Telephone Office

Amy Lungren Shoffner offers the following history.

The Telephone Office was originally located in the southwest corner of the Madison Hotel. That was the original site of the Corbin State Bank. When the bank moved into the newly built red brick building, the telephone office was established in its' location. The switchboard was operated by Maggie Casey for many years. The telephone lines were first run off of hedge posts and were connected into the new bank. The lines went to every house in town and some houses in the country. In the early days of the phone company, Alpha Ames and “Woody” Wilson, who were teens at the time, were hired to put up poles and keep the lines up and working. L.C. Hoppes was part owner of the phone company. His responsibility was keeping the lines up and working.

When the hotel closed, the phone company moved west one block to the Ridley House where it was kept until it closed in the 1960's. According to Carol Hoppes Cashier, there was a solid ring, which indicated an emergency. They didn't use the emergency ring for accidents or fires, but mainly to announce that the "gypsies were in town". Kinnards owned the house/telephone company, then Pat Hurds and they sold to Lester and Velma Rice around 1945. In the 1950's it was sold to the company in Anthony which became the Kan-Okla Telephone Company and moved its headquarters to Caldwell.

Jerome Niebaum writes: "In the 1950's my mother, Grace Niebaum, was hired as switchboard operator and it became in reality a 24 hour day job. We moved into the telephone office building and mom would answer the switchboard anytime night or day. She hired a substitute whenever she went out of the house/office. The switchboard was in our living room and next to the dining room. On many occasions I was the operator and folks were generally surprised to hear a male voice as the operator. As I recall we answered a switchboard call with, 'number please.' The switchboard was a very simple device with plugs to connect one line to another. When anyone called the operator a small flap would drop above the line calling. The operator then plugged into that line and then connected a second plug to the line they were calling. It was up to the operator to place the call by 'ringing' the recipient. Our home telephone number was 1207 which meant line 12 with rings according to a number code. In this case 07 was for a long and 3 shorts. The switchboard had an electric ringer to help complete the call, but it rarely worked, so we hand cranked the longs and shorts to complete a call. I seem to remember that there was a Mexican speaking family somewhere in the Corbin phone region and one night we received a call for them from Mexico City. That was a real challenge for Mom who knew no Spanish and the operator in Mexico who spoke little English. After the office closed the new company gave mom the switchboard. She kept it for a while and then gave it to Carl Stiles, who had an interest in it."

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