Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Ola Mae, "The Hello Girl"

James Vernon Hatch, my father, was best friends with Jimmy Barber, my mom’s boyfriend, who died on her sixteenth birthday. Dad knew mom before this happened, not only through Jimmy but also through a mutual friend. Dad had dated one of mom’s good friends, Martha, for three years. So it was only natural that he would stop by to give his condolences to my mom, after Jimmy passed away.

Dad was grieving. When the accident happened, Jimmy was away at school and dad was in basic training for the Air Force, in San Antonio. No one wanted to tell him about the accident because they knew how upset he would be. When he got home, he went to see my mom. She knew the pain he was experiencing.

After that, my dad was off to Wyoming for Tech School and they talked on the phone several times. He told me that she wrote him everyday and signed the letters, “Your little sister”. He returned to North Carolina later in 1955 with orders to go to Saudi Arabia and they started dating. They dated almost every night before he left. He got to Saudi and decided he wanted to spend the rest of his life with mom. So he bought a ring, sent it to his parent’s house with a note asking her to marry him. His mom and dad, Ola Mae and Plinny Hatch, had mom over for dinner and during the evening, gave her the note and the ring. They got married in September 1956.

Until two weeks ago, I had no idea that this is how my dad proposed. I never thought to ask. I am very blessed to still have dad around and am now taking time to ask him questions about his growing up years. Something I should have done with my mom. He was more than willing to help me out in my quest to find out more about our family. Here are some of the things I learned.

Little Jimmy Hatch was a personable kid. He was an only child and grew up in several different places. He was born in Charlotte, NC on November 13, 1935. The family didn’t live there long before they moved to the town of Wilson, Wilson County, NC, and lived there for about 4 years. They may have lived in Whiteville for a period of time but they eventually moved to Southern Pines and remained there. 

My Dad and his mom, Ola Mae

His mother, Ola Mae Marley was born in Lee County, North Carolina on May 10, 1907 to James Rupert and Bessie Frieda Thomas Marley. She graduated from Goldston High School in 1925. Two years prior to that, her and her sister went to work for a small independent telephone office. Her sister, the only other operator, worked the day shift from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Ola Mae worked the 4 to 9:00 p.m. In an interview for the Sandhill Citizen Newspaper on May 13, 1971, she said, “Our equipment consisted of a one-position switchboard. When you received a call (which wasn’t often) there was a little buzz, and a little lid affair opened and when you answered, this would close. To ring a number, you had to turn a crank.” [1] When I was in college, I worked the switchboard at the dorm I lived in.  When I first started working there, they still had the old PBX system where you plugged in to the different switches and manually rang the phones.  I loved that job and could see why my grandma enjoyed it for so many years.  Thank goodness, though, we have come a long way with our telephones.

In 1927 her parents moved to Sanford so she boarded with a local Goldston family, continuing to work. Later that year, Central Carolina Company bought their office. Ola said, “I was bought along with it and moved to Siler City.” [2]

Her sister moved to Southern Pines, NC and liked it, so she convinced Ola to move there too, in 1930. They were putting the phone systems into Pinehurst and it kept her busy, which she liked. She stayed there until her marriage to Plinny Vernon Hatch on April 23, 1933. They moved several places with Plinny’s job but were in Charlotte in November of 1935, when my dad was born.

They moved back to Southern Pines in 1939 and one of the employees at the telephone company went to Plinny’s job to sound him out as to whether he thought Ola might return to work. She thought about it and decided she could do the job and still not be away from her son too much. In 1945, just six years after starting in that office, she became a supervisor.

She loved her job. She continued to be a Supervisor up until the day she retired in 1971. United Telephone Company of the Carolinas had bought the company, at that point.

The company gave her a great retirement party. She received a beautiful watch, set with diamonds, and lots of gifts from those she worked with. One of the gifts required some of her coworkers to sneak
 into her home and take measurements over her mantel to make sure they got the right size, gold-framed mirror, with matching candle holders. Many of her family were able to come in for the festivities, which was an added treat.
Grandpa and Grandma Hatch at her retirement party.

She had many plans for her retirement. Her and my grandpa had bought a house three years before and she was looking forward to working in the garden and spending time with friends.

Her memories of working for the telephone company inspired her to write a little poem. Here is what she wrote:

The telephone girls in the days of old

Had the number to crank and the mouthpiece to hold.

They’d wade through ice or sleet or snow –

Their job was important, as we all should know.

She worked through tears, she worked through smiles,

She connected voices for many miles.

My Grandma, Ola Mae, was known for her smile. And if you really wanted to see her light up, just be around when her son would walk into the room. The Air Force had kept my family a long way from North Carolina, so every moment that she was able to spend with him was precious to her. She loved her son and said numerous times (even in the newspapers) how proud she was of his service in the military. She always looked forward to having him home.

Today's Terri's Tidbit:  If you shop at Walmart, you need to download their Savings Catcher app.  It has the ability to scan your shopping receipt, check local prices to see if something was cheaper elsewhere and if so, they credit you the amount.  Instead of running from store to store to get the best price, it does the work for you and you get money back, if their competitor has a better price.  

[1][2] Nicholson, V. (1971, May 13).  Mrs. Ola Hatch Retires From Telephone Work After Many Years. The Sandhill Citizen, p. 3

No comments: