50 years ago: Phone service brings a new era to Cayman

In the Dec. 7, 1966 edition of the Caymanian Weekly, a precursor of the Cayman Compass, news from George Town included:

“The people of Grand Cayman can now speak to each other by a reliable telephone system thanks to the inauguration of the Cable & Wireless Internal Telephone System which was officially opened on Friday last.

“At 11 a.m., special guests gathered outside the new Central Telegraph Office and Telephone Exchange in George Town for the official opening of the building.

“Upon arrival, His Honour the Administrator introduced Sir John Macpherson, Chairman of Cable & Wireless Ltd., and extended a warm Caymanian welcome to him and his wife who were the hosts for these ceremonies.

“Sir John paid tribute to Mr. P. Forestal, Mr. R.W. Tidd and their staff for a job well done under difficult conditions. He hoped it would not be too long before the whole project is completed for all three islands with a link through Jamaica to the outside world and predicted that given good reception at both ends, businessmen would find that their business increased spectacularly.

“One interesting fact which Sir John mentioned particularly was that the ‘Thin Line Scatter System’ linking Grand Cayman with Cayman Brac and Jamaica, will be the first system of this kind to be used commercially anywhere in the world, thus the Cayman Islands are pioneers in this particular field.

“He then apologised to the people at the ‘bottom of the list’ who will have to wait much longer than they had hoped for their telephones, and said, ‘We have been taken unawares by the unexpected volume of the demand for telephones and we have had to increase the size of the exchanges and number of lines. This is a dramatic indication of the fast-moving development of these islands, which has been so marked over the past 2 years.”

“Before actually lifting the receiver, Mr. Cumber read telegrams exchanged between the Government and the Managing Director of Cable & Wireless in London and then made another short speech.

“There was a ‘breathless hush’ in the hall as His Honour dialled 2474 and there was hearty laughter when he said, ‘This is the Administrator, Old Cucumber, here,’ and received the reply ‘Postmaster speaking,’ in Bunny Bodden’s deep voice. During the conversation, it was learned that the new issue of stamps to commemorate this occasion had arrived the previous day and would be on sale on Dec. 5.

“Next, Capt. Eldon Kirkconnell dialed Mr. Fossie Arch. Mr. Craddock Ebanks got through to Mrs. Virginia McCoy, at North Side, with the help of the Operator, quite successfully, but after a very short conversation, two powerful American cars parked near to the aerial, with their engines running and interfered with the V.H.F …. Mr. Anton Bodden had little difficulty in getting through to fellow MLA Mr. Richard Arch in the office in George Town. Unfortunately, due to the non-arrival of transistors, the line to Bodden Town was not available for use on this occasion. Mr. Anton made a little joke about this, saying that he guessed they would have to pay their compliments even though Bodden Town was left out.

“Mr. Warren Conolly, called Trevor Watler in East End, and speaking to his daughter Alicia at West Bay, the Hon. T.W. Farrington said it was very good to be able to talk to her from the Town Hall filled with people but a pity he couldn’t get through to his other daughter, Marilyn, in Port Arthur (USA), but guessed that would come in time.”

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