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Is That Coochberry?

Published on September 3, 2014 by in Stories

It’s hard to imagine, but there was a time, not too long ago, when all long distance calls had to be placed with an operator. Sometimes communication wasn’t all that easy.

I joined the Air Force in 1963, and trained at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. When I graduated from basic, I wanted to call my parents who lived in Coos Bay, Oregon. Now, in those days if you called long distance, you had to go through an operator. Direct dial came along much later.

I went to a public phone, put in a dime and dialed “O” for the operator.

“I’d like to place a collect call to Coos Bay, Oregon.”


“No Coos Bay, two words.”

“Ah, Goose Bay.”

“No, ma’am, Coos Bay, with a  ‘C’.”


“No, no, no, no. Two words, first word Coos second word Bay.

“Goose Bay?”

“No, Coos Bay, C, o, o, s, that’s “C” as in Charlie.


“No, ma’am, it’s two words. Like Goose Bay, but the first word is Coos, with a C. First word, Coos, C, o, o, s; second word Bay; B, a, y.”

“Ah Coos Bay.”


“And who shall I say is calling?”

I burst out laughing.

“Sir, I have to have your name to place the call.” Decidedly frosty.

“It’s Marvin Stottlemire.”

She joined my laughter.

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