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The Old Switchboard
by Romaine Walburn & Maricia Mlynek

Updated on Wednesday*:

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The story of the Key switchboard began in a quiet little farm community in the beautiful hills of eastern Ohio.

It was named Key for the railroad station that was located at the forks of several roads. The Key Station was a focal point of a narrow gauge train.

Key was the kind of place that each of you could relate to. It was a place where people would sit and watch the fireflies and listen for the tree frogs. It was a place with only one store, no street lights, and everyone knew everyone.

It was also a place of great opportunity for mischief, plenty of prize-winning colorful characters, and some of the most unbelievable people you could ever hope to meet.

It was a place where the neighbor was your second grade teacher. The church deacon was also your local dairy farmer, and a man named “Foxy” could drive his Ford tractor everywhere he went.

It was a place of myth and mystery, as well as wholesome truths, Biblical morals, and heartfelt feelings. Many a great person has been raised in Key.

Some have gone on to become experts in various venues. Over the years, we have had someone majoring in almost every field--from education and theology to bologna and bull.

The switchboard was the hub of all incoming and outgoing communication for Key.

Originally, it used to sit in the charming living room of an old farmhouse owned by two elderly sisters. It served only five customers.

The line to the outside world went to Bellaire, Ohio, and then to Wheeling, W.Va. These were the only connections due to the location of gas offices.

Two of its customers were required to report to the gas offices every few hours each day. The other three customers were farmers who were also businessmen.

Life was rather quiet in that farm house, except for a few good fights between the operators, the White sisters.

Mostly, they fought over who was going to answer the calls. “It is your turn!” the sisters would yell at one another. This would go on for a long time before one would give up.

Finally, you could hear the shout of “Key!” into the headpiece for a country mile.

The switchboard was located with those fine old ladies during the depression and the few years that followed. It spent more than 35 years in that old farm house.

Then one day, the White sisters finally agreed on something. They agreed to get rid of it. It had been in their home since 1901. In 1936, it was moved out the road a ways to the littlest house in Key.

This is truly where the stories began. The tales we are about to share are from memories. As to how much is fact and how much is fiction--who knows. We may change some names every now and then to protect the innocent.

Join us on the partyline of memories, as we think back to a time and place when life was simpler, sweeter, and sometimes stranger than one could imagine.

  (Continued Next Week)

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