MY REMEMBRANCES OF THE LOCAL TELEPHONE SYSTEM
The above telephone photo was clipped from the internet and was very popular in many farm & local homes here in the Franklin County area. The hand-cranked 4-bar magneto, which cannot be seen in the photo above, is located on the right hand side of the phone. It rang the bells, and was designed to provide the power to signal the local central station or one of the many party line members on the same line. Since one could not move the phone except for the receiver, many people had a high stool near the phone, so they would not have to stand as some of the party line conversations could get a little lengthy.
Although this photo was clipped from the Internet, it is very similiar to what was used locally here in the Franklin County area by the local telephone operators. The local telephone operator provided many services, especially to the early customers who could neither read nor write. Telephone books were available, but of no use to many, so they would ring central, who was usually known by their first name and just say, "give me XXXX" and the operator would connect them with the wire plugs to the proper line and ring the requested party. There were also as many as 8 to 10 people on a party line, so getting along with your neighbor was extremely important. In cases of emergency, one would go to the phone and crank the phone good and long. Everyone would pick up, including the operator, neighbors would come a running and the operator would take care of contacting whatever other necessary help was needed.
The photo at the right is an actual photo I took of a Fletcher resident talking on one of the old style phones described above in the late 1940s. Note the hand crank on the right that cranks the magneto that rings the bells that not only sound at sending house, but to all the individuals on the party line as well as the operator located at the central office.
As you can see, the receiver does not have a long cord and you had to speak into the speaker to be heard, so when on the phone, you were pretty much tied to one place.
Our phone number was 15 ring 12 (15-12), so if someone on our line wanted to call us, they could do it direct by just cranking the phone once long and two short. In order to reach central, we just cranked one long and central would answer and say, "number please"
My experiences with the Rural Telephone Service are mainly from the 1940s when I lived in Fairfield on Fairfield Ridge. One thing I definitely remember is that if there was a lightening storm, one immediately got off the phone. Lightening used to cause the phone to ring and there are times when you actually saw a ball of fire come out of the speaker.
The old party lines were really something as there could be up to 10 people on that party line sharing the phone. Many homes had no electricity and many did not receive a newspaper. Sometimes, in order to find out what was going on or listen to gossip, individuals would cautiously pick up the receiver, place their hand over the speaker and listen to the private conversations. Now this was fine, but no matter how cautiously they picked up the receiver, there was always a click. When too many individuals got on and listened, the voices of the parties speaking got weaker and weaker. In order to get the people of the phone so they could supposedly speak privately, some developed a type of signal, would quickly hang up the phone and start cranking the phone which would ring in the ears of the eavesdroppers and get them off the phone.
There were other times when several individuals on the party line would all be talking together, and believe it or not, sometimes Central would also join in on the conversation. You never knew when Central was on as it was easy for him to do so. It certainly was great, especially for people like my grandmother who could neither read nor write. She never had a problem calling anyone as she just told Central, who she knew by his first name to connect her with whoever she wanted to speak with. Central in turn would often call the individuals by their first name. After all, I am sure he knew a great deal about the family. You will notice that I say "he", as our central in East Fairfield was a man.
According to the Fairfax Bi-Centennial Book on the History of Fairfax, published in 1976, Winona (Trombly) Leach, a long-time resident of Fairfax, speaks of a phone in her father's store when she was very young, about the year 1900. She used to earn her spending money by delivering messages to people around town or by going and getting them to come to talk with someone on the line.
The first phones were box-type and hung on the wall. (See Photo at top of page) At first there were six to twelve separate phones on a party line, with each of them being identified by a "line" number followed by a "call" number. If one wished to call someone else on one's own "line," he or she would, using a crank on the side of the phone, crank one long ring and then a series of short rings. For instance, if one's number was "9 ring 12" and he or she wanted to call "9 ring 12"he or she would crank one long and two short rings. The crank would ring a bell both in the phone making the call and the phone being called. To make a call to a "line" other than one's own, one long ring would get "Central," the operator would answer, ask for the number being called, and ring the call through. The operator was known as "Central," (ring Central) and never called "Operator."
The switch board for "Central" in Fairfax had several homes over the years. One of the first operators was Abbie Kinfield, who ran the switchboard in the house just South and next to Ross's Auto and later in the house originally occupied by Myron and Laura Hubbert on the Huntville Road across from the present St. Luke's Church. Also, for years a Mrs. Despart (who was a sister of Walter Shedd's grandfather) operated the Central Telephone Office. Mrs. Despart had the office in her home, a house in the center of the village just North of the Foothills Bakery on the same side of the road near the brook. The switchboard was the hand-operated type with plugs and wires to connect one line to another. (See Photo at top of page)
It was later taken over by Mrs. Fred Grow who lived where Bill and Mary Rowell now reside. When Ralph and Harriet McGue purchased the house from Fred Grow, they also got the switchboard, which Harriet then operated for ten years.
It was at the end of Mrs. McGue's term as the operator that Fairfax was put on the dial system. A house containing switching equipment in the middle of Main Hill in the village now controls all calls automatically.
The switchboard itself ended up in Alburg where it was taken in to replace one that had worn out.
Below is some information taken directly from the May 1938 St. Albans phone directory and I have made a comment or two which is in red.
If you want your telephone moved or a new one installed, notify our Business Office as far in advance as possible.
Employees authorized to install, change or remove our equipment or to represent this Company in any dealings with its customers wear a numbered round badge with the blue seal of the Bell System and the words "New England Telephone and Telegraph Company." Do not deal with persons claiming to represent the Company unless such badge can be shown.
FAILURE OF SERVICE
For any complete failure of service continued more than twenty-four hours and brought to the notice of the Company, a prorata adjustment of the charge or guarantee will be made.
The Company does not sanction the use of special devices attached to its telephones, except those furnished by it. Unauthorized attachments supposedly an added convenience, may actually be detrimental to good service.
All equipment is the property of the Telephone Company and should be carefully used. It is not to be moved or removed except by the Company and is not to be connected with apparatus or instruments not installed or approved by the Company.
PARTY LINE SERVICE
Party line business service is a low cost service on which two or more customers share the same line. Residence service of this type may be shared by two or more families each consisting of several people. Those who subscribe to this service must expect to place or receive some calls with a possible delay when others are using the line. Good service depends largely upon the cooperation of all members of all families sharing the line in limiting their conversations reasonably and giving immediate right of way to emergency calls.
USE OF SERVICE
Service is not to be used in competition with the business of the Company. The use of business service is restricted to the customer, his agents and employees engaged in his business. The use of residence service is restricted to the customer's household.
Service is furnished at business rates if the use of the service is primarily or substantially for business purposes, or if the services furnished is at a business location. Services furnished at residence rates if the use of the service is primarily for social or domestic purposes.
THE SIMPLICITY OF OUT OF TOWN CALLS
Out-of-town calls are quite as easy to make as local calls, and in most cases they go through while you hold the line.
All you need do is give the number to your local operator if it is a station-to-station call, or ask her for "Long Distance" if it is a person-to-person call
Here are some suggestions to help you decide whether the lower-price station-to-station call will serve your needs or whether a person-to-person call is necessary.
On such calls you agree to talk to anyone who answers or who may be called to the distant telephone.
This is the least expensive form of out-of-town call and, except to nearby points, the charges are reduced at 7 P. M. These reduced charges are also in effect all day Sunday.
If you know the number, just say to your local operator, "I want Providence, Rhode Island, Dexter 9375."
If you do not know the number, you may get it by calling "Information." If you are unable to get the number, ask the operator for "Long Distance." Then say "I want ANYONE: at Alfred Green's residence at 927 Park Avenue, New York." Be sure you do not specify any particular person with whom you wish to talk.
Charges do not begin until the called telephone answers. There is no charge if the call is not completed, except for a small report charge in the case of a "Collect" call on which the called party will not accept the charges.
On such calls you wish to talk us a particular person or reach a particular department.
The charges are higher then for station-to-station calls. Charges for person-to-person calls are also reduced nights from 7.00 P. M. to 4.30 A. M. and Sundays.
To make a person-to-person call, ask for "Long Distance" and say, "I want Mr. James Grove at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Lehigh 4400."
If you do not know the number, say "I want Mr. James Grove, 965 b East Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania."
If the called telephone is reached, but the person desired is not available, a small "Report Charge" is made to compensate the Company for the work done.
Appointment and messenger calls take person-to-person rates, plus the cost of any messenger service performed.
TO ASCERTAIN CHARGES
If you wish to he told the charge of any out-of-town call, ask the operator when you make the call. After you hang up the receiver, the operator will compute the charge and call you back.
Charges for any out-of-town call will he put on the bill of the called party, if someone at the called telephone agrees to accept the charges. If charges are to be reversed, tell the operator when giving her your call. Reversal of charges is permitted on all classes of long distance service except calls to Mexico and Over-seas calls. No additional charge is made for this service, except that a somewhat higher rate applies on station-to-station calls where the rate is 20 cents or less.
One might think that in 1938, the telephone was quite cheap. We personally used our telephone only for local calls except in an extreme emergency we would make a long distance call. If it wasn't an emergency, the penny post card served the purpose in those days.
Below is a copy of the actual phone book for Fairfax, Fletcher and Westford that shows 146 telephones listed:
If you would like to view the Fairfax, Vt. telephone listing in a Microsoft Word Document so you can print it out, you may go to: Fairfax Telephone Listing - 1938
CENTRAL TELEPHONE CO.
H. L. CHENERY, General Manager
Telephone St. Albans Vt. 9900
Alfred Allen C r _________________________5-11
Baker George r _________________________14-3
Baker Oscar r __________________________12-2
Ballard Kenneth r _______________________ 48-4
Ballard R C r ___________________________48-2
Barkyoumb E L r ________________________6-22
Barkyoumb Will r _______________________ 30-3
Bates Harry r Westford Vt _______________ 47-12
Beeman A A r ___________________________ 21
Bellows C L r __________________________ 9-31
Bellows Free Academy ___________________ 25-3
Bellows H B r __________________________33-12
Bellows Herbert r _______________________ 12-4
Bessette Henry r ________________________14-21
Blake Dean r ___________________________29-11
Buck R H r _____________________________ 48-3
Burnor Albert r __________________________ 9-13
Butler G L r ____________________________ 3-12
Carey John r Fletcher Vt __________________27-21
Carpenter Oscar C r Fletcher Vt _____________36-4
Castle Jed r Westford Vt __________________40-12
Cherrier A L r ___________________________ 6-21
Cherrier F E r ___________________________ 30-2
Cobb C H Mrs r Westford _________________13-14
Danforth Alan r __________________________15-12
Domingue E B general mdse Westford Vt _____ 43-3
Residence Westford Vt ____________________ 43-4
Drinkwine John r Westford Vt ______________44-21
Ellsworth C W r __________________________11-31
Ellsworth E N r Fletcher Vt _________________27-12
Foss G E r _______________________________17-5
Fuller J G r ______________________________13-24
Gabaree Carlyle r Westford Vt ______________44-13
Giddings F C r ____________________________ 9-3
Gillilan G R r Fletcher Vt ___________________35-11
Gillilan John r _____________________________ 27-2
Gillilan R W r _____________________________ 11-5
Gililan Roy r Fletcher Vt _____________________27-13
Goodall J F r _______________________________ 4-3
Goodrich Fred r Fairfax Vt ____________________ 18-2
Grey Carl r ________________________________48-11
Grow Edgar r Westford Vt _____________________ 7-3
Grow H D r Westford Vt _____________________46-21
Grow Lennie E Miss r Westford Vt ______________ 47-4
Grow R E r Westford Vt ______________________ 46-2
Hall E C r Westford Vt _______________________13-20
Harte John r Westford Vt _____________________ 41-3
HICKS FUNERAL HOME
Main _________________________Fairfax - 26
Hoben Emma Mrs r ________________________16-21
Holden John L Rev r Westford Vt _____________ 41-4
Hooper Jesse r Fletcher Vt __________________36-21
Howard C B Mrs r Westford Vt _______________46-12
Howard C S gen mdse _______________________ 10-4
Howard D D r _____________________________15-21
Howard J S r ______________________________ 18-3
Howard John r Westford Vt __________________46-11
Howard Malcolm r __________________________ 10-2
Huntley H E r Westford Vt ___________________ 43-2
HYDE R W physician _________________________ 34
Irish Allen S r Westford Vt ___________________ 9-23
Irish M H r Westford Vt _____________________ 46-3
Jackson O H Mrs & Sons r Westford Vt ________41-12
Judd Homer r ______________________________13-13
Kimball C H r Westford Vt ____________________ 40-3
King A A res _______________________________ 5-12
King Harry J r Buck Hollow ___________________ 15-2
King R R r ___________________________________ 20
King W O r __________________________________ 6-9
Leach C A r ________________________________14-12
Leach H H r ________________________________ 29-2
Longe Frank r Westford Vt ____________________44-11
Macomber W E r Westford Vt __________________ 40-4
Manley L F r Westford Vt _____________________40-11
Marvin F S general store ________________________ 7-2
McClure Jay r _________________________________ 1-2
McGue Ralph r _______________________________11-11
McMahon J H r _______________________________15-13
McNall George W r Westford Vt __________________ 47-3
McNall H N r __________________________________ 6-14
McNall Ralph R r ______________________________ 17-2
Melendy Vern r _______________________________ 2-11
Meunier Oscar J r Cambridge Vt _________________ 1-3
Miller Jennie O B Mrs r Westford Vt _____________41-11
Milton Cooperative Dairy Corp ___________________ 12-3
Miner Ernest J r ________________________________ 3-3
Minor Arthur r ________________________________16-14
Mitchell Buel r __________________________________ 38
Nichols R D r __________________________________17-12
Olin Lewis r ___________________________________17-14
Orton C D r ___________________________________ 33-2
Ovitt S B r ____________________________________15-11
Paige Carl S r Westford Vt _______________________ 47-2
Paige Henry r Westford Vt _______________________47-13
Parker H L r Westford Vt ________________________ 44-5
Parsons J M groceries ___________________________ 2-13
Residence ______________________________________ 2-3
Perry Cyrus M r Westford Vt _____________________ 41-2
Perry F M r Westford Vt _________________________13-11
Perry F M Jr r __________________________________19-12
Popple Howard r ________________________________ 30-4
Popple William r ________________________________11-12
Public Electric Light Co ___________________________ 19-3
Ratte Joe r _____________________________________ 14-5
Raymond Chandler r _____________________________29-12
Reynolds Donald r _______________________________16-11
Rice Archie r Westford Vt _________________________47-11
Robinson C W r Binghamville Vt ____________________ 35-2
Roddy C G r _____________________________________ l5-5
Rogers H J r Westford Vt __________________________ 40-5
Rooney Geo T r __________________________________ 3-11
Root E E r Westford Vt ____________________________ 40-2
Rowe Dean r ____________________________________ 25-2
Russell George Rev r ______________________________ 5-2
Shedd M E r _____________________________________ 33-3
Shedd W E r _____________________________________ 29-3
Shepardson E D r _________________________________33-11
Shepardson Eart R r _______________________________27-11
Shepardson Harold Mrs town clerk ___________________35-12
Shepardson Herbert r _______________________________ 2-2
Shepardson W S Estate Fletcher Vt ___________________ 35-3
Shoram E M r ______________________________________ 5-3
Southard A N r ______________________________________ 37
Southard R A r _____________________________________7-12
Spaulding E O r Fletcher Vt __________________________36-14
Stewart Clifford r ___________________________________18-12
Stuart George A r Westford Vt ________________________13-4
Sweeney C r _______________________________________27-24
Sweet Homer M r ___________________________________ 15-3
Tabor S G r _________________________________________ 4-4
Taft H O r ___________________________________________ 49
Tedford Frank r ____________________________________35-13
Tinker C W r ______________________________________36-13
Tinker Cleon r Fletcher Vt ___________________________ 36-2
Toof Arthur D r Fairfax Falls Vt _______________________30-11
Trombly W J druggist _________________________________ 7-4
Vincent Emma Mrs r ________________________________18-11
Vincent Jack Mrs r _________________________________11-20
Wagner George r ____________________________________ 6-13
Weatherbee Leno r Fletcher Vt __________________________ 1-5
Webb Samuel r ______________________________________14-11
Wheaton C L Rev r ____________________________________ 3-4
White W S r _________________________________________ 4-13
Wilkins A R r ________________________________________27-22
Wright Dora Mrs r ____________________________________ 4-2
Wright Waldo r ______________________________________ 27-4
What's in a name? Much! When it appears in the Telephone Directory. It keeps you in touch with the
Henry A. Raymond
March 14, 2004