Milford's  Telephone D-Day

Milford's Telephone D-Day

D-Day came to Milford in April of 1962. Well, no, not that D-Day but another slightly less momentous occasion dubbed “D-Day” by the local telephone company - that consequential moment when dial telephone service replaced local operators. If it’s been a while since your last classic Hollywood movie, in those days, making a call required one to pick up the phone and tell the operator where to direct the call. But with this newfangled gadget called the rotary phone, Milford residents could directly dial numbers to reach other nearby callers within the “673” exchange. The phone company embarked on a massive “D-Day” campaign that included new phone books, instruction cards, and emergency call numbers (everyone was to memorize 673-1313 for fire emergencies and 673-1414 for police). Mixing his metaphors, Telephone Manager Charles Trainor told the local press in relation to D-Day, “I feel like an astronaut waiting for the blast-off.”

And so at exactly 7:00 AM on Sunday April 15, Louis Kregos of the Board of Selectman made the first call. "Blast-off" came in the form of a ceremonial call from the new communication center in the Milford Police Station to Hermon Anderson, chairman of the Amherst board. Telephone operators headed home, people started dialing and a Brave New World had arrived.

Except that change is hard. Despite the smooth transition, many old-timers liked the new rotary phones about as much as some of today’s seniors enjoy self-scan checkouts. That is, not very much. Four days after the new system went into effect, a litany of complaints could be heard. A list in the Milford Cabinet of grievances included trouble remembering the phone numbers, the fact that you couldn’t make a call in the dark and even that the spinning of the rotary would not allow one to place a call quietly. The Milford Cabinet remarked, “What if you didn’t want someone to know you were making a call (a burglar or your wife, perhaps?)” Nevertheless, even crime victims and adulterers would soon get used to the change. Two years later you could make a direct dial call to Nashua and direct long-distance was just around the corner. Was something lost in the transition? No doubt. Again from the Cabinet: “No longer is the phone a warm friendly connection with the world. It’s totally impersonal, full of clicks and buzzes and dial tones and no neighborly operators if you make a mistake.” If the Cabinet of 1962 could only imagine today's 1-800 automated customer service.

Indeed, it does seem that every technological step forward is accompanied by some loss and some gnashing of teeth. Something to keep in mind when those  driverless cars come along.

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