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The Old Switchboard
Part Thirteen
by Romaine Walburn & Maricia Mlynek
     

Updated on Wednesday*:

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The End of an Era

As the 50’s turned to the 60’s, most of the little telephone companies went from ring down to dial telephones. The Wheeling area went dial in 1955. The Bellaire, Ohio, area went dial in 1956, but the three little companies in Belmont County held on to their ring down until the late 1960’s.

In the fall of 1968, the urge for a more up-to-date service began to change the mind set of the little local telephone companies. Powhatan was first, then Centerville, and finally the Key Mutual.

Some were very excited about the change, but there were others completely opposed to the whole idea. They knew they would miss their very unusual answering service. Key Mutual was a way to keep connected; it was a service of more than calls and communication. It was a family. Key Mutual held out until the spring of 1970.

The Haught family had provided the services for many years. Betty and Paul were nearing retirement age. Though they had been faithful and committed to Key Mutual, the years were not easy. Many sacrifices were made. Seldom did anyone realize that the family could not all leave the house.

Many events were only attended by Paul or Betty. Very few did they get to go attend together, as someone had to man the lines. In fact, all of their children had grown, and grandkids were becoming plentiful, but trips to see them were almost impossible.

The thought of freedom from the telephone office seemed almost too good to be true. The Haught children were very excited. The hope that their parents could have normal retirement years was in reach. Romaine was particularly thrilled at realizing, in just a few months, her parents would be free to travel and see her new home and new baby, Mellody, together.

Key Mutual was next to the last ring down in Ohio to go dial. Huron was the last in the mid-1970s. On Apr. 5, 1970, the wires were scheduled to be cut and the switchboard removed. Ironically, this was the birthday of Betty Haught. Freedom to travel and leave her home without worry was a great birthday present.

Romaine traveled back to Key with her newborn for the exciting weekend. It was a big occasion. There was 10 inches of snow that Monday morning, and a huge group of neighbors who came to the telephone office to say “Goodbye” to the old switchboard and a way of life.

Paul made one request that morning. He asked that Romaine be allowed to cut the Haught home free from the lines outside and the switchboard inside. With wire cutter in hand, she cut all 100 wires and the cable inside.

Though many were sad, the Haughts were excited and thrilled. For the first time since Romaine was born, the entire family was able to leave the house. Paul and Betty, along with their daughter and new granddaughter, got in the car and headed for a supper out--together!

This Week's Editorial:

By Helen Morris:

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