Florence Seal – a 'Cuckfield Connection'
Before March 1965, both Cuckfield and Haywards Heath were served by separate telephone exchanges, manned by the 'Hello Girls' or operators.
At Haywards Heath, until her retirement, one of the supervisors overseeing the 27 operators there, was a Miss Florence Alice Seal.
She lived alone at 'Walland' a house towards the eastern end of London Lane, Cuckfield. The GPO didn't allow their operators to marry, although in later years this rule was relaxed.
Florence, or Miss Seal, as she would most definitely be called when on duty, drove each day to the exchange in Boltro Road in her little Austin 7 and parked on the small forecourt in front of the exchange and its two red telephone boxes.
Born in 1897, her career with the GPO began in 1914, starting as a Sub Post Office assistant in Horsham and then at the Post Office at Whitemans Green, located next to the telephone exchange.
In 1920 she joined the telephone side of the GPO, serving initially in Haywards Heath and then Crowborough.
Haywards Heath exchange was altered and enlarged, becoming operational on 30th August 1928 at the same time Florence returned as a supervising telephonist.
Promotions followed to Assistant Supervisor in 1936 and eventually Supervisor in 1950; she remained at Haywards Heath until her retirement on Thursday 30th April 1959.
During a party to mark the occasion, she was presented with a £25 cheque, a bouquet of carnations and the Imperial Service Medal, or at least the mention of it as it had failed to arrive on time and would be awarded at a later date !
She thanked everyone for their good wishes and although tinged with sadness at leaving, she was looking forward to getting some weeding done in her garden back in Cuckfield.
She died in 1969 aged 72.
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