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