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Working days are numbered for Chillicothe telephone operators

The Chillicothe Telephone Company is ending its operator services. 33 people will lose their jobs, including telephone operators and supervisers. Calls to directory assistance will be routed to a center in Illinois. Company officials say theirs was one of the last phone companies of its size to offer "live" local operators.

Bob McKell is Chairman of the Board of Horizon Chillicothe Telephone. The McKell family has been involved with the phone company in Chillicothe since it began in 1895. At that time, telephone operators used magneto swithchboards and every call was handled manually. Both operators and customers turned a hand crank to reach each other.

McKell says early telephone operators were the first emergency dispatchers. Residents called the operator to report fires and other emergencies. The last of Chillicothe's telephone operators will be gone in a few weeks. Directory assistance calls will then go to a center in Illinois.