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The Old Switchboard
Part Five
by Romaine Walburn & Maricia Mlynek

Updated on Wednesday*:

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Visitors to the Telephone Station

There were many interesting folks that would stop by the telephone office. Some were invited and some were not.

Spring, summer, and early fall would bring in the token hobos. Most of them were just stopping for a break from their journey between railroad tracks.

Betty often said that the hobos had our mailbox marked with a cross. She said that was the sign to the hobos that good people lived there and would give them a bite to eat.

Not all hobos were alike. Some were the stereotypical scruffy looking characters you would expect a hobo to look like, and some were actually very clean and shaven. Sometimes, Paul would invite them in to sit with the family. Other times, they would sit in the yard with only him.

The mark on the mailbox was true. There was always something to eat and good people at the Haught house. The family raised a big country garden and had fruit trees too. Betty always made homemade bread. Her tomato sandwich was famous and known to always hit the spot. Betty was also an expert when it came to making cookies. She usually had a jar full on the counter.

If one of the hobos stopped in between a meal time, she would still find an apple from the tree in the backyard and a jar of cold water for them to take on their way. They would often leave behind some picked wild flowers or some little trinket. Betty would laugh, and say she hoped they had come by those things legally.

Though the hobos never meant any harm, there were some other visitors who did.

These transients were not so welcome. The gypsies also traveled the roads of Eastern Ohio. They were seen mostly during the summer. They would travel in large caravans, saying that they were looking for work. More theft than labor came from that group. Betty often said that they were looking for something to pick up and take with them.

The Haughts would usually hurry them along, but offer a cold drink of water. They were rascals and often preyed on the elderly who were afraid not to give them what they wanted. The sheriff’s department did what it could to keep them moving. Often, they got a personal escort to the state line and instructions to keep on moving.

There were also the everyday guests to the telephone office. Paul Ault and Charlie Nelson were welcomed guests six days a week. They were the local mailmen. Ault served Jacobsburg addresses and Nelson delivered to Bellaire addresses. Both routes passed the telephone office at 9 a.m. and then again around 1 p.m.

These two men made the mail services of today look pretty slow. They not only delivered mail, but they picked up medicine from the local drug store, brought milk for the Haught’s baby, and orders from any other store from which Betty had made a purchase. They were like the Haught family’s personal UPS.

Not all their visits were business. Saturday afternoon, they each came back by the telephone office to play dominos with Paul. Over the switchboard lines, a caller could hear Paul as the dominoes were being shuffled. “25’s the bid, got to think about this one fellows,” and they would know it was Saturday afternoon, and Paul Haught was schooling the mailmen in the old “dots.”

(Continued Next Week)

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By Helen Morris:

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