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The Old Switchboard
Part Six
by Romaine Walburn & Maricia Mlynek

Updated on Wednesday*:

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The telephone office was a job perfectly suited for the Haught family.

It was a job that Betty could do and still take care of Paul, who was hurt in an industrial accident when he was 19. He never completely recovered from his injuries. His back was broken, as well as both legs.

The accident happened a long time before great hospitals and good care. He improved somewhat through the years, but always walked on crutches.

Betty took excellent care of him, and he took care of her too. He would make sure the lines and phones were kept in good condition, with the help of boys and men from the area.

As a result of Paul’s condition, people stopped by and spent time with him at the office at all hours of the day and night. It was the one place in Key that everyone knew that someone would be awake at all hours of the day.

As the years progressed, there came to be as many night visitors as day visitors.

Some of the nighttime guests were men from the Ohio State Highway Patrol and the Belmont County sheriff, or some of his deputies. Betty’s cooking was famous among the peace officers. They knew that the coffee pot was always on, and there were cookies, cakes or pies in the kitchen.

Sheriff George or Officer Caldwell could always enjoy a good conversation or a quick game of dominoes, even at 2 a.m., with Paul. The news coming in on the party lines often had important tidbits for the officers and helped to keep them abreast of the “going ons” of the area.

The road crews were also welcomed guests at the telephone office, especially when it was snowing. Mead Township road crews, with their bosses, Mr. Davis and Mr. Montgomery, ate a lot of hot meals in the Haughts’ living room.

The snowfall on Thanksgiving Day, 1950, was one of the biggest ever. It came hard and fast that night, shutting down all the main roads for days, and the side roads for weeks.

Paul’s father came in for Thanksgiving dinner that year. As evening was setting in, he began to coax the group to take him home. The sun was starting to set, and the evening was beautiful. Still, he kept telling everyone that it was going to snow. They teased him about snow, since there was such a pretty sunset. This was long before weather forecasts and snow predictions.

Paul and Betty’s son took Grandpa home that evening, with his little sister Romaine tagging along. When they got to Jacobsburg, he asked that they wait a minute while he got the threesome ice cream.

This was Thanksgiving Day. Mr. Davern’s store was closed, but that didn’t matter to Grandpa. His little granddaughter needed ice cream. Mr. Davern came to the door and got him a pint of ice cream. Grandpa said that was for her to enjoy while she watched it snow. Well, Grandpa was right. Snow it did. In fact, there was more than 30 inches in 24 hours.

The road crews were in and out of the telephone office over the next weeks. They kept the kitchen stocked with flour, sugar, lard, vanilla, milk, and anything else Betty needed or wanted. After all, they had to make sure she had plenty to bake and cook.

(continued next week)

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