Speaking of Telephones
At the New York 1876 Centennial Celebration, manufacturers hawked and boasted of upcoming inventions that would revolutionize the pioneer’s way of life. Some introductions included the typewriter, Edison’s mimeograph, wood burning stoves, Bissell vacuum sweepers, and among other things was the telephone. Reportedly the Brazilian Emperor picked up the telephone and put the receiver to his ear. The sound shocked him and as he dropped the phone, he said, “My God, it talks!”
It took all of 27 years for the local Nine-Mile Telephone Company to be in full swing with 289 subscribers. The company served Nine-Mile, Yoder (Sheldon), Zanesville, Ossian, about half of residential Waynedale (Bingville), and almost all of the businesses in Waynedale. The consumer cost was thirty-five cents per month and you had to buy the phone. This ten-party line served the farm area very adequately and connected the community of Waynedale businesses to the farm trade. The Nine-Mile Phone Company also tied the farmers together with fire and emergency alarms. The alarm code was four long rings…and after the four long rings, everyone ran to answer. Our Noble’s Home Store number was 405 (4th party on line 5).
This Nine Mile Telephone Company was truly a family operation. Mrs. Minnie Minich operated the switchboard in her living room with help from neighborhood girls and in spite of long hours the service served the community well.
Minnie’s husband, Riney, was the outside worker who hauled new poles on a trailer, put the poles up, strung the wire, and made the connections. His pay for all new service and line repair was $2.00 per day. Riney’s son, Forest, was the only steady helper. If the demand for new phone lines surpassed the supply of telephone poles, phone wires were strung on fence rows. The company went out of business after about 50 years of service.
Forest tells of a time when he was coming home from town. He missed a curve and rolled his Model A Ford. It was late at night and he couldn’t find anyone else, so he woke up my dad. The two of them turned the car right side up and away he went. Later he said, “The car never ran better.”
Later, Home Telephone & Telegraph took over with the same 10 party lines. 1927 brought the first overseas call and an automated dial system was added. Our grocery store had three phones, Nine-Mile #405, Fort Wayne Harrison #67759 and Harrison #30673, all of these were 10 party lines. We thought we were hot stuff when the Sherwood exchange came in with the option of a 10 party, 4 party, or private line, and then the Kenmore line was added.
Since its introduction at the New York 1876 Centennial Celebration, it seems that teenagers have had the most fun and gotten the most use out of this gadget called the telephone, and that still holds true today.