Historical Views of the Rockaways
From The Rockaway Museum
Commentary by Emil Lucev, Curator
Dedicated To The Memory Of Leon S. Locke
Before cell phones, push button and rotary dials, many young women and girls worked for the telephone company as telephone operators. At home or on a pay phone in a booth, after you picked up your home receiver or dropped in a nickel (Yes! A nickel), the sweet voice of the operator in the Telephone Exchange Building (Far Rockaway or Hammels) would almost sing out, "Number please!" and plug in wires to complete your call local or long distance.
After World War II, the demand for telephone service increased to the point that party lines had to be instituted, where several customers had the same number, with a letter added at the end. There was no privacy or a guarantee that a "talker" would ever get off the line when you had to call a doctor or other important reason.
Years later, when dial service became part of history, many operators became unemployed. The prefix of old local Rockaway numbers were: for Far Rockaway and the east end- 7, Belle Harbor and the west end- 5. There was no area code. Prior to all the change from the early years, you simply asked the operator for Far Rockaway (17) or Hammels (35), since these places were exchange headquarters. Phone numbers had two digits; later on, three, then four... as telephone ownership increased on the peninsula.