In 1992, resident and moonlighting filmmaker, Tom Cronin, interviewed and videotaped a series of longtime Orleans residents to record their stories about what life was like “in those days”. Doris McDermott was one of them.
Doris was born on Great Oak Rd. in East Orleans in 1912. Her father, Wilbur Chase, also born in Orleans, worked for over 30 years at the Coast Guard Life Saving Station. Her parents married at the Orleans Inn in 1896 and spent their honeymoon night in the cupola room!
Doris regales us with stories of what it was like growing up pre-World War I days to the 1920’s and ‘30’s. She describes in detail what she considers “the best part of my life” working as a New England Telephone operator from 1929 to 1944, first in the old Cummings building (now the Land-Ho) and then when the company moved in 1941 into the Head and Foot store (currently the Main Street Wine and Gourmet shop). Also she talks about her father’s work in the Life-Saving Service and U.S. Coast Guard.
Mary McDermott, Doris’s only child, also participates in this interview with some of her own reminiscences of growing up in town and working for 17 years in the Tax Department at the Town Hall in Orleans.
On some personal notes, my husband, Mark, remembers the days of having a party-line in Eastham and calling the operator for assistance -- or just to gab. He knew when their phone rang 4 times it was for his family, and that it was not uncommon for neighbors to pick up and listen, too. A memory that made a big impression to Mark was coming home from school and dialing the phone for the first time.
I, too, remember having a party-line at our house in the late 1950’s. But what struck me about the old New England Telephone Co. was the fact that the operators were in charge of the fire whistle when there was a fire in town or in Eastham. These were the days when the town had an all-volunteer fire department. I remember hearing and counting the number of whistles indicating which town had the fire, and distinguishing it from the noon-hour whistle. Our house was 2 miles away in South Orleans and it was loud!
We are grateful that Doris and Mary McDermott relived some of their memories of “the old days” and we encourage everyone to spend an hour watching this fascinating video (
click here to watch video
. We promise you won’t regret it!
Mark and Anne Carron,
Longtime Orleans Residents (now in Arizona)