Longtime Bell Telephone operator Jane West dies at 74
BY TIM STANLEY World Staff Writer
Saturday, January 12, 2013
1/12/13 at 4:32 AM
Although she was a dedicated telephone operator, there was one call Jane West would hardly ever put through - a call to her employer to say she couldn't come in.
With the exception of a couple of times - a bad ice storm and two days to have a baby - West had perfect attendance over her 35 years with Bell Telephone, which later became AT&T.
In that time, from the 1950s through her retirement, "Operator Jane," as she was known, did her part to keep the talk flowing, family members say.
"It was very likely if you were living and chatting in Tulsa during (those decades), she connected you with a family member or loved one at some point," her nephew Jimmy Butler said.
Emma Jane West died Sunday after a long battle with cancer. She was 74.
A memorial service was held Thursday under the direction of Floral Haven Funeral Home in Broken Arrow handled arrangements.
For nearly four decades, working many double shifts and sometimes through the weekends, West was at her post.
When she started, operators still sat at switchboards, connecting callers to direct lines or party lines via thick cords they plugged into the board.
As technology advanced, more sophisticated switchboards allowed her to make connections at the press of a button.
But some things never changed.
Dealing with angry callers was a daily part of the job, and West remembered learning to speak gently but firmly in encouraging a calmer exchange.
Eventually working her way up from switchboard operator to management, she passed on such lessons in training new operators.
Butler said one of his aunt's strengths was adaptability. As technology changed, she changed with it.
Later in life, she even came to embrace the very technology that had helped make switchboard operators obsolete - the cellphone.
"She did marvel at technology," he said.
Away from work, West was known for her giving, Butler said.
She developed a special tradition - a trip to Disneyland every year on which she would take friends and children from her neighborhood who couldn't otherwise afford it.
Disneyland officials recognized her once for her efforts.
She was presented a certificate and a pair of 24-karat gold mouse ears and also had her picture taken with Mickey Mouse.
West's survivors include her son, Michael West; four siblings; and three grandchildren.
Original Print Headline: Smooth operator connected loved ones
Tim Stanley 918-581-8385
Emma Jane West: She developed a special tradition - a trip to Disneyland every year on which she would take friends and children from her neighborhood who couldn't otherwise afford it. Disneyland recognized her efforts with a certificate and 24-karat gold mouse ears.