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The Old Switchboard
Part Eleven
by Romaine Walburn & Maricia Mlynek

Updated on Wednesday*:

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27 Days Of Outage

Summer was always the time of year with the most telephone line outages. They usually occurred after summer storms. The lines would get tangled, lightning would strike the poles, insulators would break or fuses would get blown.

These problems could usually be solved in a day, or sometimes less, by the folks who lived along the lines.

In the summer of 1958, the longest line (13 miles) went down. The mystery was that there appeared to be no cause. There wasn’t a storm, nobody hit a pole, and no phone was off the hook. It was just out.

The regular trouble shooting turned up with nothing. The line was still out, and the 11 families were without phones. Every foot of the line was walked, walked, and walked again. There were no tangled wires.

The field glasses came out and pole insulators were inspected. All the fuses, batteries, and hook ups were checked. After 10 days, the line was still out, and tempers were growing short. Other telephone companies were contacted for possible suggestions. The only idea was a pole-to-pole inspection.

The young volunteers and Mr. Haught started the slow procedure of going from pole to pole, hooking up the test phone, and seeing if the line between the poles was okay. It was a slow procedure, but the only thing left to do. This took several more days.

Finally, there was a breakthrough. One of the poles in a pasture field showed some damage. The farmer told the guys it was his bull’s favorite place to rub his horns. The farmer volunteered to move the bull to another pasture field so the pole could be replaced.

Everyone was excited. The line was going to be fixed as soon as a pole could be brought by a wagon and the bull moved. It took two more days and some hard work. It appeared that line 13 would be back in service.

The test phone was hooked up, and the call was fine back to the switchboard, but the line was still grounded to the other end. Only four families had service. The crew was devastated. Back to pole-to-pole inspection. After a few more days, the crew had cleared the last big hollow and was getting back to an area of farm houses.

A kind farmer’s wife had some cookies and ice tea for the crew. She invited them up to the house. The guys were very anxious for a cold drink and a short break. As they discussed the long outage and how tired they were of searching for the problem, Mr. Haught said that it had to be something simple that they had overlooked.

The farmer joined the group for a glass of tea. He was cleaning his rifle and chatting. Mr. Haught laughingly asked, “You haven’t been shooting insulators or anything lately, have you, Mr. Palmer?”

“Nope,” said Palmer, “but I did sight in my rifle a few weeks back. I shot at a crow on that pole, but I missed him clear and clean.”

“Hey, boys, get the ladder. We have nothing to lose checking this pole,” said Haught.

Sure enough, the line was fine to that pole--and grounded beyond. The insulator looked good, but there was a piece of lead from a .22 shell wedged between the wire and insulator.

At last, the line was fixed. It only took 27 days, a tiny piece of wire, and a new insulator.

Thank God for Mrs. Palmer’s good cookies and sweet tea. The crew would never have figured out the problem if they hadn’t joined Mr. Palmer for an afternoon rest and a chat over the cleaning of his rifle.

This Week's Editorial:

By Helen Morris:

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