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Reminiscences of early telephone days, 8th December 1908

I was born at the little village of Althorpe near Selby in the year 1858. At the age of 22 I commenced work for the United Telephone Company in Bradford as a labourer, this centre then being worked under Leeds. I remember at that time there was a small wooden standard on the Swan Arcade. This had only some half dozen wires on it (E.C. of course) in 1880.

In those days we had no S.T. or S.A. cups, but simply bobbins or shackle bells which were bolted on to the arms. The wire then used was not 40 lb or 100 or 150 lbs Copper, but nos. 11 and 14 iron wire. We often had difficulty in obtaining our wages at the proper time and I once remember having to wait until the following Tuesday, having to go ver the weekend without money.

A short time after this the U.T.C. was renamed, and called the Yorkshire Telephone Co. A few months later Bradford was made into a centre, on its own. We had a manager in Bradford then named Mr Carr, an American. About a year later subscribers came on in large numbers, in fact we could not get them in quick enough.

Junction lines were naturally then required and we commenced erecting a route between Bradford Exchange and Leeds Exchange for trunk lines, this consisted of 3 No 11 iron wires. When these were completed things looked black for our co. There were 25 linemen in Bradford and this no. had to be reduced to 5, owing to the fact that the Government would not allow the Co. to erect any more lines. I was fortunately one of the five whose services were retained. Shortly the remaining five were advised to look out for themselves and try to find another situation until a settlement was arrived at between the Co. and the Government. About this time (Nov 1880) a gentleman named Mr Frank Hebden came to me in Bradford and offered me work in erecting private lines, anywhere and everywhere, at 10/- per wire more than I was then receiving with the Co., plus a 5% commission, but when I had worked for him a few months I was lucky to get my wage at the weekend irrespective of my commission. The kind of material my employer generally supplied me with to erect his private wires etc was nos. 11 & 14 iron wires and the insulators were mostly the old shackle bells.

I recollect once when erecting a private line for a large wholesale clothier’s firm, J Hilton and Sons Oldham, that my employer came to supervise my work and I told him that we had run short of insulators, so he cooly replied, ‘’Oh get some old beer bottle necks, and put a bolt thro’ ‘em, they’ll do.’’

Engineers dismantling broken standardPicture location: No picture supplied with story. Picture added by Connected Earth
Date: 1907
Sent by: R Horton
Category: The network and street furniture

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