Texas is another country...

Texas is another country...I have driven into Texas from all four directions and can affirm that after crossing that imaginary state line you just know you are in Texas . The world becomes wide open space, the sky feels higher, you can stretch out and rest a spell.

Thursday, August 1, 2013


Post by Liza Stein

Right out of high school in 1967, I went to work for the telephone company as an operator on a cord board (that’s where you pull out the cord and plug it into the switchboard).  I stayed in toll for nine years and saw a lot of changes in technology.  As things became more automated the work was terribly boring, and I requested a transfer to the business office where things were a bit more interesting.  After a year, I finally tired of being tied to a desk by a headset, and I requested a transfer to outside plant.

When my transfer came through, I was exuberant!  But before I could embark on my new career I had to get through several tough hurdles, one of which was pole climbing.  The first day of class I received a set of gaffs to strap to my feet and legs, and a huge belt that served as a lifeline as I shimmied up the pole.  The trick, I soon learned, was to position my body like a monkey.  The gaffs chopped into the pole, and I moved the belt up as I climbed, keeping the middle of my body stuck out behind me monkey-like!  Once I reached the top of the pole, I sat back and relaxed. 

If you missed your mark with your gaff you could do what was called “burning the pole”.  It was human nature to hug the pole when falling, but the correct way was to lean back and keep moving your belt down in rhythm with your fall.  I only burned a pole once as I was a quick study in those days.

After the physical training, I had to study electricity and CPR.  Piece of cake (more about cake later).

I wasn’t given my own truck right away, but got more job training as I rode along with an experienced installer.  Our crew had all the worst jobs in town ...the produce terminal, the stockyards, and ProPlus flour mill.  I soon learned what it was like to get really, really dirty.

Of course, being a woman in the 70’s brought new challenges along with new horizons.  Even though I wore jeans, steel shank boots, and had a tool belt around my hips, I was still a female in a male dominated world.

They tested me right off the bat by dropping me off to install telephone equipment at the new morgue – thank goodness it was empty.  If you’ve never been in a morgue, it is similar to a meat rending plant.  All the walls are “washable.”  Long and short, I had my tool belt, telephones, and my radio and got the job done.

Although I still worked with a crew, freedom came at last in the way of my own truck, a work schedule I could plan as I saw fit, and new adventures too numerous to mention here.   

One of the places we worked regularly was at Mi Tierra down at Market Square (www.mitierracafe.com/).  One of the guys, that we called Q-Tip because he was very tall and had snow white hair, had a love of the baked goods at Mi Tierra.  How convenient that the bakery was in the basement along with the telephone equipment.

One day we strategically planned our afternoon break to coincide with our work in the Mi Tierra basement, and Q-Tip said to me, why don’t you go to the window of the bakery and look longingly at all the baked goodies, especially the Ramón’s (which is what he called a particular type of cream-filled pastries).  He really liked Ramón’s, and if he didn’t have to pay for them, that was even better.  Well, not being shy, I agreed to be the beggar girl and stare through the bakery window.  It didn’t take long for one of the bakers to open the door and invite me to pick out whatever I wanted.

I learned later on that Ramón wasn’t a real name for a pastry, like Pan Dulce meaning  sweet bread, or Leche Quemada which literally means burnt milk, and is like a caramel with the consistency of dry fudge.  Ramón was a name that Q Tip coined after some hapless customer who got on his nerves, and every time he bit into that delicacy he felt a little revenge. 

Tip:  You never wanted to get on the bad side of your telephone installer (or nowadays your Internet installer).  We could tie up your lines with our butt sets, cross the numbers to the guy down the street, and you never knew if your speaker phone might just accidentally do a number like the tape on Mission Impossible.  In other words, we could mess you up.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4qoymGCDYzU  Glen Campbell singing “Wichita Lineman”


Anonymous said:  Liza has such great stories!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Liza has such great stories!