I was a telephone switchboard operator for 65 years. I started right after high school and I worked the pay stations during World War II. The pay stations took nickels, dimes, and quarters, and we could press a button to collect the money that the person put in.
We knew when the troops were coming into Boston to be shipped out because the phones were ringing off the hook—they all wanted to call home and let their families know they were being shipped overseas.
One day, I said to the other girls, “I want to take you out to dinner tonight. I have something I’d like to discuss with you.”
So we went out, had dinner and I said, “OK, I’m going to do it, and if you don’t want to, that’s up to you.”
“What is it?”
“We all have boyfriends in the service, and some of them have already passed away. And we know when the troops are being shipped out. Now, when they give you the number, push the ‘return’ button so the money will go back to them.”
They said, “You’re kidding.”
“No, I’m not. These kids are being shipped oversees and who knows when they will come back. They don’t have any money.”
“OK, but what if a supervisor sees us and says something to us?”
“Oh, just innocently say you pushed the wrong button.”
We all did it and none of us got caught, and we did it until the end of the war.