Humour in the Head Office
This Memory is reproduced from two articles submitted to the staff magazine (Autumn and Christmas 1955) by Marjorie Rayner, who was recalling some of her experiences as the Banks Telephonist. Her job involved connecting callers to and from the various officers and departments in Head Office. Marjories room was on the ground floor, at the northeast corner of the Broad Street Head Office. She operated a PBX (Private Branch Exchange), a switchboard apparatus that allowed multiple lines to be answered by a single telephone. At this time, telephone numbers consisted of three letters, representing the name of the local exchange, plus the four numerals of the subscribers number. (This system was replaced by AFN (All Figure Numbers) in Birmingham in 1966. The phone numbers of branches immediately prior to the introduction of AFN is listed right). The Bank was connected to the MIDland exchange. A note issued by Head Office to branches (see below) specified the phone numbers allocated to the Bank
Now to a really intriguing call, which matured recently. Female voice of low timbre but with attention arousing note therein, said:
Mees, I wanna speak to you vari vari confidentially. Can you take a warning on the telephone?
To cover my surprise, I replied I beg your pardon.
The remark was repeated, and to gain time I said Exactly what sort of warning are you referring to?
The caller, Ill tell you. I wanna £210 next Wednesday so I am giving you a warning.
Ah well! Live and learn!
Finally for this time, the Raucous-voiced Man who shouted Miss, WOTARSYERAKTIV.
Wotarsyeraktiv? Not being able to make anything sensible out of this remark, I remembered a silly question deserves a silly answer, so drew a Bow at Venture, and said 10 till 3 pm today
OK, thanks, he replied.
No one was more astonished than I. Translation of question obviously was What hours are you active
I am ringing off now and clearing the junction until a few more Funnies are required for another New Letter.
Often referred to as Old Maggie.
Ah Well! A Rose by any other name .... I am told.
Firstly, may I say a very sincere thank you for the many kind messages by telephone and letters expressing your pleasure and appreciation of my small effort in the September News Letter. I am delighted to know you were amused because I feel Mr Harold Turner, our very worthy originator of the News Letter will derive much satisfaction also; knowing that it is fulfilling its intended Function - even in its infancy, so to speak - and as long as it does not grow to be LEnfant Terrible all will be well!!!
For 21 years many of you have listened to what must sound like my Escape-me-never-voice saying The Manager please. HO here - So and So calling you. But this time I am calling on my own account; in case you can spare a moment during your very busy days to scan, what I hope will appear to you to be a few humorous lines. So - As the Trunk Operators say Go ahead, you are through to the first wee funny.
One day answering MID 3722 I was greeted by an extremely cultured male voice - too, too, frightfully Pukkah-Sahib dont-cher-know! Demanding Who is THET? I repeated our title. He proceeded - ooooh-AH, listen he-AH! This is Major-General Farquhar-Harkerson speaking to you from SOLLY-HULL. I-EM the Leaser of Box Number so and so in your vaults - Is my wife there? For a few seconds I was convulsed with silent laughter - then managed to murmur - one moment please - and connected the call to the Safe Deposit department - after which I enjoyed a good laugh. Really one would think we specialised in cold storage rather than Banking.
During the Bad Old Days of the last War when Wells Green Branch strove valiantly to meet the requirements of the public during the three days they were open each week - one of their customers, evacuated to Leicester, phoned me from Birmingham to lodge a complaint because each week for quite a time apparently he had travelled over to Birmingham, always on one of the closed days. I gathered from his approach that he was a Haymillian HeMAN. We got under way thus - He - "ah-lo, ah-lo, oo-ah-yer?" Me - "BMB". He - "Ar many mower days ar yow a-goin ter keep that Bloody utt shut at Sheldon? Wot the Ell yow av it foe ar doan know, its no flippin ornament and sairtenly no perishin use. It aint never open so as folks can gerr-in - see, cause theym allus at wairk wen its open. Yow planned that show a fair treat I reckon, an youd oughter be ashamed on yower self an orle arm a tellin yer see, an doan yow forgit it neather. Bringin me all the way over from Leicester each wick an bein evacuated an all, an a-closing afor I git there. Praise be! He drew breath - so I apologised for the great inconvenience he had suffered and endeavoured to placate his sorely outraged spirit by suggesting that Pay Bearer or Postal Withdrawal Forms coild be sent to him and so avoid any further delay and annoyance - Of course, he declined to accept either, emphatically pointing out that he wished to do his business pearse-en-ell, see and no mucking ahhart wi bits opaper, and let that be very clearly understood, See!!" I did indeed - and how!!! I then tried another tactic and said - "Well then, Ill put you in touch with the Branch Controller here, I know he will be able to help you". I am sure youll agree his reply was truly gorgeous. With very belligerent tone he said Yowll do nuthink othe kind see - arll keep on agoin over till ar cop-em-open - an then arll let em ave it good and proper, ar be atellin yer, see! And with all the scorn he could muster, and it was a tidy bit arm tellin yer, he roared ah ruddy awful con-sairn!" and crashed the receiver on!!! Funny how a call like that creates a demand for a breath of fresh air! The Exchange seemed very airless after he had rung off, but - thanks be, peaceful once more.
Now that Wells Green Branch have changed their address and are temporarily without a telephone, I feel sure my War-time caller will feel the urge to phone them to discuss some of his pearse-en-ell business, see - Well I ope as Im orf dooty when he phones here to know why he is once more prevented from doing what he wants to do with this Rosy Con-sairn But no - what a selfish remark. Of course Ill enjoy the call if it comes. There is no doubt hell provide the Funnies page with something to laugh about, and that we must have - so - press on regardless.
A cheery Xmas Greeting to you all, and to those of you who go adancing at this Festive Seasson I trust will fair better than the two Butterflies who were refused admittance to the Dance Hall, because it was a Moth Ball !!!
To conclude, I give you that lovely Scottish Toast -
Heres tae us,
Whas like us,
An theyre aw deed!
In English -
Heres to us,
Whos like us
An theyre all dead !!
So good-bye, from your friend and telephone-in-charge.