The ‘Voice with a Smile’ Visits Dodd Center and Connects with the Past

Mary Cullen received the Voice With A Smile Award in 1952. There once was a time long before iPhones and Droids when friendly telephone operators assisted callers by providing telephone numbers, help with overseas calls, and other 'customer friendly' telephone information. (Photo courtesy of the UConn Libraries.)

Mary Cullen received the Voice With A Smile Award in 1952. There once was a time long before iPhones and Droids when friendly telephone operators assisted callers by providing telephone numbers, help with overseas calls, and other 'customer friendly' telephone information. (Photo courtesy of the Dodd Research Center.)

In 1952, Mary Cullen, a 25-year-old telephone operator with the Southern New England Telephone Company, received the “Voice With a Smile” award, given to operators for superior public service and demeanor. The award came with a distinctive white headset, which, she said, allowed her to stand out and made her feel very special.

On Feb. 13, the “Voice With a Smile,” now Mrs. Mary Cullen Yuhas Anger, visited the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center at UConn with her niece Kay Cullen, to view photographs, documents, and employee magazines in the SNET Records in the archives. She reminisced about her happy days as an employee of SNET, from 1944 to 1956, and then off and on, working night shifts when her children were young.

Yuhas Anger topped off her visit with the gift of a dial pencil, a mechanical pencil with a metal ball at the end that operators used to work the rotary dials – for efficiency, she explained, as well as to preserve their manicures.

Mary Cullen Yuhas Anger (left) visited the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center with her niece, Kay Cullen, to look at the SNET records in the archives. (Laura Katz Smith/UConn Photo))

Mary Cullen Yuhas Anger (left) visited the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center with her niece, Kay Cullen, to look at the SNET records in the archives. (Laura Katz Smith/UConn Photo))

The records of the Southern New England Telephone Company (SNET), housed in Archives & Special Collections in the Dodd Research Center, reflect the long history of a pioneering and innovative telephone company. The collection consists of material dating from the formation of the New Haven District Telephone Company and the invention of the switchboard in 1878 to the merger of the Southern New England Telecommunications Corporation and SBC Communications Inc. in 1998. SNET milestones include opening the first commercial telephone exchange, providing a telephone directory, installing a telephone booth, and establishing the world’s first private and commercial toll lines.