1978: Ma Bell moms were unsung heroes of Mother’s Day

Posted at 5:30 AM, May 06, 2021
and last updated 2023-01-27 17:00:08-05

INDIANAPOLIS — Many central Indiana moms spent their Mother’s Day working for Ma Bell as Indiana Bell telephone operators.

Thirteen long-distance operators worked the phone lines on a typical day in the late 1970s, and the number of operators nearly doubled on Mother’s Day just to handle the increased volume of calls.

Nationwide, the Bell System handled about 17.5 million calls nationwide on Mother’s Day, with about 229,000 of those calls being made to and from Indiana telephones.

Long-distance operator Gwen Holland told former WRTV reporter Jack Rinehart about working her first Mother’s Day at Indiana Bell.

“It was the first Mother’s Day I worked here, and at that time we had all of these emergency numbers for the outlying areas to call, and I had a gentleman from a Noblesville exchange call in. He said he had an emergency and immediately I started trying to find the listings for different numbers that I should fall for him, and he says, ‘This is really an emergency operator, I have to know how to bake potatoes because my mother’s coming to lunch.’