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Interview with Anna Kinnane

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Kinnane, Anna ; O'Neil, Dan


Anna Kinnane talks about her emigration from County Clare, Ireland through Ellis Island and on to Binghamton, NY to be closer to her sisters and for employment. She describes her responsibilities as an operator at the telephone company, her salary, the conditions she worked in, as well as, her promotion from operator to supervisor. She also mentions the local cigar industry.




This audio file and digital image may only be used for educational purposes. Please cite as: Broome County Oral History Project, Special Collections, Binghamton University Libraries, Binghamton University, State University of New York. For usage beyond fair use please contact the Binghamton University Libraries Special Collections for more information.

Date Modified


Is Part Of

Broome County Oral History Project


21:53 Minutes


Broome County Oral History Project

Interview with: Anna Kinnane

Interviewed by: Dan O’Neil

Date of Interview: 29 November 1978

Dan: OK Ann, on what date and from what part of Ireland did you emigrate from and for what reason?

Anna: All right, I came from Ireland in May 1925 and of course I landed in New York and then came on to Binghamton and now you want to know?

Dan: For what reason?

Anna: For what reason—well I came because my sisters were here ahead of me and they wanted me to be with them and mostly for employment.

Dan: OK now before your entered the States, Ann, you had to go through Ellis Island.

Anna: Yes.

Dan: Yeah, OK, and how were things then?

Anna: Well, I would say the people there were coming—it was fairly good, it wasn't a place you would want to stay two or three days there but to go through which only took a couple of hours, it was all right. Everybody was really very nice and courteous. They gave you a card with your name and address on it, where you were going and your destination. Then when you went to the gate, the fellows at the gate directed you where to go but of course my Sisters met me there which made it easier for me.

Dan: Yeah, did they give you any sort of physical examination?

Anna: No, none whatsoever. All right he asked you how much money you had and you told him and then if it agreed which they wanted, OK they marked your baggage and that’s all.

Dan: Now did you mention what part of Ireland you came from?

Anna: County Clare, Ireland.

Dan: County Clare.

Anna: Yeah, C-L-A-R-E.

Dan: OK so in other words your sisters were here already?

Anna: Yes they were here ahead of me.

Dan: And ah you came over here to seek employment and then where did you work Ann?

Anna: At the telephone company.

Dan: And what year was that?

Anna: It was 19, let me see I've got it down here.

Dan: Just the year.

Anna: It was 1926.

Dan: 1926.

Anna: Just a year after I came.

Dan: OK fine. Now at that time you went to work for them, how were conditions? You want to describe in your own words your job?

Anna: I would say they were very good. I would say that they were really good—Welcome stations there. We worked of course our 8 hours and we worked ah 7 days a week including Sundays and at that time we only for time and a half for Sunday and a day off for the week. No, no excuse me, we didn't get time and a half, we got a day off for Sunday. A day off for Sunday and that went on for a period of some. Of course I had to be four weeks in the schoolroom in the training department which would be able to go on the switchboard.

Dan: Now how were the facilities in those days as far as the switchboard is concerned—in other words suppose that I would want to make a call, what would I have to do?

Anna: Well you would have to just dial the operator, take the receiver off and well, no you wouldn’t dial the operator. Just take the receiver off and a signal would appear on the switchboard.

Dan: I see. Did you have to flick the ah what do you call the ah—?

Anna: The transmitter.

Dan: Flick that?

Anna: Yeah, flick that.

Dan: And ah then what happens.

Anna: You call the operator when you flicked down the receiver, your signal came in on the switchboard.

Dan: Yeah and then you gave—

Anna: Then we answered your plug right in and say, “Operator,” and you give her the number and she put up the number and dial it for ya. Of course we had letters then you know for it to ring each one's party lines you know to ring and otherwise I mean it were direct lines.

Dan: Yeah, in other words there weren’t any of the crank—

Anna: No, no, none.

Dan: —machines in existence. So in other words any time that year, why, you wanted to make a phone call you had to dial or call the operator—that would be what they referred to them as Central.

Anna: Central, yeah.

Dan: Central and then you gave them the number and what did you do if you had a long distance phone call?

Anna: Long distance we would have to plug into another switchboard and we had to say, "Give your number, 456 is calling long distance!” Whatever, what numbers that was.

Dan: OK and then when you started out, you say after four weeks of training, then that qualified you to work on the switchboard.

Anna: Right.

Dan: OK now from there what was the next step, I mean as far as training is concerned, I mean you went from the switchboard to supervisor?

Anna: Well I worked five years then as an operator and then I went on supervising.

Dan: And how many did you supervise, I mean how many girls?

Anna: About 12 or 14.

Dan: About 12 or 14. OK Ann do you remember about ah what year they changed over to the dial?

Anna: It was 1931.

Dan: 1931, dial system.

Anna: Yes, dial system.

Dan: And of course that was, you just dialed—was that just for local calls?

Anna: Yes.

Dan: You couldn’t dial for long distance?

Anna: No, no you had to get the operator for long distance.

Dan: Just the operator for long distance, so in other words in 1931 it was just dial for local.

Anna: Dial for local, you dialed your own numbers in 1931.

Dan: OK.

Anna: Gosh I actually don't remember what year they went to, they dialed long distance—it’s not too long ago. Make sure to look that up.

Dan: That they had the prefix like the SW or RA.

Anna: Yeah, yeah although, gosh I don't think it was more than 10 or 15 years do you?

Dan: No—when did you retire from there, Ann?

Anna: I retired in 1967.

Dan: In 1967, yeah, so that was just 10 years ago. I think that probably you could dial direct then.

Anna: Yeah you could.

Dan: Now what was the pay scale, that is, as far as in those days in 1926. The pay scale for, not your own salary, but I mean like for somebody that started?

Anna: When it was started, I started with $4.00 a week.

Dan: $4.00 a week.

Anna: Yes, then after 6 months you got a raise of $1.00 and so accordingly every 6 months you'd get something you know. When you got up to the average, I think the average at that time, it was $12.00.

Dan: Is that right?

Anna: I'm sure it was, wasn't nothing you know. Next year and the year after then they'd increase the starting pay would be $5.00 and then the starting pay would be that, but that was what I started with was $4.00.

Dan: Yeah, now the equipment that you used was what, Ann, at the telephone company? Just the switchboard and what else, headphones?

Anna: Earphones yeah, the headset earphones that's what they were, like they are now.

Dan: I think I saw in the paper not long ago where they ah had a picture of the telephone company where the Supervisor was on roller skates going up and down.

Anna: Oh yes they did, they had that in some place in New York or Boston.

Dan: Oh is that right? They didn't have that here though in this office?

Anna: No, no.

Dan: Now was the office located down on Henry Street at the present location?

Anna: No not at the present location, it was next door but the same place, you know where the new hole was put in for the Darling, you know, but the old office was where the Morning Sun went in.

Dan: I see.

Anna: But I mean of course they're back. They have that building back again now so really it is the same place I would say.

Dan: Yeah.

Anna: But an addition, addition added on for new dial.

Dan: I see, so how many employees were there approximately in 1926 you know?

Anna: Gosh I don’t know. Oh there must have been a couple hundred.

Dan: Couple of hundred, and have they increased that number since then?

Anna: Oh yes, then in ‘31, see before they went dial they had over 300 but of course then that decreased it because you know a lot of ones were working there extra and different things like that and they took their severance pay and got out.

Dan: Yeah, ah did they have any retirement program at all, Anna?

Anna: Yes.

Dan: And ah lets see, both of your sisters worked there too at the telephone company?

Anna: No, no, just Nora.

Dan: Oh, just Nora.

Anna: Yeah.

Dan: Did she work there longer than you did?

Anna: No, she came after me.

Dan: She came after you did. Now to your knowledge, Anna, were there any tobacco companies at all or tobacco factories in the area at that time, 1926?

Anna: Oh yes, there was ah down there on Water Street or something, ah what was it now Hummil’s, or wasn’t there two?

Dan: Two on Water Street?

Anna: Yes, I forget the name of them—there was two tobacco companies. A lot of women on Pine Street used to work down there. Gosh that would be easy to find out. Did you know the names of any?

Dan: We're trying to find out because our—we can't seem to get much information on it.

Anna: There, there, I know there was two because I know around there was a girl there used to come and visit with Delia and my sister Delia because she started in one of those and then she transferred to Sisson’s store, she was there a month or so—she couldn't stand the odor there—and something like Hummils or something else, I forget now. I know that there were two and I think where they were one was across the street from one another. Is that Water Street where the church is down there, that Christ Church?

Dan: Yeah.

Anna: I think it was that building across the street there.

Dan: Oh yeah, where I think there was a plumbing outfit, in there at one time, and you think that was a tobacco factory?

Anna: A tobacco factory. I know there was two tobacco factories because there was girls up the street used to work with me when I went to work at 8 o'clock and they were going down to the factory there. I wish I could remember the names of the two—maybe you could find out from someone if they were down there.

Dan: Now the homestead there on Pine Street, was that where you lived all the while you were here?

Anna: Right.

Dan: Of course your sisters died and you moved to this location.

Anna: Yeah.

Dan: So it was close by to work anyway, wasn't it?

Anna: Indeed it was. Roll out of bed and get in there.

Dan: Yeah.

Anna: You know sometimes when 5 or 6 lay off they call you.

Dan: Let’s see, 1926 to 1977 is 51 years. Now how was downtown Binghamton in those days?

Anna: Downtown, really, I thought was beautiful in those days. All the stores and everything.

Dan: Everything was filled?

Anna: Everything was filled and you could go in the stores and get anything you wanted and everybody was so nice to you. Knew all the clerks and everything was like old home week—it was really beautiful.

Dan. Yeah.

Anna: And you could get anything you wanted in the line of clothes if you had the money to pay for it.

Dan: OK, so in other words it was a 7 day a week job and they gave you one day off. In other words, Sunday was your day off.

Anna: Yeah that was your day off, but that meant you had to work every other Sunday.

Dan. Oh, every other Sunday.

Anna: Every other Sunday.

Dan: Yeah, well is there anything else, Ann, that you could add?

Anna: Let’s see, well then, of course after you were there 2 years you got 1 week’s vacation and then after 6 years you got 2 years vacation or 2 weeks vacation, I mean 2 weeks vacation, and then of course they get 4 now after they're there a certain length of time. They get 4 and 5 weeks vacation and they got double time for Sunday and now they're getting a starting pay of about $200.00.

Dan: Is that right?

Anna: That’s right.

Dan: $200.00 today and you started at $4.00 a week.

Anna: Right, right, when I left after I left in ‘41 that’s when they went up—they, we used to, when we got $1.00 or $2.00 raise we'd think we were happy—now $5 and $10 they get. $5 and $10. They'd think nothing of $1 or $2 raise.

Dan: But an operator starts out with $200 a week?

Anna: Yes.

Dan: And of course going up in a supervisor capacity means more.

Anna: More.

Dan: And still get four weeks paid vacation.

Anna: They're getting 5 weeks paid vacation.

Dan: Is that right?

Anna: They got 35 years of service.

Dan: Well, things have certainly changed. ‘Course we got to consider the fact that when you first started, that $4.00 went about as far as that $200.00 today.

Anna: I don't know how we lived on it once but anyway we did.

Dan: OK so Anna that’s as much as I can cover right now. If I should happen to come up with anything else that I might have overlooked, why I’ll get in touch with you.

Anna: Surely—fine, great.

Streaming Audio

Date of Interview



O'Neil, Dan


Kinnane, Anna


21:53 Minutes

Date of Digitization



Broome County Oral History Project

Subject LCSH

Kinnane, Anna -- Interviews; Broome County (N.Y.) -- History; Immigrants -- Interviews; Binghamton (N.Y.); Ellis Island Immigration Station (N.Y. and N.J.); Telephone companies -- Employees -- Interviews; Ireland; Cigar industry

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This audio file and digital image may only be used for educational purposes. Please cite as: Broome County Oral History Project, Special Collections, Binghamton University Libraries, Binghamton University, State University of New York. For usage beyond fair use please contact the Binghamton University Libraries Special Collections for more information.


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The Broome County Oral History Project was conceived and administered by the Senior Services Unit of the Office for the Aging. Funding for this project was provided by the Broome County Office of Employment and Training (C.E.T.A.), with additional funding from the Senior Service Unit of the National Council on Aging and Broome… More

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