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Hello girl for Ma Bell says 'hi' to folks

Friend and neighbor Irma Crane has an interesting story to share, not quite like any other. She was born in Milwaukee, Wis., in 1920 to Steve and Anna Jencovek (a Czechoslovakian name). They moved to Ladysmith, Wis. in 1926. It is where Irma graduated from high school.

Irma was 20 years old when she became an employee of Northwest Bell Telephone. She worked as a "hello girl" for Ma Bell for several years. Calls came in when there was a fire or other emergency. When everyone should know, a general ring went out.

Being an operator for the busy grain exchange came next, a position she held for the next 32 years. They served Minnesota and both Dakotas. That is where she met and married Joe Crane.

Joe's wife had died. He had several grown children. He had his own painting and interior decorating business for 40 years. Joe's work was well known for its quality. He was a master of his trade. The Cranes spent winters in Arizona.

A mutual interest was finding items for a flea market sale and selling them. They looked especially for obsolete operating room equipment. Surgery clamps and scalpels were treasured by crafters. American-made tools were at a premium, especially drills. Joe brought all of them up to as nearly new as he could make them.

A special feeling for wood, all kinds of wood, rivaled all other interests for Joe. As they traveled, the first thing he wanted to see in a new town was the sawmill, if they had one. He made small items, like Irma's rolling pin and cutting boards from maple. They were almost too beautiful to use.

Irma liked it when Joe sang to her, times when he wasn't on the air for WDGY radio in Yankton. In a clear tenor voice he sang ballads, love songs, and old favorites to a wide area of listeners.

The world, as Irma sees it, is in a tangled web. Nevertheless, God still reigns and in his time all will be made clear. Our job is to do our best each day.

Despite long hours and low pay, special times for Irma at the telephone office was the week before Christmas, plugging a call in to a family, hearing "Hey, folks! We're gonna make it home for Christmas this year, so kill the fatted calf!"

"We don't have no fatted calf, son, but I got a big turkey picked out an--."

It was fun hearing the happy voices, knowing she had played a small part in someone's Christmas.

When there was no answer Irma kept ringing, 'cause that's what you do in this world.

You have to keep ringin'.