As I prepare for the September 5 release of Wrong Line, Right Connection, this is a full-circle moment. Like I shared in “The Book the Blog Wrote”, my character spotlight for Mabel Stentz from Forgetting My Way Back to You set Wrong Line, Right Connection into motion. Just about four years later, here I am, writing another spotlight about her, this time for her spin-off novel—which details how she became the Mabel Stentz from Coatesville, Pennsylvania.
At the risk of being redundant, allow me to summarize the Behind-The-Pages story of Mabel. Mabel was no figment of my imagination, though she did seem larger than life. Mabel was a very dear friend, whom my mom started housecleaning for around 1975. What began as a little cleaning job for my newlywed mother turned into a decades-long friendship, with my mom doing much more than clean as the years passed.
Of course, my sister and I came along through that time, and we always called her Grandma Mabel, a moniker she more than lived up to. In fact, she and her husband, Roy—more about him next week!—were the first people to meet me aside from my immediate family. We accompanied Mom to work almost every week, forming a very special bond with them. She had a wit like no other, which she maintained up until the very end. For instance, when a nurse asked her if she felt like she was dying during her final days, Mabel snappily replied, “I don’t know; I’ve never died before!”
Wrong Line, Right Connection isn’t a biography, but I enjoyed implementing as much as I could to make this fictional character true to her real-life counterpart. I tried to craft that incredible wit and the qualities I cherished in her, including the delicious peanut butter dessert she made. In short, I took the best of my fifteen years with her and spun it into a tale I hope she’d find entertaining.
To introduce you to the Mabel Jennings of Wrong Line, Right Connection, below is a fictitious newspaper article about her experience working as a switchboard operator.
June 8, 1964
Local Switchboard Operator Reflects on Telecommunication’s Advancements
By Leonard Briggs
If you’ve placed a call in the past few years, you’ve probably spoken to Mabel Jennings, switchboard operator for Southern Belle Telephone Company. As a matter of fact, Miss Jennings is on her second tenure at the ‘cord board,’ as employees call it. Originally hired in 1940, she operated the now-outdated system, where we were fully dependent on the switchboard girls to talk to anyone.
“I was just a girl out of high school, so I relished in our ability to listen into people’s calls. I picked up on so much town gossip! I miss those days,” she confesses with a wink.
Miss Jennings stepped away from the telephone company a few years later to wed her husband, Clark. Following his tragic and untimely passing, she returned in time to her old stomping grounds in 1960.
“I didn’t hesitate to ask for my old job, since I left on good terms and knew everything. My life was in such disarray, so I craved familiarity. Plus, I expected they’d like to have a veteran who didn’t need training.”
Despite her experience, both the turnover in the staff and upgraded equipment during her hiatus threw her a learning curve.
“I get along with the other girls, except one, but the new setup surprised me. In a lot of ways, it’s much easier now because most people have direct dialing. Whereas we used to handle every call, these days we mostly cater to businesses and out-of-towners. I welcomed the lighter load, but I had been looking forward to eavesdropping, which we can no longer do. What can I say? My life was so messed up that I wanted to hear how much worse others had it!”
Nonetheless, Miss Jennings admits she still finds ways of establishing connections.
She grins. “Yes, I’ve been accused of flirting while on the job, and I won’t deny it. I never let it impact my efficiency…well, up until the other day.”
Visit Romance Lives Forever to see my guest post about Mabel’s eating habits.
Character Spotlight: Roy Stentz
Character Spotlight: Evelyn Sanders
3 thoughts on “Character Spotlight: Mabel Jennings”