Amy Yamamoto
A Different View

Life After War: Work

In 1946, the Mutual Telephone Company hires Amy as an information operator.

Later, Amy handles long-distance calls and becomes a floor supervisor.

During the last 10 of her 42 years with the telephone company, she works as a service observer.

Work: Mutual Telephone Company

[W]hen I first applied for the [phone] company was in 1946, and at that time, I guess they were kind of strict as to who gets employed at the company because it was after the war. And so when I applied, I got the job right away, and then I was trained to be an information operator.

Mutual Telephone Company, Honolulu, Hawaii
Mutual Telephone Company, Honolulu, Hawaii

I just went for a short interview with the personnel person and she was a lovely haole lady. Well, see, at first, I said, I guess I wasn't taking it very seriously, so she told me I had to go to - I think it was Honolulu Medical Group - for a physical. So she said to take that and come back to the office. So I kind of said, gee, do I want to work here? Then I said, well, I better, so I did that. And then they hired me right away so it was no problem.

I guess they were sort of short of workers so they immediately hired me, so I don't remember. Maybe I did go through some kind of a test. If I did, I really don't remember that well. It was very easy for me to get into the phone company. Because a lot of times, people said, "Oh, we couldn't get in" or, you know, they're still waiting, things like that. So, I got . . .

I was courteous. That was one of the main principles of working with the public, right? You have to be courteous and all that.

Amy Yamamoto at Mutual Telephone Company, Honolulu, Hawaii
Amy Yamamoto at Mutual Telephone Company, Honolulu, Hawaii

Well, they were really strict, that I can tell you. Because if they tell you your short break is twelve minutes, you better be back in twelve minutes. And luckily, all we used to do from the operator room was we used to go up one floor above to use the restroom, and then come back to your work. And things like that, they were very strict on.

Your tardiness was another thing. And also, during those days, we all used to - not overdress - but properly dress, as you may say. We all wore, most of us wore stockings, shoes. In other words, very presentable. There's no such thing as going to work in jeans or anything like that.

You know, everybody used to call the operator for numbers. And I worked there as an operator toward different departments. From information, I was an operator for long-distance calls to the islands, and to the Mainland. And everything was so difficult.

During the war, and right after the war, too, a lot of the GI's. . . . If someone from the Mainland wants to contact their sons or relatives who are in the service, they have to come through us, and we would try and locate them because they were scattered all over. So we used to do that type of work. And then finally we would find somebody at this number for this length of time, then we'll let the people on the Mainland know, and it was a long process, not like now. So I did that type of work.

[D]uring those days, back in '46, you know, the switchboard, I guess you've seen it, was all plugged in. In other words, we have to have two plugs to connect, right? And it was pretty difficult because sometimes maybe your co-worker or you, yourself, might pull the wrong plug and cuts the connection. And things like that did happen. But it was real - I would say - pretty close to pioneer days, you know, that's how they got started. Of course, we see some photos of the Mutual Telephone Company. Those days, the ladies used to wear long skirts, and all dressed up, and all that. But that was the beginning of continuing my work with the long-distance calls.

Honolulu Telephone Exchange, Honolulu, Hawaii
Honolulu Telephone Exchange, Honolulu, Hawaii

It was very interesting. Because people - not too many calls like now, but like a lot of urgent calls, you know, emergency, they would try to contact their son in Schofield [Barracks], in various parts of the service. So it was very good.

[T]he calls from Wahiawa, Waialua, in that district, they had to come through the operator. So that was part of the beginning of the long-distance calls. So we had - of course, it depends on how busy the days are, or the hours. We used to have lines of operators taking local and long-distance calls, and I think during those days, they used to say long-distance. But I did work on that board, but not too long.

And every call was ticketed. In other words, we write a ticket what number to call and who's calling, things like that. So it was quite interesting. So calls from Waialua - we had a group of operators that came from that area, Waialua, Wahiawa, Aiea. In fact, I think there was a telephone exchange there. And then later they moved to Downtown. So they were quite elderly, those people.

And later years, I was walking the floor as a supervisor. Then, my last, I think probably the last ten years, I worked as a service observer, where we did a lot of observing. Mostly on the operators and also for the equipment that the company had run. So it was very enjoyable years for me, working there

Amy Yamamoto at her retirement party, Honolulu, Hawaii
Amy Yamamoto at her retirement party, Honolulu, Hawaii

[I retired] in 1988. [Worked there] forty-two years.

Amy Yamamoto's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Amy Yamamoto.

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