Virginia City: “one ring-a-dingy, two ring-a-dingy”

The Virginia City telephone operator is ready to take your call.

The operator in this re-creation of the first telephone office in Virginia City makes me think of Lily Tomlin’s character Ernestine. Does anybody today say, “one ring-a-dingy”?

The telephone came to Virginia City in 1902. The operator at the switchboard could connect the 28 local telephones with each other and the world. On the day I took this picture, I had 4-bars on my cell phone.

The Virginia City telephone office stands today, somewhat worn, on main street.

Rocky Mountain Bell, Virginia City, Mt. Built in 1902 and still standing.

The first telephone exchange in Montana was installed in Butte in 1882. There were 14 subscribers to the Butte system, most of them businesses. It took 20 years for Rocky Mountain Bell to expand to Virginia City. By that time Montana was a state.