Archive for Thursday, April 7, 2005

History of telephones in Lansing

April 7, 2005

When I was 17 years old. Very few families back then had phones, and they seemed to be more of a luxury than a necessity then. We had very few emergencies that required a phone. When there was an emergency, a telegram was sent and the Santa Fe agent would deliver it.

My family did not have a telephone until 1946

My mother was a telephone operator in her hometown of Yankton, S.D., during World War I before she came to Lansing.

I remember being at work in Kansas City during a bad snowstorm in 1945. I called our next-door neighbors, Tom and Frances Dawson, to tell my folks I was staying in Kansas City for the night. Tom was the Santa Fe Railroad agent and Frances taught commerce at Lansing High School. Shortly after that, my folks got a phone on the wall that you had to ring up the operator.

The switchboard office was upstairs over Campbell's Grocery store at Main Street and Kansas Avenue. Even after Ada and I were married, we were on a party line for several years but don't remember that being a problem. In the phone book our number was PA 7. The PA stood for Parkview. Later that changed to 727.

The telephone line repairman in Lansing was Bill Sherley. He was a person that could fix anything. I followed Bill around on my bike and watched as he strapped on his spikes and climbed the pole. He had a swing seat that traveled along a cable between poles to find a bad wire problem. I always wanted to put on those spikes and give it a try.

Now families have a phone in every room, and it seems everyone from grade school age to old folks has a cell phone. You hear what appears to be someone talking to themselves and they turn around and have a phone on their ear. Cell phones are a fantastic advantage for business people and save a lot of gas and shoe leather.

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