Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Harmon recalled early phone lines

 Sent to The Frederick Leader and The Frederick Press, October 4, 2011
Early telephone switchboard operator   (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

Telephone was connection for farm families

Early telephones were an important connection for farm families, giving them a link to neighbors, as well as access to nearby towns and beyond.
Past “Tillman County Chronicles” have addressed the topic of early telephone lines that were built and maintained by farm families. In April 1992, the late Millie Jett Harmon wrote about her family’s early telephone in a column for the Kiowa County Democrat.
Mrs. Harmon, born in 1907, was raised on a farm in the North Deep Red community in northeast Tillman County. She was one of nine Jett children, all girls. 
Early crank telephone at Frederick
Piioneer Townsite Museum
As a young wife and mother, she lived in Manitou, but spent most of her life in the Snyder community where her husband Ray Harmon was a grocer.
She died in January 2000 at age 92.
In the late 1980s and early ‘90s, Mrs. Harmon wrote a weekly column for the Kiowa County Democrat, reflecting on many memories of her early life in southwest Oklahoma.
In the April 9, 1992 edition of the Snyder newspaper, she wrote the following:
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“I read in The Lawton Constitution and Morning Press that Indiahoma and a number of neighboring towns would have toll-free telephone service to Lawton after April 6, 1992.
“It put me to thinking of the day the rural telephone line reached the North Deep Red Community.
“The Emery Harpers owned and operated the Manitou telephone exchange which was eight miles from our home. The farmers formed an organization for Line #8; bought wire and little insulators that looked like white spools. They nailed 2x4s to fence posts to string the wire on and were responsible for the upkeep and service of the line. Mr. Harper’s wife and daughters Nellie and Myrtle operated the switchboard in their home and gave twenty-four hour service. I think the fee for our service was $1.00 per month – maybe $2.00.
“In dry weather we would have to pour water on the ground wire to keep it working and in the rainy season it would drown out.
“We were so proud of that little battery operated box that hung on the wall with a horn-like transmitter and two little bells and a receiver hanging on a long cord. We could turn the crank and be connected with kin or friend.
“If an electric storm blew up the contraption was disconnected til the weather cleared.
“It was learned that the telephone was not a toy or to be used foolishly. A few times on April 1, someone would give the general ring – a string of long rings – and when all the telephone receivers dropped they would call ‘April Fool’. Then on Christmas the general ring was given to wish everyone a ‘Merry Christmas’.
“I remember one time we kids got home from school and Mama was not in the house. We got bored pretty quick. We gave the general ring and all gathered around the telephone and sang in loud off-key voices “Go Tell Aunt Rhody”,“She’ll Be Coming Around the Mountain”, and other songs. It didn’t take the neighbors long to learn where the noise was coming from and get the word to Papa who scared the voice out of us and we found other ways to entertain ourselves when Mama wasn’t around.
“The general ring was used when people needed help, or to report a fire, death, party, literary, singing or revival in the community. People used the telephone to make business calls. One time Al Summers called Papa and sold him our first Ford touring car.”
“Some of the patrons on line #8 were Omer Watson, Peck Wilson, Akes, Guthrie, Patterson, Dillingham, A. Thompson, Garner, Bill Thompson, Fant, Hayward Ranch, W.W. Dorsey, D.C. Fryer, Bauch, Pigler Hall, Jim Bynrm, E.A. Jett, W.J. Jett, Will Jett, Pink Ellis, Jim Brennen, A.L. Summers, W.H. Gepford and J.C. Brown.
“Our ring was two longs and the Akers’ was two shorts. When a conversation was finished, one rang off with one short. If both parties rang off it made two shorts. This was confusing for the Akes. Dorsey’s ring was four shorts. Gepford’s was one long, one short, one long, and two shorts.
“Mr. Brown who lived about two and a half miles west of us operated a switch board which connected with both the Manitou and Snyder telephone lines.
“One line ran out of Manitou east along the base line giving service to the Arnolds, Simons, Wm. Stoll, P.K. Stoll, Shusters, Wood, Alexander, Woodmore, Dick Thompson and others.
“Another line ran southeast of Manitou to the South Deep Red community with such patrons as Whorton, Phelps, Burba, Fisher, Butcher, Wilburn, Givens, Smith, Watson, Clinkenbeard and Moore.”

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