Glens Falls in 1918 — ‘The voice with the smile wins.’
A.P. Irving related a story that a “lad out here” in Washington, D.C. told him. A telephone operator from Glens Falls, N.Y. working in Washington, recognized the Glens Falls lad’s voice from a call he placed back home.
“There is more truth than poetry in that advertising slogan of the telephone company, ‘The Voice With The Smile Wins,’” Irving wrote.
Many more smiling voices were needed.
“Of course it goes without saying that the service has been somewhat improved since the Glens Falls girls arrived, but a few hundred more girls are needed to make it service worthwhile,” Irving wrote in a column published Sept. 6, 1918 in The Post-Star.
Irving, for his second “Washington Happenings” column, visited the Colonial school residence that Bell Telephone managed for telephone operators working temporarily in Washington during World War I.
Irving, business manager and later long-time publisher of The Post-Star, wrote an occasional column for The Post-Star when he was serving with the U.S. Navy Reserve in Washington.
“The young women volunteer for three months service, at least, and the telephone company is so appreciative of their assistance that nothing is left undone which can in any way contribute to the happiness and comfort of the girls,” Irving wrote.
The Colonial school at 18th and Q streets NW was the former Chinese embassy.
“The state of architecture and decorating throughout the large, roomy mansion is of Oriental type. The ‘Onyx’ room is especially interesting,” Irving wrote.
The former German embassy on Massachusetts Avenue, where Count Von Berstoff used to live, was vacant.
“The day is past, never to return, when he can enjoy motoring through the wide beautiful avenues of Washington,” Irving wrote.
“The Count used to visit Lake George frequently, but that’s really nothing against the lake or those who entertained him,” Irving continued. “He was smooth and diplomatic and was given the benefit of the doubt, until the smoothness wore away and the real surface was revealed — then (President) Wilson pointed the way out, back to Germany.”
Local operators staying at the Colonial school included Leona Larau, Betty Archer and Doris and Lena Proux of Glens Falls, and Almira Savage and Myrtle Strong of Hudson Falls.
“Fort Edward representatives should come next in order, but we’re sorry to say there are none to mention. Better send some volunteers Fort Edward. You’re needed,” Irving wrote.
Others were Francis Snyder and Mildred Lester of Saratoga Springs and Betty Glaven and Ruth Raifort of Albany.
Mrs. D. P. O’ Connell of Glens Falls, Miss C.A. Flanagin of Albany and Mrs. Whalen of Trenton were chaperones.
Operators Hazel Tavan, Lillian Hall and Helen DeMarsh of Glens Falls were staying at Washington College, another residence Bell Telephone Company managed.
The hospitable voices over the telephone extended to social gatherings.
“Joseph Fish, Ted Douglas and Harold McGuire, three well-known Glens Falls young men in training at Camp Meade, were dinner guests at the Colonial school recently and were royally entertained,” Irving wrote. “In fact, they were given such a wonderful welcome that they insisted only a full-column, front-page story would properly convey an account of the gathering to the folks back home.”
“That cannot very well be arranged though, with the Yanks advancing more rapidly than the Huns are retreating, and Carranza (of Mexico) again on the front page,” Irving continued. “So we’ll simply sum it up by stating that the occupants of the Colonial school for girls proved entertainers of the highest order, and the boys will never forget the mighty time provided.”
One telephone operator discovered a cure for homesickness.
“There’s a young woman in this city who says that during her first few weeks here she was so homesick that it used to do her a whole lot of good each day to go down to New York Avenue and just look at the sign on a building which read, ‘Glens Falls Insurance Company.’”
Click here to read about A.P. Irving’s first “Washington Happenings” column.
The Post-Star column referenced in this post can be found at the New York State Historic Newspapers website, a project of public libraries.
Maury Thompson is a freelance historian of politics, labor organizing and media in New York’s North Country. He lives in Glens Falls, N.Y.