Rural Telephones - 1950’s
During the early 50’s where I grew
up the local telephone company was owned by the Bowmans. Eddy
Bowman and his wife were the local telephone company!
to Rewind the Fifties Home
She ran the office, the billing, the switchboard, the news
service, and handled all sorts of emergencies. As all calls off
your own line had to be mechanically transferred by actually
plugging wires into different sockets on the main switchboard.
The Bowmans were ALWAYS there!
On the party lines, ours was about 6 or 7 families; you heard
every ring! There were codes in the rings. Our ring was – one
long+ two shorts. I don’t remember the rest. As you probably
realize “Nothing was Private!” This wasn’t all bad. Sometimes if
someone needed help it was there before they were through with
the phone call. She was also a message service when people
didn’t answer their phones; she would call later and relay many
The Bowmans had no life, some one had to man the switchboard;
basically 24/7 and there were only the 2 of them. They did hire
someone occasionally to run the switchboard. Usually she did the
The physical upkeep of the entire system was his responsibility.
He had an old Pepsi utility pickup that he used all of the time.
He took it in many unusual places. On the edge of a river valley
that had a rather sparse population and not even all of them had
phones. Phone lines ran everywhere except right beside the
He had to haul the poles out, (he used a trailer to get the poles
there) dig holes (BY HAND) for the poles. Set the poles up; he
would roll them about in place and then use the pickup to pull
them vertical. Next he would straighten and tamp the poles the
same way we did on the farm. BY HAND! If you haven’t done this
you can’t appreciate how hard of work this was!
He also had an unusual helper. He took a small bucket with a
rope tied to the handle up the poles with him. He could tell his
dog about dozen different things that he needed. The dog would
go to the open utility box and get them! (I can’t remember this
dog’s name!) The dog would then bring them and drop them in the
bucket! The number of trips up and down the telephone posts the
dog saved him would be very large!
Of course when the phone lines broke or went down wasn’t always
good weather either. I remember my dad pulling Eddy’s pickup a
few times with a tractor. I am also sure he wasn’t the only one
I don’t think Eddy ever took the keys out of his truck or even
thought about locking the utility box compartments either! It
was a different time and place! At that time in the little towns
almost all of the vehicles parked on the street or by someone’s
house had the keys in them! The only time the keys were removed
was in one of the larger cities.
When he sold his phone company to a co-op we ended up with dial
phones. The other ones had been the one’s everyone identifies
with “Petticoat Junction” and similar TV shows.
They actually were real. Yes they were hung on the wall and you
had to turn the crank! The crank was actually a small generator
which sent a current through the lines to make the rings. Now a
computer does it!
The extended family feelings of the small towns is slowly
evaporating out of our neighborhoods
and whole society. Even the small towns where everyone used to
know everyone now have strangers living next door to each other.
the Fifties and all related Pages copyright
1997 - 2006