In 2017, The Tasmanian Wool Centre (TWC) applied for and received funding to create a project centered around preserving the stories and anecdotes of Ross residents. Through an installation known as ‘Dial a Local’, visitors to the town of Ross are able to access stories by ‘dialing up’ one of seven locals on the telephone.
The catalyst for collecting these local oral histories, was a disused Tasman Flag, red telephone box on the main street of Ross – one of two. The other housed a Telstra pay phone and both were in line to be replaced with a standard modern version, but the local community objected, and the Northern Midlands Council was in support.
From the mind of former TWC Manager, Debra Cadagan-Cowper, came the idea to record interviews conducted with locals to be uploaded in a reworked phone installed in the box. Enterprize, in Launceston, agreed to come on board to help make the idea a reality. Technician, Joe Robinson, built the telephone from old parts and the interviews were captured by Deb on a small, portable recorder, with a little bit of trial and error.
In a stroke of luck, TWC Museum staff located an old photo of some ladies working in the Campbell Town Telephone Exchange in the late 60s – right at the front was local Ross lady, Enid Harding! Enid’s smiling face now greets Dial-a-Local’ users and it was Enid herself who cut the ribbon at the launch – February 22nd, 2019.
The ‘Dial-a-Local’ stories are amusing and poignant – they tell of a small, self-reliant community and its diverse characters – from a bull in the pub, to a run-in with the Constabulary! The installation is accessible anytime, in the ‘Dial a Local’, phone box on Church Street.
TWC would like to acknowledge the contributions of each of the locals who made this possible – Hazel Wickham, Richard Bennett, Sandy Harvey, and Bob Davis.