Bob Flower’s Memories of Radcliffe

Part 7

As many of you will perhaps know, my working life was spent working for BT when we looked after our ‘subscribers’ as we called you then. At sixteen I started on the GPO as a trainee telegraphist at the HPO Queen St. No letters or figures on the training teleprinter keys then.

I transferred to the telephone side of the firm and eventually the name changed to Post Office Telephones.

Radcliffe had about a hundred telephone lines in those days. Number range 200 to 299 Our number at Mums shop at 83, Bingham Rd. (now a private house) was Radcliffe 238!

Old Telephone Exchange
Photograph from the Cutler Collection

The GPO switchboard was in the front room of a house opposite Lorne Grove at the bottom of Packwood’s Hill, so called because Harry Packwood’s paper shop was where Ingalls green grocery shop, and now the hairdressing Salon Heading Out is now situated I believe. I was a paper lad for Harry. I remember so well riding round the village with the Evening Post shouting “it’s over” on Victory in Europe, VE day. We were so relieved the carnage had stopped.

The GPO switchboard was staffed at night by a Caretaker Operator, Mr Scruton, no other! He was usually seen round the village wearing his slippers! The village telephone system was called magneto. The telephone was a candlestick type with a separate ear piece held to the ear. The exchange was called by cranking a small generator handle round which dropped a flap on the switchboard. If it was after 10 pm chances were Mr Scruton had gone to bed so the wait for a reply was a little longer!

I’ll explain a call to Dr Allaway, (Dr Thomas was the other village doctor)

Mr Scruton. “Switchboard, number please?”.

Caller. “Radcliffe 211 please”

Mr Scruton “Oh, that’s Dr Allaway love. He’s gone to Mrs ‘so and so’, she’s having a baby you know. A boy I think!

He usually takes about half to three quarter of an hour unless there are problems.

He’s quite good at babies you know. He normally lets me know when he’s home, shall I call you and let you know.”

Caller “yes please”.

Now that’s real customer service. No pressing buttons for this or that, no recorded answering, happy days eh!

The next episode will tell you about the Rex Cinema, or the Village Hall or my Dads school, call it what you like! Please remember all my stories are true so, keep having a smile these dark days and if I have time I will write another history soon.