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Communication in Calhoun
by Maricia Mlynek


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To begin my series of stories from the days of switchboards, I will start with a little history about Calhoun telephones.

I obtained the following information from the History of Calhoun County, West Virginia, 1989 (which is currently available in reprint):

The first telephone line to enter the county was in 1882. It belonged to Central District Printing and Telegraph Co. of Pittsburgh. The line was built from Parkersburg through Elizabeth and Burning Springs to Grantsville. Little is known about the use of the line.

The first telephone in Grantsville was said to be placed in J.W. Pell’s store. The telephone would continue to move into the county with a connection at Big Bend in 1900, Arnoldsburg and Grantsville in 1902, and Ayers, Chloe, Claria, Freed, Leatherbark, Milo, Minnora, Richardson, Russett, Sycamore and Walnut by 1912.

Little Kanawha Telephone Co. controlled all telephone lines running into the county in 1907. Bess Williams, Charley Shanks, Bertha Fowler and Lizzie Witt were among the first operators for the company. Shanks operated a switchboard at Big Bend.

Progress continued and small telephone companies were started by local residents, but it was Citizens Telephone Co. that proved most successful.

Organized in Arnoldsburg, the company expanded through-out the county and upgraded its equipment until it served all of Calhoun.

In July of 1959, communication in the county switched hands to United Telephone Co. Exchanges were maintained at Arnoldsburg, Grantsville, Hur and Big Springs.

Hur was a magneto exchange and serviced 47 telephones in 1962. At Big Springs, 58 telephones were serviced and Arnoldsburg had 79 telephones. Grantsville’s common battery exchange served 595 telephones.

To add to this history, it would be great to hear the stories that occurred on the lines of some of those old telephones. I can’t help but wonder if anyone has any pictures or tales to tell from those days long ago. If you do, send them in to the Chronicle. I would like to share your stories with our readers.

I will begin next week with some of the stories that come from an old switchboard that kept a small community called Key connected.

Though this switchboard did not sit in a home in Calhoun, I believe it sat in a home you will all find familiar. It connected a little town that I am certain you will relate to and feel at home in.

The tales were passed on from Elizabeth Hepburn Haught to her daughter Romaine Haught Walburn, and now, Maricia Walburn Mlynek will pass them on to you.

I am privileged to write this series with my mom and to tell the tales of my grandma. She was more than the operator of the Key switchboard. She was a voice that answered the call of loneliness, the greeter that shared in her callers’ joy, and a comforter to the sadness of bad news or tragic loss.

This is a series to honor a lady that made history through the works of her hands. These works were always based on the love in her heart.

Grandma would often say, “You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.”

As she would wish, I will give her stories to you.

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By Helen Morris:

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