boredom on the job by calling friends

Relieving boredom by playing music over the telephone system

Memories of early Christmas celebrations

Before Nome had television

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Transcript



My dad was...after he was superintendent of schools here, he was a deputy Marshall, and he had a lot of interesting experiences. After that he worked for the road commission which is now the DOT.

And after that for 17 years he was hired by a man by the name of Ollie Weaver, who was the owner of the Light and Telephone Company in Nome. My dad worked for him as his accountant and manager. He did the whole thing for both companies.

He hired my sister and I, my Dad hired my sister and I, when we were in the 7th and 8th grade to be telephone operators, because the telephone exchange was in the telephone company, which is still the same telephone company it is now.

So we were telephone operators every weekend. We spent our entire weekend sitting in the telephone company with headgear around here, and the thing up here, and said "number please," and had all the boards, everybody had numbers like Black 44.

I still remember my number was Black 156. We did eight hour shifts. And if we had school work, we did it you know, when it wasn't busy.

I was hired also a lot of times during the week from the four to midnight shift. I'd get out of school and go right down there to work.

We were paid $37 dollars a month, and my dad would not let us have a penny of that. He put it all in to AT&T stock.

He had some stock, so he stuck it all in AT&T stock, which I was so glad later. It really helped me out. But um, we worked at that for a number of years, even through high school.

One of the people...I'd get really bored in the evening when there wasn't much going on, and one of the people I used to call was Mamie Dalquist. Mamie and her father lived down in Safety.

He ran a ferry service before the bridge was built across the waterway there. There was a telephone line down there and Mamie and I used to talk by the hours on this one telephone line that was down there. She had nothing to do and neither did I, so we just talked and talked.

And then another thing I used to do to relieve the boredom, was, several of the boys in high school played guitars, so I'd call up several of my friends in high school, and get this guy and his guitar and I'd hook up four or five way traffic there on the telephone system.

And so we'd all talk, my friends and this guy, who one of them was Barrow Morgan, by the way, who played his guitar and sang and we had entertainment every evening, due to my hooking everybody up and plugging everybody in, and opening all the keys, allowing everybody to talk to everybody.

I still remember the Christmases we had here were really outstanding. Because we didn't have TV and we didn't have anything else to keep us entertained too much, we had to get our own entertainment.

Well, um, we had enormous Christmases, and I'm sure some of you have already heard some of the stories there, but the one thing I remember most is a real Santa Claus sleigh coming across the stage with real reindeer loaded with real boxes of candy and sacks and all of us would line up and get these big stockings full of candy from Santa.

And the Christmas tree was always huge. I don't know how there ever got it in here, but it was huge. And we did this in the gymnasium.

It was from the floor to the ceiling, I mean just huge, and we all helped decorate it. It was just loaded with decorations of all homemade, mostly, decorations.

As I said, we didn't have TV, so most of us learned to have a lot of initiative and learn how to get our own entertainment. And so we always looked forward to blizzards and lots of good sticky snow.

We had good snowball fights; we built enormous forts, and choose up teams and had big battles with snowballs. We had our own dances and we just tried to find things we could do. We'd make a lot of things on our own.

'Cause we didn't have any outside...we had the radio. So I think today that has helped a lot in just being able to do things for yourself, because it's really helped me a lot, having to do things for myself that normally I probably wouldn't do.

Having that initiative where you don't sit in front of the TV all day and watch...we kind of learned to do things. My dad was...after he was superintendent of schools here, he was a deputy Marshall, and he had a lot of interesting experiences. After that he worked for the road commission which is now the DOT. And after that for 17 years he was hired by a man by the name of Ollie Weaver, who was the owner of the Light and Telephone Company in Nome. My dad worked for him as his accountant and manager. He did the whole thing for both companies. He hired my sister and I, my Dad hired my sister and I, when we were in the 7th and 8th grade to be telephone operators, because the telephone exchange was in the telephone company, which is still the same telephone company it is now. So we were telephone operators every weekend. We spent our entire weekend sitting in the telephone company with headgear around here, and the thing up here, and said "number please," and had all the boards, everybody had numbers like Black 44. I still remember my number was Black 156. We did eight hour shifts. And if we had school work, we did it you know, when it wasn't busy. I was hired also a lot of times during the week from the four to midnight shift. I'd get out of school and go right down there to work. We were paid $37 dollars a month, and my dad would not let us have a penny of that. He put it all in to AT&T stock. He had some stock, so he stuck it all in AT&T stock, which I was so glad later. It really helped me out. But um, we worked at that for a number of years, even through high school. One of the people...I'd get really bored in the evening when there wasn't much going on, and one of the people I used to call was Mamie Dalquist. Mamie and her father lived down in Safety. He ran a ferry service before the bridge was built across the waterway there. There was a telephone line down there and Mamie and I used to talk by the hours on this one telephone line that was down there. She had nothing to do and neither did I, so we just talked and talked. And then another thing I used to do to relieve the boredom, was, several of the boys in high school played guitars, so I'd call up several of my friends in high school, and get this guy and his guitar and I'd hook up four or five way traffic there on the telephone system. And so we'd all talk, my friends and this guy, who one of them was Barrow Morgan, by the way, who played his guitar and sang and we had entertainment every evening, due to my hooking everybody up and plugging everybody in, and opening all the keys, allowing everybody to talk to everybody. I still remember the Christmases we had here were really outstanding. Because we didn't have TV and we didn't have anything else to keep us entertained too much, we had to get our own entertainment. Well, um, we had enormous Christmases, and I'm sure some of you have already heard some of the stories there, but the one thing I remember most is a real Santa Claus sleigh coming across the stage with real reindeer loaded with real boxes of candy and sacks and all of us would line up and get these big stockings full of candy from Santa. And the Christmas tree was always huge. I don't know how there ever got it in here, but it was huge. And we did this in the gymnasium. It was from the floor to the ceiling, I mean just huge, and we all helped decorate it. It was just loaded with decorations of all homemade, mostly, decorations. As I said, we didn't have TV, so most of us learned to have a lot of initiative and learn how to get our own entertainment. And so we always looked forward to blizzards and lots of good sticky snow. We had good snowball fights; we built enormous forts, and choose up teams and had big battles with snowballs. We had our own dances and we just tried to find things we could do. We'd make a lot of things on our own. 'Cause we didn't have any outside...we had the radio. So I think today that has helped a lot in just being able to do things for yourself, because it's really helped me a lot, having to do things for myself that normally I probably wouldn't do. Having that initiative where you don't sit in front of the TV all day and watch...we kind of learned to do things.