As a switchboard operator, Jo Mary Kirk was accustomed to fielding about 100 calls a day. However, back in 1963, she didn’t have the luxury of a simple hold button. When she started at Atlas Van Lines, the Posey County native worked fast to plug in the cords necessary to connect calls in a cord switchboard. In fact, she memorized the extensions for almost all of the company’s 100 to 125 employees.
Atlas Van Lines is different now, of course. That old cord switchboard is gone, and the company has grown, too. Founded in 1948 by 33 entrepreneurs in transfer and storage, Atlas Van Lines is now the second largest carrier of household goods in the U.S. Its parent, Atlas World Group Inc., is headquartered in Evansville.
As the company changed, so did Kirk. In her 50 years as an Atlas employee, she’s become a mother to one daughter, Lisa; a grandmother to two girls, Kelsey and Monica, and one boy, Brent; and a great-grandmother to three boys, Damon, Bram, and Jace.
Through it all, Kirk has held six different positions at the company. In 1981, she was promoted to manager of IT communications, overseeing all the phones in the company as well as two full-time operators. In all, she’s seen the installation of four phone systems to handle call volume and the company’s 376 employees.
“All phone changes could be made in-house instead of having our phone vendor make all the service runs,” Kirk says. “This saved the company many dollars per department.”
She was part of the company when Atlas began sponsoring unlimited hydroplane racing to increase its name recognition in 1967. The sport gained lots of local attention with Thunder on the Ohio, held in Evansville from 1979 to 2009.
Kirk was also at the company during what Atlas described as a hostile takeover in 1984. Later, in 1988, she saw the company return to agent ownership.
“Now it has been 50 years and several phone systems later, and I’m still doing basically the same work as I always have,” says Kirk. “The secret to that is Atlas is a great place to work with good employees to work with and, most of all, a great management and executive staff. I am proud to be an employee for 50 years, but I feel this also says something for Atlas for being an outstanding company.
For more information, call 812-424-2222 or visit atlasvanlines.com.