By U.S. ArmyMarch 10, 2016
Editor's note: In honor of Anniston Army Depot's 75th anniversary, TRACKS is looking back at the installation's changes through the eyes of those who were present.
ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. -- Eva Barker began work in the U.S. Army Communications Command, a tenant activity at Anniston Army Depot, in May 1974.
Barker is a second generation depot employee. Her father came to work at the installation in the 1940s and retired before her career began.
She was selected as a clerk typist and worked in support of the telephone operations.
Now, Barker is the chief of the Work Planning and Control Division in the Directorate of Information Management.
"We had hard copy directories and I had to type the directories," she said.
The building where the switchboard was located was also home to the Directorate of Public Works, where young engineers, such as Paul Harper and Tommy Gaines, who are both now retired from ANAD, began their careers.
"The young mail carrier who served our building was Kenny Steppe, who is now the emergency operations specialist supervisor. At the time, though, he was also just beginning his career at ANAD," said Barker.
The Outside Telephone Plant and Radio Shop operations were located in a building known as the Mule Barn, because it was a pre-World War II renovated horse barn.
"All our operations, equipment, files, etc. were manual, to include an antiquated step-by-step telephone switch and switchboard, rotary phones, manual typewriters and manually typed telephone directories," she said.
USACC had approximately 40 government personnel on staff when telephone operations and maintenance were contracted in 1983.
In 1984, USACC merged with the Directorate of Management Information Systems to become the Directorate of Information Management under the United States Army Information Systems Command.
In 1986, a top-driven project replaced the antiquated step-by-step switch with ANAD's first electronic telephone switch, a Nortel NT40.
"I spent many weeks at the Nortel Training Facility in Richardson, Texas, to obtain technical certification on the new switch, which has since been replaced with a Nortel SL100 Supernode," said Barker.
As a result of the new electronic switch, the original rotary dial phones and multi-line key systems were replaced with single line touch tone phones.
Throughout her career, Barker found friends who became as close as family.
"I am so grateful and blessed to have a wonderful career and to have established life-long friendships throughout this journey," said Barker.
Since there was always someone on duty at the switchboard, 24 hours a day and seven days a week, the operators had a kitchen and, according to Barker, were very good cooks.
"It was a very different atmosphere than what we have now," she said. "Back then, people conversed. Now, everything is e-mail."
Since voice mail was non-existent at the time, Barker said employees always received a real person at the other end of a call and, often, conversations were held in person.
Because people spent time talking in person, said Barker, they got to know each other better. Points of contact at every level were known well because of this personal contact.
"We had POCs for every mission at every level and we got to know them," she said. "People were together a lot more then than they are now."
Personal information, however, was less secure. At the time, every personal form had your name, address and Social Security number.
"Now, we have to be so careful with personally identifiable information," said Barker.
Today, Eva said, much of the depot still tries to be like a family.
"We've tried to maintain these relationships with coworkers and employees," she said.
Though, Barker admits life is often too hectic to have get-togethers with coworkers during the holidays or at other times, as she and her coworkers and employees once did, many employees still make an effort to keep up with the important aspects of each other's lives.
"Now, we're spread out in different offices, but keeping relationships is important," said Barker. "I'm very thankful, every day I drive up, that I have a good place to work and good people to work with."