Visitors to the White City V.A. Museum can view among its souvenirs, a three-decades old, telephone switchboard. Seated at the relic, a mannequin portraying a young male wearing U.S. Navy bellbottoms and sailor’s cap carries us back in nostalgia to its heyday. Back then, individual phones literally contained bells that rang, while multiline extension devices featured tiny buttons that lit. Operators responded by pushing toggle-like switches, then completing connections through inserting wire plugs into round openings in complex boards facing them.
The switchboard at the Museum in Building 200 of Southern Oregon Rehabilitation Center and Clinic lingers as a memento of times when this device actually functioned. Above the display, a photo of an attractive strawberry blonde woman recalls 1981, when her live voice fielded calls through that board.
Museum Curator, Al Inlow considers it a noteworthy link to its current history. When he asked, “Have you ever written anything about Melody Hall?” at first, it sounded like the name of a musical concert venue. “Melody is the switchboard operator in that picture,” he added. “She worked here in the early 1980’s.”
V.A. SORCC Public Affairs Specialist, Rhonda Haney, observed with pride that the same switchboard operator remains on its staff today.
Melody Hall confirmed she has enjoyed her tenure at the V.A. facility for the past 32 years. “Before that, I worked for Pacific Northwest Bell Telephone Company,” she said. “They trained me on switchboards. Following three years with them, I started work at the VA Domiciliary; have been here ever since.”
Hall clarified that she staffed the phone board for just three months. Then they upgraded to a newer system. The switchboard became obsolete, and her job duties again changed. Among various assignments she has performed, Hall now does “coding.” Whenever a new patient comes in, or an existing one leaves, the facility must provide applicable medical diagnosis codes.
In further conversation, Hall’s patriotism, and sheer enthusiasm for working among America’s heroic Veterans becomes obvious. She notes that her youngest offspring’s photo also graces the White City V.A. Museum’s wall. “He was with the U.S. Army Strikers Unit during the Iraqi War,” the proud mom says. For the uninitiated, Hall defined the term “Striker” as “something like a fast tank.”