The following was originally published in the 2015, Issue-4, of the CO-WY Retiree Guardian, newsletter of the CenturyLink Retirees. It is published here with the permission of the author, Don Warsavage.
Don Warsavage’s ‘Person-to-Person’
“My first management assignment…”
John Shepherd, of Parachute, Colorado, was a high -potential college graduate, hired by Mountain Bell in the Initial Management Development Program (IMDP). “IMDP’ers” were given multiple training assignments in several departments on their paths to positions in higher-management. John started his career in Greeley, Colorado, back in the 1960’s. We thank him for his story.
John’s first assignment was the management of operator services for the towns of Greeley and Fort Collins, Colorado. Back then, the telephone company was the only game in town. The Mountain Bell operator was your only choice to call long-distance. There was no 9-1-1 for emergencies. The operator was your lifeline.
On this particular day, John visited the Fort Collins ofice, especially to learn about the all-night operation. When introduced to the all-night operator, he was surprised to learn that she’d just come from a party still wearing her party dress. She seemed very young too — maybe not even twenty years old. John thought the all-night operator, being on her own to handle everything, should be a little more mature, more experienced. Recognizing that he didn’t know the job very well in those early days, he did raise his concern with the Chief Operator. She said she was not at all worried. John deferred to her experience, and returned to his home in Greeley.
Later that night, the all-night operator, knowing she was the only one left in the building, took off her nice party dress, folded it and carefully set it aside. The very hot day was not cooling off. Around midnight, the air conditioning failed. The heat began to accumulate in the second-floor switchboard room. A boring night with long periods of waiting, and the heat rising, made it all the more uncomfortable. Knowing the door at the end of the room led outside to the roof of the business office next door, the young operator thought if she opened it for a few minutes, it might cool the place off. She could still see the switchboard from over by the door. The switchboard was quiet. Fort Collins customers seemed to have all gone to sleep. She got up, unplugged her headset, and went to the door. When she opened it, the outside air felt so refreshing; she just stepped outside to enjoy it for a minute. She must have gasped or cried out, when a sudden wind gust slammed the door shut, leaving her locked firmly outside —wearing only undergarments.
At about 4:00 A.M., one Fort Collins customer became very frustrated as he listened to the repeating rings after he’d dialed ‘O.’ When his patience finally gave out, he hung up and dialed the local number for the Fort Collins Police Department.
The police arrived at the telephone building to find a young woman, dressed only in her underwear, on top the building shouting for someone to help.
John’s home telephone rang at about 6:00 A.M., “You’re going to hear about this pretty soon anyway,” said the Chief Operator from Fort Collins, as she told the story.
John retired from AT&T in Denver in 1986. He doesn’t recall the details, but he’s quite sure the all-night operator and the Chief Operator had a heart-to- heart discussion the next day. He does recall that his working relationship with the Chief Operator grew into a very good one after that.