Woodburn Mutual Telephone Company
Newton Barnes was President and Director of the Woodburn Farmers Mutual
Telephone Company, a cooperative venture which he organized and
installed. The Woodburn Mutual Phone Company was formed in 1908. In
its earliest days, only one or two phone lines were strung on hedge
poles along the main roads.
first, one customer could phone and talk to another by ringing from
their home directly to the other. This could be done so long as no one
else was on the line. With this system, a switchboard operator was not
required, however, one existed at the central office for directing calls
to more populated areas.
central office of the Woodburn Telephone Company was in the Welch Store
located on the north side of the Public Square (Block 2, Lot 6). When,
on July 1, 1920, the store was destroyed by fire, the telephone system
was moved to a private home. This was in the southeast room in the
Charles Stockwell home. Charles and his daughter, Grace Stockwell
Payne, ran the office. They carried on home activities but were there
to answer calls on the large, old switchboard. John Newton Barnes cared
for the lines at $60 per month.
office was later moved to the east room of the Froebel House (Lot 3,
Block 10), property now owned by Frank Scroggins. The room was
furnished with a coal stove and bucket, coal oil lamp, a washstand with a
wash pan, a single bed, the switchboard and chair, and a chair for the
customer. At a later date the office was moved to the present site and a
new, smaller switchboard was added. This office provided a wall
telephone on the south wall for customers.
wages were $30 for the day and night operators in the summer and $35 in
the winter. The extra $5 was for coal. The work shift was from 8 a.m.
to 4 p.m. andd from 4 p.m. to 8 a.m.
1940, the coal was furnished and the wages started at 15 cents an hour
for the night operator. The day operator got more because part of the
night shift, from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. was considered the sleeping hours
and the operator would hve little workd. Later the wages were raised to
50 cents an hour.
first telephone was a Kinloch phone. The switchboard looked like an
upright piano with plug jacks in the front. The operator would plug
into the party line that the customer asked for. The signals were longs
and shorts and each customer had a different signal. there were eight
people to each party line. An example of the numbers or rings was (S
was a short ring, L was a long ring): SSS - LSL - LLSS - LS - LSSSS.
The operator rang or "cranked" these combinations. Each customer knew
their number, as well as the number of everyone on his line. You would
listen for "your ring" and answer the phone. Because the phone rang at
everyone's house, this provided a means of listening to other phone
conversations simply by lifting the receiver. This was called
"piking". Some never missed a conversation.
after the Midland Telephone Company bought the company in 1960, a
severe storm came through and knocked down many of the phone lines. The
new lines were laid underground and there were again two lines to
Bunker Hill. The large party lines were gradually changed to smaller
party lines until on March 1, 1976, everyone had a one-party line.
company switched to dial service on November 2, 1967. Because
everything was automatic, the need for operators was eliminated. Some
people who served as operators at varous times were Grace (Stockwell)
Payne, Mayme Smith, Dorothy (Welch) Fite, Winifred Partridge, Lola
(Payne) Zarges Hallows, Dorothy (Payne) Jarden, Cleda Johnson Gray, Edna
Chadwich, Lucille Partridge Fensterman, Anita Partridge, Nellie Jo
Walter, Ros (Show) Callahan, Ruth and Cleda Bouillon, Irene Lawton, and
were two lines to Bunker Hill. A record of the long distance calls was
kept on little pads so that tickets could be given to the customers.
When Bunker Hill Mutual took over, there was only one line to Bunker
Hill. You could talk three minutes and then you would be
disconnecdted. If it were an emergency, you could dial through to the
operator for three minutes free. Because there was just one line, it
was difficult to get calls through.
December 1989, Midland Telephone Company, along with the Inland,
Lakeside, and Prairie companies, became a subsidiary of Rochester
Telephone Company out of Rochester, New York. In 1991, all of the
equipment was changed for more up to date equipment and new lines were
installed at Woodburn in September.
...Read more about this and other Bunker Hill, IL historical stories at https://bunkerhillhistory.org/
--Cite this story:
Redford, Carol, and Betty Triplett. "Woodburn History." In Reflections: A History of the Bunker Hill-Woodburn Area
, 16-17. Bunker Hill: Bunker Hill Publications, 1993. Provided by the Bunker Hill IL Historical Society.