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BY H. M. STEWART
Copyright 1984 H M Stewart
All rights reserved
This work is dedicated to the memory of Marler C. York (1871-1946)
who conceived and nurtured Standard Telephone Company through
its swaddling years.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS AND THANKS
Only one name appears on the cover of this narrative. But it is the
work of many hands. It might not have been completed without the
insistence and encouragement of my two beautiful daughters, Kay
Stewart Swanson and Carolyn Jordan Stewart, whose interest,
imagination, and talent are reflected in the content, structure, and
design. It was Carolyns fertile imagination that produced the title
and had much to do with the layout and production.
Much of the information concerning Marler C. York and the early
history of Standard Telephone Company came from Mrs. Myrtis
York Rhyne and Walter P. Rhyne, daughter and grandson of Mr.
York. Margaret Meaders, daughter of Mr. Bob, provided most of the
detail concerning the early days of telephony in Dahlonega and
Dawsonville, including the attempted bank robbery in Dahlonega.
The rundown on the origin and development of the first telephone
system in Hiawassee and Towns County came from M. A. (Alex)
Burns and his brother J. H. Burns, sons of W. G. Burns, who bought
and installed the first switching system in that community. Nearly all
of the information concerning the inception and growth of telephony
in Cleveland and White County prior to 1945 was lifted from
Rosamond Ashe Blacks book EARLY TELEPHONES IN WHITE
Deborah Wrights voluntary offer to help out with transcribing
tapes and retyping corrected and revised script exemplifies the
positive and cooperative attitude of Standards family. The combined
service record of more than 110 years of Standards three
deansRuby Burrell, Doris Stephens, and Lucille Wheelerlend
authority to the historical events recorded herein. The structure,
design, layout and production of this work carries the imprint of Alan
Whites ingenuity, interest, expertise, and personality. A more
dedicated and enthusiastic editorial staff than that composed of Ruby
Burrell, Doris Stephens, Carolyn Stewart, Kay Swanson, Sally
Welborn, Lucille Wheeler, and Alan White would be hard to find.
Then there is that warm, patient, energetic, knowledgeable,
perceptive, tireless, efficient personality known as Sally Welborn. In
addition to holding down a key staff job in Standards organization,
she found countless hours and days of time to devote to extensive
and tedious research; the results of which she patiently read to me
and taped for my reference, transcribed my tapes, and then retyped,
corrected, and revised script, which she read and reread for editing
and proofing. Her initiative and resourcefulness turned up data and
material most of us thought had gone with the wind.
To each and every one of the foregoing individuals and many
others from whom we gleaned bits of information and much
inspiration, I extend this humble word of gratitude.
H. M. Stewart
The original, or basic, patents on the telephone were granted to
Alexander Graham Bell in 1876. These patents gave Mr. Bell and his
associates exclusive rights to manufacture, sell, and distribute
telephones for a period of some 15 years. By the time the basic
patents began to expire in the early 1890s, there were some 250,000
telephones in the United States. Meanwhile, interest in and demand
for this new instrument was rapidly gaining momentum.
Spurred by what turned out to be an exploding market, telephone
equipment manufacturing and supply houses soon dotted the
landscape. Backed by adequate sources of supply, organizations
dedicated to furnishing telephone service mushroomed throughout the
country. These ranged from small, individually owned operations in
villages and towns to large corporate enterprises serving cities and
metropolitan areas. So it was that Standard Telephone Company
came into being as a purveyor of telephone service to citizens of the
small Georgia mountain town of Clarkesville.
Much of the basic material contained in the following narrative is
supported by existing documents, files, and records. However, most of
it is quoted from memory or hearsay. The author does not, therefore,
attest the accuracy or infallibility of all factual data and prose. It is
his belief that any variations are minor and that they have little
bearing on the purpose and significance of the story.
Since the primary purpose of this narrative is to record and convey
factual data and information, very little coloring or flavoring has
been added to the basic material. In other words, we have done very
little to excite or hold the interest of readers outside of Standards
immediate family. We have not even provided a glossary of terms
common to the industry. In a few instances we have described in
some detail outmoded apparatus and practices. We have left similar
descriptions of more modern facilities to others.
To call the role of all individuals who have contributed to the
inception and growth of the Standard Telephone system would
require years of exhaustive research and extensive volumes of written
material. We have tried to identify some of the people connected
with, or involved in, specific incidents of historical interest that
occurred during Standards formative years. We have also included
short biographical sketches of individuals who played important roles
in creating and building the institution or who possessed unusual or
A VIVID AND COMPELLING DREAM
MARLER C. YORK
A native of Rabun County, Georgia, Marler C. York was bom
November 24, 1871. It is said that his youthful ambition was to be a
doctor of medicine. However, because of financial limitations, he had
to leave school after two years at Young Harris College in Young
Harris, Georgia. When he was about 19 or 20 years of age, he joined
his uncle in the general merchandising business in Clarkesville,
Georgia, and later became proprietor of his own dry goods business
housed in a brick building located in the southeast corner of the
intersection of Water and North Washington Streets. In 1899, he
married Oma Wilbanks of Clarkesville. Mr. and Mrs. York were the
parents of three fine and devoted daughters, Edith (Mrs. J. V. Grant)
now deceased, Myrtis (Mrs. W. P. Rhyne) of Albany, Georgia, and
Grace (Mrs. B. W. Byrd) of Washington, D. C. Mr. York was very
proud of his three daughters and that he was able to send them to
the best schools in the state and that all three had married well.
Mechanically inclined, Mr. York developed a watch and clock
repair business as a sideline or hobby, which he carried on until
shortly before his death. His interest in things mechanical led him to
experiment with the new-fangled telephone, which led to the
founding and implementation of Standard Telephone Company.
Intelligent, warm, and friendly, Mr. York had a natural affinity for
people; an invaluable asset to his business. Active in the civic and
church life of the community, he was highly respected by all who
knew him as an individual and as a responsible citizen.
While his youthful ambition to become a doctor of medicine may
have been frustrated, we question whether he could have provided a
greater service to his fellowman or enjoyed a more rewarding life. He
did achieve one of the burning ambitions of his boyhood.
Bridge Street in Clarkesville leads into what is now State Route
197, a traffic artery that serves north Habersham and west Rabun
Counties. Situated on the east side of Bridge Street about midway
between Grant Street and the Soque River is a mid-nineteenth
century, two-story Greek Revival style residence. The warm dignity
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M. C. York & Clerk1924.
of its appearance is enhanced by four tall columns that support the
roof over a spacious porch and entrance way. Erected in the early
1850s by John Porter, an architect-builder, this handsome structure
has lost none of its beauty and charm.
Mr. York once told me that as a teenager, this imposing edifice
was a main attraction to him on occasional trips to the city of
Clarkesville. To a mountain lad, this was indeed a mansion to be
highly coveted. He never tired of feasting his eyes upon it and
imagining how wonderful it would be to be lord and master of such
an estate. As fortune would have it, he was destined to realize that
ambition. Not too many years after his arrival in Clarkesville, Mr.
and Mrs. York became the owners of that magnificent home in
which they lived, reared their daughters, and died. (This home is now
owned by his daughter, Mrs. Myrtis P. Rhyne.)
Marler C. York died October 31, 1946, 24 days before his 75th
birthday. He was survived by his widow and three daughters. Mrs.
York died November 30, 1954. Their bodies are interred in the
Clarkesville City Cemetery.
IN THE BEGINNING
Standard Telephone Company traces its beginning to the early days
of the twentieth century when Marler C. York, of Clarkesville,
Georgia, purchased two telephone instruments, a coil of wire, and
some insulators. One of the telephones was installed in his residence
and the other in a mercantile establishment (general store) operated
by him and his uncle. The two telephones were connected with the
wire, which was strung on poles and trees between the two
establishments. This facility provided immediate voice communication
between Mr. Yorks place of business and his home.
Recognizing its convenience and time-saving value, Mr. Yorks
neighbors sought his permission to purchase their own telephones and
attach them to his line. A system of code ringing was devised, which
enabled occupants of an establishment to determine whether the call
was for them without having to lift the receiver.
As interest in and use of the telephone mounted, it soon became
evident that a more flexible and expandable system would be
beneficial to the community. After some study and planning, Messrs.
York, W. P. Furr, T. G. Spencer, J. W. House, J. A. Erwin, F. L.
Asbury, J. H. Asbury, J. L. York, and Dr. I. A. Ketron organized the
Standard Telephone Company and applied for a corporate c arter.
of September 15, 1904, a 20 year corporate charter was ofticially
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A small switchboard was purchased and installed in the rear of the
general store. Existing lines were connected to this new central, and
Standard Telephone Company was in business with 28 telephones in
service. Mr. York was president and manager of the company.
EARLY TELEPHONE EQUIPMENT
Like most systems of that day, the equipment was of the magneto
type. The component parts of the telephone were assembled in large,
wall-mounted, wood cabinets. Signalling current was provided by a
hand powered (crank) generator that produced up to 80 volts of 20
cycle alternating current. This current was used to operate bells of
other telephones on the same line or to throw the drop signal at the
switchboard (central). Direct current for voice transmission was
derived from batteries located in the lower section of the cabinet. In
earlier days, these batteries consisted of positive and negative
electrodes immersed in sulfuric acid contained in glass jars. These
were eventually replaced by the cleaner and more dependable dry cell
type similar to batteries now used in lanterns and flashlights.
Line circuits connecting telephones to the switchboard were of the
ground return type. One side of such circuits usually consisted of a
strand of galvanized iron wire. The circuit was completed by running
another wire from the telephone instruments to a ground near the
foundation of the premises on which the telephone was located. Such
a ground was obtained by driving a rod or burying a lengthy piece of
wire in the ground at the desired point. To eomplete the eonnection,
one side of the drop winding in the switchboard was also attached to
a ground at the central office. Subscriber circuits, or loops, were
terminated in jacks mounted in the face of the switchboard located in
the central office. The switchboard operators attention was obtained
through a drop shutter associated with each line jack. This shutter
was activated by operating the hand generator in the telephone.
Connections were completed through the use of plugs and cords
mounted in pairs in the shelf of the switchboard cabinet. To answer
an incoming call, the switchboard operator inserted the plug of the
rear cord into the jack associated with the drop number. By
maintaining a key in that cord circuit, she was connected directly
with the calling party. To connect that party with another telephone,
she inserted the plug of the front cord into the jack of the called line,
and by manipulating another key and operating the hand generator
mounted in the shelf of the switchboard, she signalled the desired
telephone. To signal telephones on party lines, a system of code rings
was used, such as a long and a short ring or two long and two short
CORNELIA GETS TELEPHONE SERVICE
In the year 1905 the company installed and activated a local
telephone system in the town of Cornelia, Georgia. Among other
things, a 100-line magneto type switchboard was purchased from the
Sumter Telephone Manufacturing Company of Sumter, South
Carolina. Virtually all of the telephones used in both systems were
also purchased from the Sumter Telephone Manufacturing Company.
A trunk line connecting the switchboards in Clarkesville and Cornelia
provided service between residents of the two communities. Standard
was the first telephone company in the state of Georgia to provide
extended area (toll free) service between exchanges.
Following the practice of all commercial telephone companies.
Standard elected to own and maintain all apparatus, equipment, and
lines used in supplying the service. Use of these facilities was then
leased to subscribers (customers) for a monthly fee, or charge.
RURAL AREA TELEPHONE SERVICE
Although the company obtained a county-wide franchise, it was
soon discovered that the cost of extending company owned and
maintained facilities to thinly populated areas was more than the
service was worth to most of the residents of such areas.
Original Cornelia Office located above Cornelia Pharmacy in downtown Cornelia.
Consequently, company owned lines were restricted to the corporate
limits of the municipalities of Baldwin, Clarkesville, Cornelia,
Demorest, and Mt. Airy. Service beyond these perimeters was
provided on a joint ownership basis. Occupants of establishments
located outside the so-called base rate area limits could, at their own
initiative and expense, purchase, own, and maintain the telephones
and lines to the city limits, at which point the telephone company
would meet them with its own lines and provide switching service
for a monthly fee. These customer owned lines were usually called
DEVELOPMENT AND GROWTH
Not much is known about the development and performance of
Standard Telephone over the next several years. It is known that Mr.
York soon severed his connection with the mercantile business and
devoted full attention to the telephone company and his watch and
clock repair service. The little switchboard in Clarkesville was soon
outgrown and was replaced with a Kellogg 150 line unit located on
the second floor of the Jackson Building, situated in the middle of the
block on the east side of the square. Adjoining rooms in this building
were also leased for business office and storage space.
Issued in 1904 for 20 years, the original corporate charter expired
as of September 15, 1924. Having acquired all of the stock of the
corporation, Mr. York elected not to renew the charter and
continued to operate the business as an individual doing business as
Standard Telephone Company.
We have no record of the peak number of telephones or customers
served prior to 1939. At the time I acquired the property, 153
telephones were in service in the Clarkesville exchange and 266 in
Cornelia, for a combined total of 419. Two additional 100-line
sections of Sumter switchboard had been added to the initial 100 lines
in the Cornelia office. Meanwhile, the company had suffered the
rigors of the nationwide depression of the 1930s during which time a
number of customer owned lines into remote communities had been
abandoned and other customers had dropped their service.
The rigorous disciplines imposed by the spartan economy of
isolated communities that dotted the southern tips of the Blue Ridge
Mountain chain, coupled with the inherent sagacity and ingenuity of
his Gaelic heritage, were clearly reflected in Mr. Yorks management
of Standard Telephone Company. Like most truly successful
entrepeneurs, his primary and abiding concern was the best interest
and satisfaction of his customers. From its inception, Standards
monthly rates and charges for local service were among the lowest in
the state. The earliest rates were $1.25 per month for each main line
telephone. At the time of the sale in 1939, one-party (private line)
residence service was $2.00 per month and business installations were
$2.50. Rates for party line service were somewhat lower.
TOLL TELEPHONE SERVICE COMES
TO HABERSHAM COUNTY
For more than a dozen years, service was limited to the
Clarkesville and Cornelia exchanges. Telephone connections with
neighboring and distant communities became available when
Southern Bell Telephone & Telegraph Company extended toll, or
long distance, lines into northeast Georgia mountain communities. At
that time. Southern Bell also established a toll switching center in
Cornelia for the purpose of handling toll or long distance traffic to
Clayton, Clarkesville, Cornelia, and Toccoa, Georgia, and Franklin
and Highlands, North Carolina. This office was located in the Little
Building at the intersection of Hodges with Main Street, just across
the street from the Stovall Building which housed Standards local
SOME INSIGHTS INTO PERSONALITY
AND PHILOSOPHY OF M. C. YORK
Some insight into the personality and philosophy of M. C. York
can be gleaned from the following excerpts from an article which
appeared in the ATLANTA CONSTITUTION following his
appearance before the Georgia Public Service Commission in response
to the state-wide rule nisi, or show cause order, issued against 11
telephone companies in 1933: An outspoken mountaineer came
down to Atlanta Tuesday to tell the Georgia Public Service
Commission about his telephone business and bluntly remarked that
you couldnt give me an increase in rates if you put it on the
Christmas tree. I like folks moren I like money, and I think I made
$425 last year, but I get my pleasure out of life in giving folks good
service at a low rate, said M. C. York, owner, lineman, installation
man, truck driver and general handy man of the Standard Telephone
Company. He operates in Cornelia, Clarkesville, Demorest,
Habersham, Mt. Airy, and Baldwin, in north Georgia. Its hard
workthis telephone businessbut I like it, and I get my pleasure
and take a big pride in giving good service. Of course, theres sleet in
winter, and all that, but I like it. I get kidded a lot about my little old
rates, but when my folks are having trouble a feller cant stand out
above the crowd and expect to make a lot of money, not if hes
Mr. Yorks business acumen is reflected in a unique collection
practice he followed. Beginning on the first working day of the
calendar month, he delivered the bills, or statements, for the previous
months service in person and by hand, collecting for them on the
spot. The time and vehicle expense involved in this practice was more
than offset by a combination of factors. For one thing, it provided a
dependable cash flow. It materially reduced complaints and accounts
receivable. Interruptions to other work schedules for the purpose of
prosecuting or receiving payments for service were virtually
Mr. York may have well summarized his capabilities and ingenuity
during a conversation we had incidental to the sale and purchase of
the property. After having spent some time riding and walking over
the territory, inspecting telephone plant and eyeing the general
makeup of the communities, I had seen very little in way of a
prosperous or thriving economic base. So, I asked Mr. York, What
provides the economic base for this area? I see very little evidence of
economic prosperity. I have seen a few peach and apple orchards and
some five very small industries. I have seen a few small patches of
corn and cotton, but the land is not suitable for profitable farming. Is
there something I may have missed? Mr. York promptly responded,
Ill answer that the best way I know how. I started this business 35
years ago, and you see where it is today. You have seen my home.
:Both the business and my home are fully paid for and free of any
debt of lien. I owe no one a dime. My wife and I have reared three
daughters and sent them to the best schools in the state, and we have
lived comfortably. I have accumulated some stocks and bondsIm
not saying how many or what they are worth. We belong to no
clubs, but we have not been skimpy in our contributions to the
church. What you see now is very little different from what I have
been seeing for the past 35 years.
As Mr. York approached retirement age, he was confronted with a
difficult question. Obsolescence, wear, and tear had taken its toll, and
the telephone plant was in need of complete replacement. Meanwhile,
his three daughters had married men in other professions and had no
interest in the telephone system. After carefully weighing all the pros
and cons, he decided to put the telephone company on the market.
Meanwhile, two adverse factors were in the making. The severe and
protracted economic depression that followed the 1929 market crash
had sharply depressed the market for telephone properties. This
condition had been compounded in the state of Georgia by an
arbitrary reduction of 25% in nearly all telephone rates within the
state. Consequently, several years passed before mutually agreeable
terms of sale could be reached with a satisfactory buyer.
TWO DESPERATE PEOPLE
It could well be said that the sale and purchase of Standard
Telephone Company in 1939 was a transaction between two
desperate people. Mr. Yorks age, coupled with a telephone plant in
an advanced stage of deterioration, was forcing him to sell at a most
inopportune time. The entire nation was in the throes of the longest
and most severe economic depression in its history. In addition to
suffering a heavy loss in customers and toll revenue, most telephone
companies in Georgia had been forced to accept a 25% reduction in
local exchange service rate schedules. Local exchange systems were
being closed and abandoned across the state. One large syndicated
operation sold, traded, gave away, or closed all of the 23 exchanges it
once owned in Georgia. The total number of telephones in the state
had dropped to well below a quarter of a million, almost a third of
which were in the Atlanta metropolitan area. After several years of
trying to peddle his obsolete and worn out plant in such an
unfavorable atmosphere, Mr. York was reaching a stage of
Meanwhile, my lack of the necessary financial resources and
burning desire to own and operate a telephone system had been
repeatedly frustrated by the frenzied buying wave carried on by
professional promoters during the 20s. Although the depression had
softened the market considerably, it had also dried up credit. The
extent of my desperation can be better defined by a further look at
prevailing conditions at that time.
'4 / '
UNFAVORABLE ECONOMIC BASE
As I have previously stated, there was nothing exciting or
encouraging about the economic base of Habersham County. Several
efforts to establish and maintain a viable agrarian economy had
failed. Not more than 5% of the countys population was employed
in local industries. There were only two paved roads in the county,
State Route 15 north and south and State Route 13 crossed the
southern portion of the county. The only paved streets in Clarkesville
were Grant and Washington, which constituted a segment of State
Highway Route 15. Constituting a portion of State Route 15,
Clarkesville Street in Cornelia was paved from the northern city
limits to Wayside, thence Wayside to North Main Street, and Main
Street to the southern limits of the city. Constituting a portion of
State Route 13, Wyly Street was paved from the intersection with
Main Street to the eastern city limits of Cornelia. Constituting an
alternate to State Route 15, Hodges Street was paved to Wells and
Wells to the intersection with South Main Street. Front Street was
paved from Main to Larkin. Several nice, attractive, and comfortable
homes were to be seen in Cornelia and Clarkesville, but they were
few and far between in the rural areas. With general offices in
Cornelia, the Tallulah Falls Railroad, which extended from Cornelia
to Franklin, North Carolina, was operating in bankruptcy and an
advanced state of deterioration.
Two of the five churches in Clarkesville had just occupied new
brick veneer houses of worship. The other three churches occupied
comfortable and attractive structures of some vintage. All of the four
churches in Cornelia were housed in old and inadequate buildings.
The county wide school system had reached a deplorable level. A
reasonably modern and well constructed building in Clarkesville was
way over-crowded. Only Demorest enjoyed modern and fully
adequate quarters. A new brick building providing accomodations for
first to seventh grade students had replaced the combination high and
grade school building in Cornelia that had been destroyed by fire.
Eighth to eleventh grade students were being packed into over-
crowded quarters in Baldwin. Similar conditions prevailed throughout
DILAPIDATED TELEPHONE PLANT
As I have already noted, the telephone plant was in an advanced
stage of deterioration. The switchboards were obsolete, worn, and
provided little marginal capacity. Most of the outside plant was
supported by native chestnut poles, most of which had been reset
after rotting off at the ground level. Very few street, road, and alley
crossings provided legal clearance. At least two-thirds of the customer
or subscriber lines, or loops, where still of the ground return type.
The ground side of the line at customers premises had declined to the
point that they had to be watered during hot, dry summer months.
In fact, the service truck carried a two gallon water bucket which
was used for this purpose. When a telephone became inoperative due
to high resistance of the ground, Mr. York or a trouble man would
draw a bucket of water from the local well or water hydrant and
pour it around the grounded telephone to increase and improve the
electrical contact of the wire with the ground. Another frequent and
tedious source of trouble during hot summer months were old-
fashioned handmade joints in the open iron wire which had
accumulated over the years from ice storms and other breaks. As
dust, rust, and other particles filtered into the crevices of these joints,
the mass tended to insulate the wires from each other, which
interfered with the electric current flow. Commonly called high
resistance joints, it was a tedious and time consuming job to hunt
down and remove these sources of trouble. These handmade, high
resistance joints in the line wire and poor grounding at customer
premises increased the exposure of rural telephone lines to a deadly
Dilapidated Telephone Plant.
menace then moving across rural and sparsely settled areas. Poorly
equipped for balancing or draining off radiation picked up from
paralleling electric power lines, these old telephone lines became
virtually inoperative with the advent of rural electrification. A
number of these rural lines had already disappeared in Habersham
County by 1939 and others were obviously doomed to extinction.
It would appear, therefore, that only a desperate person would
deliberately walk into such a hopeless and discouraging situation.
Positive minded to the point of being Pollyannaish, I could envision
nothing but challenge and opportunity. Consequently, Mr. York and
1 soon reached a tentative agreement.
SALE AND PURCHASE
I engaged the services of John E. Frankum, attorney-at-law in
Clarkesville, to research and prepare a legal opinion on the origin,
development, and current status of Standard Telephone Company. In
company with Mr. York, visits were made to the Georgia Public
Service Commission and general offices of Southern Bell Telephone &
Telegraph Company in Atlanta. The Commission interposed no
objection to the proposed transfer of ownership of the property, and
Southern Bell assured us of their full endorsement and cooperation in
the matter. In fact. Southern Bell gave me a copy of an inventory
and appraisal of Standard Telephones plant, which they had recently
prepared. Among other things, it included:
Single position, 150 line Kellogg magneto switchboard at
Three 100 line sections of Sumter magneto switchboard in
One 1929 Chevrolet ton truck equipped with utility
One large mobile safe
One five column Burroughs adding machine
One Underwood typewriter
One 30 x 60 roll top desk
One 36 x 60 oak desk
726 native chestnut poles
27 creosoted pine poles
317 10-pin crossarms
6361 glass insulators
128 miles of .109 diameter iron wire
i3 miles #17 Brown & Sharp guage insulated twisted
pair drop wire
368 company owned magneto telephones
In addition to company owned telephones, there were
approximately 51 subscriber owned telephones being served over
subscriber owned lines. This inventory and appraisal were the basis
for establishing the general ledger of plant accounts at the date of
sale and purchase. Upon Mr. Yorks recommendation, Marvin R.
Barron of Commerce, Georgia, was employed as local manager with
residence and office in Clarkesville. Mr. Barron had been employed
by Standard Telephone before affiliating with the American Express
Company (now extinct). These and other details were finalized and a
bill of sale executed in June, 1939, to become effective as of July 1,
1939. Mr. Barron purchased a home on South Washington Street,
moved in, and was ready to take over operation of the business
coincident with the official transfer. Except for Miss Ethel Barron,
who had served as Standards bookkeeper, all other employees were
retained at the same wage rates in effect at the time of the sale.
These included Mr. Henry Davis, maintenance man; Miss Lillie
Lewis, day operator at Clarkesville; Miss Ethel Duckett, night
operator at Clarkesville; Mrs. Jane Merritt, chief operator at Cornelia;
Miss Luella Skelton, day operator at Cornelia; and Miss Rachel
Perkins, night operator at Cornelia.
Two substantial citizens of Habersham County during the early
part of the twentieth century were Clark and Lucy Davis. Mr. and
Mrs. Davis owned a 125 acre farm situated near the southeast
boundary of Lie municipality of Clarkesville on which they reared a
family of three daughters and five sons. The number three, or middle
son, was named Henry. Being a substantial farmer, Mr. Davis kept a
team of fine mules and a good wagon. As the demand for telephones
grew, Mr. York, Manager of Standard Telephone Company, turned
to Mr. Davis for help in cutting and delivering native chestnut poles
(prior to its destruction by disease in the 1920s and 1930s chestnut
trees were plentiful throughout the southeastern United States and
were the principal source of utility poles during that era) for use in
building telephone lines. This work required and included the services
of Mr. Davis, his boys, mules and wagon.
Mr. York soon noticed that Henry was showing more than passing
interest in telephone line construction. In addition to handling his
part of cutting and delivering poles, he was pinch-hitting as a
linemans helper (grunt). By observation he had learned to anticipate
the needs of linemen on the pole and had such items ready to send
up by a hand line when wanted. Recognizing Henrys interest and
aptitude, Mr. York began to train Henry in the mechanics of
telephone construction and maintenance. By the time World War I
had drained the community of able bodied men, youthful Henry
Davis had become a full fledged lineman capable of handling a man-
size job in telephone work. From then until he sold the property in
1939, Henry Davis was Mr. Yorks number one plant installation and
Henry introduces his grandson, Jenera Gosey. to telephony. The
photo was taken approximately 1956. Jenera was four years old.
By the time I acquired the property, Henry had become a valuable
fixture in the Standard Telephone system. In addition to his skill as a
craftsman, he was highly respected and trusted throughout the
community. As Standards maintenance and service staff grew in
numbers, it was not uncommon for customers to ask that Henry be
assigned to their trouble complaints. The only maps or other plant
records available at the time I purchased the property were in
Henrys head. He knew the name, location, and telephone number of
each and every customer in the county. More than that, he knew
Henry Davis Retirement Dinneri967.
most of the crossarm pin numbers supporting line wires to the
respective customers premise.
Henrys interest in, devotion to his profession, and thirst for
knowledge never lagged. The shift from open iron wire to cable and
the switch from local battery, or magneto, to central energy operation
bothered him not at all. He quickly mastered the intricate circuits and
delicate mechanism of dial switching and selective ringing on party
lines. By the early 1960s Henrys vision had begun to fail, and one of
the toughest jobs I ever faced was having to remove Henry from the
post of chief plant man in the Clarkesville exchange due to impaired
vision. After a few years of limited duty, he retired September 22,
1967, after 50 years of continuous service with the company; a
record that still stands. The fact that he was one of the first, if not
the first, member of his race to become a full fledged craftsman in
the art of telephony tells us a lot about his personality and character
as a man.
He was one of the most disciplined and self-respecting individuals I
ever knew. His self-control and knowledge of human nature made
him master of any situation in which he found himself. He was much
more than a good craftsman, a dedicated workman, and a genial
personality. By precept and example he was a great teacher. Some of
the most profound lessons that have come my way were derived from
watching Henry serenely and confidently meet frustrating and
exasperating situations. He repeatedly demonstrated the respectful
dignity of humility.
Much more could be said about the exceptional personality that
was Henry Davis. Perhaps the TRI-COUNTY ADVERTISER of
April 28, 1977, capsuled Henrys biography in a front page article
reporting his election as Grand Marshall of the annual Mountain
Laurel Festival held in that city on May 21 of that year when it said,
the Grand Marshall of this years annual Mountain Laurel Festival
parade isnt a diplomat, but he has all the qualities that would make
him a great one.
A DREAM COMES TRUE
Purchase of Standard Telephone Company brought into being a
dream that had haunted me for some 20 years. As I became familiar
with the structure of the telephone industry, I conceived a burning
desire to acquire, rehabilitate, and develop a dilapidated and rundown
telephone system. This hunger intensified over ensuing years. The
primary attraction was the opportunity for experiment and
achievement rather than financial or economic reasons.
Interexchange, or long distance, telephone service was still in the
early stages of development. Consequently, the industry was largely
dependent upon revenue derived from local exchange service.
Moreover, all rates and eharges were subject to rigid state and federal
regulation. Therefore, no promise of any financial bonanzas was to be
seen within the telephone industry. So, the driving urge that
enveloped me stemmed from challenges over and beyond monetary
Bred, born, and nurtured in the economic and political ash heap
that was the South following the War Between the States, my formal
schooling and training in social graces was very sketchy. On the other
hand, I had the good fortune of being exposed to a number of
profound lessons in human behavioral patterns and elementary
economics. This good fortune continued as I grew into manhood and
became an employment statistic. I immediately found employment in
the telephone field to be extremely challenging and most satisfying. I
literally fell in love with my work. It was my further privilege to
enjoy an exceptional broad range of diversified experiences. In
addition to being exposed to many facets of the art of telephony, I
had the opportunity of observing the performance of many other
enterprises involved in public service. These included such institutions
as railroads, hotels, bus lines, restaurants, motor fuel dispensers, etc.,
etc. So this circumstance of birth and early childhood, plus a
perceptive imagination, plus a wide range of experience had come
together to generate and crystallize a lot of unorthodox and
unconventional ideals and opinions I was eager to put to the test.
The frustrations and delays I had suffered served only to whet and
intensify the overwhelming desire to try these ideas out. Therefore,
acquisition of the Standard Telephone property was indeed a happy
answer to a vivid and compelling dream of many years standing.
It was, of eourse, my intention to eventually settle in Habersham
County and take over personal management of the business. But, the
size and condition of the plant, coupled with its limited earning
capacity and available credit, made it necessary to defer such a move.
I was then employed as executive secretary (managing director) of the
Pennsylvania Independent Telephone Association and Toll Clearing
House with offices in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. My salary was the
approximate equivalent of $60,000 annually in 1982 values. So, I
elected to continue to hold my position with the Pennsylvania
Association and operate Standard Telephone Company by remote
control. This enabled me to immediately plow back into the business
all net earnings, plus depreciation accruals, plus savings out of my
Six of the seven existing employees were retained in their regular
positions. These included the five switchboard operators plus Henry
Davis, the maintenance man. A former employee of Standard
Telephone Company, Marvin R. Barron, was engaged as manager
with office and headquarters in Clarkesville. Miss Ethel Barron, who
had served as bookkeeper, resigned in order to devote more of her
time to her music pupils. Book work and billing were moved to
Harrisburg and handled by me personally at night, on Saturdays, and
One of the rooms in the spacious old home we occupied in
Harrisburg was converted into a business office. This room was
equipped with a 42 x 72 work table I constructed by hand, plus a
M size flat top desk purchased from the Pennsylvania Independent
Telephone Association. A couple of dinette type straightback chairs
provided seating facilities. The old seven column hand operated
Burroughs adding machine was traded for a portable nine column
hand operated Sunstrand machine. A portable Smith-Corona
manually operated typewriter was also purchased for the Harrisburg
office. These, along with a hand operated Todd check protector
brought from the Clarkesville office, completed the equipment and
appointments of the Harrisburg office. All of these items were
eventually brought to Cornelia and continued to serve as the
principal tools of office equipment in the companys general office for
a number of years.
This arrangement proved to be quite satisfactory and surprisingly
effective, but trouble lay ahead. In late January, 1940, I awoke one
morning suffering from an acute attack of mastoiditis. I was hauled
off to the hospital and dosed with antibiotics in a vain effort to
forestall an operation. Failing to respond to treatment, I underwent
surgery followed by two more weeks of recuperation in the hospital. I
was later told that I had a very close call and that for several days it
was touch and go. Meanwhile, Helen had to struggle against
Hundreds of miles away from any of our people, she had the care
and keeping of two small children, aged 4 years 4 months and 1 year
3 months. Fortunately, we had the services of an experienced live-in
maid to help with the housework and children. However, in addition
to responsibility for the home, she had daily trips to the hospital and
consultation with the doctors and handling the book work for
Standard Telephone Company. She worked one entire night through
getting out the February statements. With the help and cooperation
of Cliff Kimsey, Sr. of the Cornelia Bank, she was able to issue
checks due to the employees. Thanks to a divine providence my
recovery was steady, and we were soon over that ordeal.
REHABILITATION HALTED BY WORLD WAR II
Upon receiving control of Standard Telephone Company, my first
and overriding objective was, of course, complete rehabilitation and
enlargement of outside plant. The entire nation was still in the throes
of the depression of the 1930s and broad scale commercial financing
for small telephone companies was virtually non-existent. The federal
government had created the Reconstruction Finance Corporation to
provide limited financial help for small businesses. However, our
financial resources did not provide sufficient leverage equal to our
need. For this and other reasons, we decided to continue to operate
Standard Telephone Company as an individual and to carry on an
improvement program on a piecemeal basis as it could be financed
out of cash flow and savings from our salary. Having spent virtually
all of my life in an atmosphere of austerity and frugality, I had no
problem adapting to such meager resources.
We did not impinge in any way or scrimp on our home life. We
continued to live comfortably and respectably. Beyond that, however,
dimes took on the stature of dollars and pennies were pinched and
polished. My holidays and vacations were spent in Habersham
County delving into, planning, and directing the affairs of the
company. To allow more daylight hours in Habersham County, I
traveled by rail overnight. To hold down expenses, I rode in the day
coach and walked to save taxi fare. The extent to which we put first
things first can be seen in the way we handled monthly statements to
the customers. Nearly all of our customers received their mail
through local post office boxes. Mail dropped in a local post office
and delivered through a box in that office was handled under a 1
stamp. So, we were able to save $2 or $3 a month by shipping the
statements to the local manager via American Express, and he
dropped them in the local post office by hand.
Small firms with less than eight full time employees were exempt
from the 3% unemployment tax. Individuals working less than 21
weeks out of a year were considered temporary, or part time,
employees. Scheduling construction work for the summer months, we
were able to do most of it with the help of temporary personnel, thus
saving the 3% unemployment tax for which we would otherwise be
Seasoning an accumulation of invaluable experience gained over
the years with a bit of imagination and ingenuity produced
considerable results over the first 30 months of our management. One
of the first major projects was the replacement of the open wire lead
across the Southern Railroad tracks with new lead covered cable.
Made up of 250 pair of 22 Brown and Sharp gauge copper
conductors insulated from each other with waxed paper wrappings
and encased in a lead jacket or sheath, this cable extended from the
Cornelia central office to a point on Foreacre Street just east of Main
Street. Another major project was the complete reconstruction of the
pole and wire route from Clarkesville to Cornelia. Among other
things, new creosoted pine poles and fir crossarms replaced the old
crossarms and chestnut poles in this route. The original trunk line
between Clarkesville and Cornelia was reworked and a second
physical circuit was strung and activated. A phantom circuit was then
taken off of these two physicals to increase the trunk capacity
between these two exchanges from one to three. (A phantom was
obtained by using a repeating coil composed of three separate
windings, or coils. One of these windings was bridged across each of
two circuits. The center winding was then tapped, over which a
telephone conversation could be carried without interfering with
conversation going on over the two physical circuits.) The two
ground return customer loops serving a total of 16 customers in
Demorest were metallicized which enabled us to add a third loop by
taking a phantom off of these two physicals. This allowed us to add
eight more customers in the Demorest community. Several short
routes, including the one along Foreacre Street in Cornelia, were
reconstructed and a number of sub-standard old chestnut poles were
replaced to provide lawful clearance over streets and alleys.
Meanwhile, fortune smiled upon us from another direction. An
issue of TELEPHONY carried an advertisement by the telephone
company in Cadiz, Ohio, offering a three position magneto
switchboard for sale. Inquiry revealed that it might be just what we
needed to tide us over in Cornelia. So, I boarded the train and went
out for a look. I found it to be much more than I had hoped. In
excellent condition, the switchboard consisted of three operator
positions in a single cabinet, wired and equipped for 450 customer
lines. Built by the Monarch Telephone Manufacturing Company of
Waterloo, Iowa, the cord circuit included a number of features not
found in the old Cornelia board. Among these was a repeating coil
which reduced or eliminated noise caused by unbalanced customer
lines. Not only did I find it a good buy at $500, but the manager of
the telephone company agreed to accept installment payments subject
to 6% interest.
Cornelia Magneto Switchboard located above Cornelia Pharmacy.
While supervising the installation of the more modern switchboard
in Cornelia, it occurred to me that this afforded an opportunity to
enhance our community image. A bank loan would not only enable
us to establish local credit standing but would, also, keep the interest
payments in Habersham County. This happy idea crashed against the
banks refusal to grant an unsecured loan of $500 to cover the
purchase price of the switchboard. Some eight years later, we sold
this switchboard to the Northwest Telephone Company of Tomah,
Wisconsin, for $500.
CLARKESVILLE PLANT REBUILT
In mid-1942, we took a long step toward complete rehabilitation of
the Clarkesville exchange plant. We obtained authority from the War
Production Board to purchase enough aerial telephone cable to
replace all leads in the city of Clarkesville, consisting of two or more
crossarms. Funds to finance this project were obtained on a short
term unsecured loan from the Habersham Bank. By the time this
project was completed in early 1943, virtually all of Clarkesvilles
outside plant was new and capable of rendering top quality service.
By this time, scarcity of raw material and manpower due to the war
effort had brought construction of all commercial telephone plants to
a halt; an interruption that was to continue for some five years.
PROGRESS IN OTHER AREAS
Over the 30 month interval ending December 31, 1942, notable
progress was recorded in other areas. Telephones in service had
increased by 28% and gross receipts were up by 20%. Increases in
wages and salaries had brought them to a more consistent level, and
two switchboard operators had been added. Part-time help had been
added to the Harrisburg office. Comparable improvements had also
been made in the local environment. All of the streets within the city
limits of Cornelia had been curbed and paved. The Cornelia Veneer
Plant had been built and activated, and Belk-Gallant Company had
established a department store fronting on Irvin and Hodges Streets
in Cornelia. Two new homes in the newly created Chenocetah
Heights residential development had been built. These homes are now
occupied by Mrs. Esta Crow and Mr. and Mrs. John Carpenter.
% / '-h
In January, 1943, Marvin Barron submitted his resignation as local
manager of Standard Telephone Company to accept an offer with the
Commerce Telephone Company of Commerce, Georgia. Since all
major construction work had been suspended by the war effort, we
were now able to concentrate time and resources on other facets of
operation. So, we took advantage of this opportunity to effect some
substantial changes in local administration.
To fill the vacancy created by Mr. Barrons resignation, we
engaged the services of Henry Seidel, formerly of Minnesota, then of
Pennsylvania. Coincident with this change, we moved the center of
local operations to Cornelia, which offered several obvious
advantages. Located on the main line of the Southern Railway
between Washington, D. C., and Atlanta, Georgia, and a major east
and west bus line, it afforded superior transportation and mail service.
For the same reason, it held out greater promise for new industry
and growth. Being the larger of the two exchanges, it also reduced
travel expense in plant construction and upkeep. Therefore, Mr.
Seidel took up residence in Cornelia and business office space was
leased from Mr. Sam Kimzey in the Kimzey Building located
adjacent to the First National Bank at the corner of Front and South
Main Streets. This office was manned through the services of Mrs.
William Reeves, now Mrs. Glen (Jack) Ellard, who acted as our local
business representative. Among other things, Mrs. Ellard handled all
revenue billing and collection plus local disbursements, etc.
I CHANGE JOBS
In early 1944, I was importuned by the president of Telephone
Services, Inc. of Ft. Wayne, Indiana, to accept a position with that
firm at a salary some 55% higher than the one I was drawing from
the Pennsylvania Association. Since I expected to move to Georgia as
soon as such a change could be proven feasible, I declined the offer.
A subsequent offer with a salary figure equal to 88% more than I
was then receiving was accepted, and by June of 1944, I was
occupying an office in the Lincoln Tower, and my family was housed
in a spacious home on North Clinton Street in Ft. Wayne, Indiana.
A major consideration in my search for a desirable property was
the need for a base sufficient to support an organization of skilled
and competent personnel. The Standard Telephone Company was
ideally located for implementing growth by acquisition. Fifteen of the
20 sparsely settled contiguous counties in northeast Georgia were
served by 11 independent, or non-Bell, companies. Some of these
were already on the market. The owner of the Ellijay Exchange was
trying to find a buyer at $65 a station. Blue Ridge had just changed
hands at half that figure. The five remaining counties had no
telephone exchange within their boundaries. The substantial increase
in my personal income, coupled with a restricted construction and
rehabilitation program, enabled me to begin moving toward enlarging
Standards base of operation. After getting settled in Ft. Wayne, I
aggressively pursued negotiations with R. C. Meaders for ownership
of the Dahlonega exchange. On December 19, 1944, we closed the
deal by which ownership of the Dahlonega Telephone facility was
transferred to H. M. Stewart and subsequently merged with Standard
DAHLONEGA TELEPHONE COMPANY
Like hordes of adolescent young men of the 19th and 20th
centuries, Robert C. (Bob) Meaders of Dahlonega, Georgia, became
fascinated with the idea of mechanically transmitting the human
voice or speech over distance. His early experiments appeared to have
been more sophisticated and (reputedly) successful than those of most
of his contemporaries. Instead of connecting two empty cans with a
cotton thread anchored in the bottom of each can, he removed the
metal bottoms leaving only a small cylinder. Over one end of this
cylinder, he attached a section of dried hog bladder.* To connect the
two instruments, he anchored a strong woolen cord in the respective
membrane covering. It was reported that the human voice could be
heard over this device in a hotel room located across the street from
his home. Words, however, were indistinguishable, but the fidelity of
sound from musical instruments was good enough that the listener
could recognize the musical score being played.
All mining equipment and merchandise destined for Dahlonega, an
isolated mountain community in Lumpkin County, had to be
*Note: We are told that failure of the German bakers son, Philip Reis, to develop
a telephone several years prior to Alexander Bells experiments was due to the use
of a hog bladder membrane for the tympanum or diaphragm. Composed of animal
matter, such diaphragms would not respond to the magnetic field or electric current
required to reproduce the vibrations. It is conceivable that such vibrations might be
passed through a taut cord for a short distance.
Meaders ComerOld Dahlonega Office.
transported by mule team from Gainesville or Atlanta. Upwards of
15 laborious hours were required to negotiate the 40 mile round trip
from Dahlonega to Gainesville. Four days were usually required to
make the round trip to Atlanta. This isolation stimulated interest in
the telephone. The first attempt to bring telephone service to
Dahlonega was made sometime prior to 1900 when Mr. Meaders
undertook to build a line connecting the Consolidated Mining
Company with the Bell Company exchange in Atlanta. Consisting of
a single strand of iron wire, suspended from trees along the roadway,
this line was halted at Cumming, Georgia. Mr. Meaders did not say
so, but I assume that the line reached the end of articulate
transmission at that point. Since it failed to reach its original
destination, it was of little value and was subsequently abandoned.
The next attempt came in 1900 when Mr. Meaders, in partnership
with three other Dahlonega citizens, built a line to Gainesville,
Georgia, where it connected with Southern Bell Telephone &
Telegraph Company. In addition to the Consolidated Mining
Company, this line also furnished telephone service to the Meaders
Merchandising establishment, the North Georgia College, and the
Porter Springs Resort Hotel several miles north of Dahlonega. A
mishap caused ownership of this line to suddenly change hands. A
horse drawn vehicle became entangled in a loose wire lying in the
road. Frightened, the horse ran away damaging the vehicle and
causing injury to the owners wife. Anticipating a damage suit, the
line was sold to Southern Bell Telephone & Telegraph Company and
the partnership dissolved.
Mr. Meaders was engaged by the Bell Company to act as their
Dahlonega agent and maintenance man. For this service he received
10% of the revenue originating in Dahlonega. Mr. Meaders rigged up
a panel of knife blade type electric switches by which he was able to
connect the local business firms with each other or to the Gainesville
office of the Bell Company over the trunk line. However, except for
the mining company, the college, and a few leading business firms,
interest in telephone service was slow to catch on. At one time a
canvass of the residents revealed only 12 people interested in taking
the service. According to Mr. Meaders it was 1910 before enough
applicants could be had to justify a more sophisticated arrangement
and service. Meanwhile, Mr. Meaders extended the Southern Bell line
to Dawsonville. He subsequently bought this line and eventually
abandoned it when it did not prove economically feasible.
About 1910 the Southern Bell Telephone & Telegraph Company
sent a representative to Dahlonega to help Mr. Meaders solicit
applicants for local telephone service. Within an hours time, they
had 45 applications in hand. A small switchboard was obtained and
installed in the rear of the Meaders General Merchandising Store.
Connections through the switchboard were established by whomever
was available at the moment.
According to Mr. Meaders daughter, Margaret, the switchboard
used in this instance was one Mr. Meaders had purchased from a
defunct operation in Dawsonville. This switchboard was in the
material and supply stock of the Dahlonega Telephone Company
when I purchased it and is now a part of Standard Telephones
antique exhibit. It wasnt long before applications for service were
exceeding the capacity of this little switchboard, and the traffic load
was requiring the full attention of an attendant.
Original Dahlonega Switchboard now in Standards Museum.
In 1912, a new 1200 type Western Electric switchboard with a
capacity of 105 lines and ten connections was purchased and installed
in a room on the second floor of the Meaders Corner Building
adjacent to the apartment occupied as a residence by the Bob
President of the bank of Lumpkin County was one of the many
hats worn by Mr. R. C. (Bob) Meaders during the early part of the
century. The bank building was located on the north side of the
Courthouse Square not far from the Meaders General Merchandise
Store, which was situated on the east side of the Square. Mr. Bob and
his family resided in an apartment that was part of the same building
that housed the store. The telephone switchboard had been placed
near a window in the store and wires run from it to a night bell
mounted in a suitable spot in the Meaders apartment. It was Mr.
Bobs custom to answer most of the telephone calls made during the
According to his daughter, Margaret, Mr. Bob was awakened
during the wee hours of St. Valentines Eve 1913. Responding to the
call, he found it was from a young man who occupied an apartment
next door to the bank building. He was informed by this young man
that something was going on over at the bank. Mr. Bob immediately
notified the sheriff and returned to the apartment where he asked
Mrs. Meaders to go to the switchboard and notify other men in the
vicinity. He then loaded his revolver, slipped out the back way, and
across the family rose garden toward the Square. In the meantime,
Mrs. Meaders had entered the store and started toward the window
to lower the shade. This action drew gunfire from the Square. Mrs.
Meaders wisely refrained from trying to reach the window shade and
crouched under the keyshelf of the switchboard from which position
she vainly tried to arouse neighboring men. Not being familiar with
the new switchboard, she was unable to locate line jacks and
manipulate plugs and keys while crouched underneath the keyshelf.
Since there were no lights on the northside of the Square, Mr. Bob
was at a disadvantage in spotting figures and movement. However,
he opened gunfire in the direction of the flashes from the shots aimed
at Mrs. Meaders and continued to creep toward the bank. By this
time the sheriff had rounded the corner in the full glare of the lights
from the store calling out to Mr. Meaders. This attracted the gunfire
of the would-be robbers, and Mr. Meaders called to the sheriff to get
out of the light and then started shooting in the direction of the gun
flashes which seemed to be near the Courthouse. The sheriff also
opened up fire in the same direction. Mr. Bob was now approaching
the bank, and other neighbors aroused by the gunfire and noise were
beginning to appear on the scene. Sizing up the situation, the would-
be robbers jumped in a car parked nearby and sped away.
Some of the men who had been attracted by the shots and
shouting formed a posse and headed in the direction taken by the car
carrying the would-be robbers. About daylight the four men were
found asleep beside the road leading toward Ellijay. They were taken
into custody, brought back to Dahlonega, tried, found guilty and sent
to the penitentiary. It was found that one of the men had been
wounded in the exchange of gunfire, probably from Mr. Bobs pot
shots. Inspection revealed that the safe had been opened, but nothing
of value was missing. Margaret, who was 6 ^2 years old at the time,
likes to relive the excitement she, her older sister, and younger
brother experienced during these thrilling and scary moments when
her mother and dad put their lives on the line while trying to
frustrate and hold off an unknown number of would-be bank robbers.
This same switchboard was still in service when the business was
purchased by me in 1944. At that time it was being manned by three
paid operators. At age 74, Mr. Meaders was still doing most of the
construction, installation, and maintenance work. Among other
things, the inventory included:
1200 type Western Electric magneto switchboard
One B type Western Electric distributing frame and central office
Approximately 100 6 top chestnut poles
12 miles of .85 diameter galvanized telephone wire
2000 No. 9 pony glass insulators
30,000 ft. of twisted pair drop wire
143 company owned and six customer owned magneto
1936 Chevrolet pickup truck equipped with a utility maintenance
108 fir 10-pin crossarms
Gross revenue for the calendar year 1943 was $5,191.
While Mr. Meaders was devoted to his telephone system, it was
not his only interest or area of activity. In his early manhood, he was
a partner in a general merchandising business located on the
courthouse square in Dahlonega and owned by his father, his brother,
and himself. When I bought the system from him, he was serving as
superintendent of the Dahlonega City Waterworks and continued on
that job. At the age of 90, he was reading water meters, preparing
and collecting bills, and looking after the upkeep of the water system.
He retired somewhere around the age of 92 and died a few years
Mr. R. C. (Bob) Meaders.
1945AN EVENTFUL YEAR
1945 was the first in a series of crucial years for Standard
Telephone. Among other things, it marked the beginning of our
expansion program. From casual surveys, I had envisioned an
immediate potential development of 2500 to 3000 telephones in
Dawson, Habersham, Lumpkin, Towns, Union, White, and north
Hall Counties. Mindful of my financial limitations and satisfied that
2500 to 3000 working telephones would support a minimal operations
base, I had mentally staked the geographical area I have defined.
There were only four local telephone systems in the area I have
described. These were located in Clarkesville, Cleveland, Cornelia,
and Dahlonega. For the most part, service was confined to the
corporate limits of the respective communities. Such places as
Blairsville, Clermont, Dawsonville, Helen, Hiawassee, Lula, Tallulah
Falls, and Young Harris were served by toll stations. Toll stations
were magneto telephone installations owned and maintained by the
Southern Bell Telephone & Telegraph Company, which were
attached to and served over long distance lines radiating from the
nearest Bell toll center. All calls originating over such telephones
were billed at the regular prescribed toll message rate. These
instruments were usually located in local business establishments,
such as stores and offices. Occupants of the premises on which toll
stations were located collected charges for outgoing calls, for which
service they retained a small percentage of the receipts.
As of January 1, 1945,1 assumed control of the Dahlonega
Telephone Company and exchange. That spring authority to
purchase sufficient material and supplies with which to construct
seven pole miles of company owned lines into the Mud Creek
Community out of Cornelia was received from the War Production
Board. The obsolete and dilapidated switchboard in the Clarkesville
office was reaching its full capacity, so we applied to the War
Production Board for authority to purchase a new, larger, and more
modern type switchboard for replacement.
For sometime, I had been importuned by residents of Hiawassee to
install a local telephone system in that community. Investigation
revealed that a small system formerly operating in Hiawassee had
been closed and abandoned. I purchased the remaining assets of that
system from the estate of the former owner. Using such scarce
material and manpower as I was able to muster, a local telephone
exchange was put in operation in Hiawassee in July, 1945. The
Original Hiawassee Central Office.
switchboard consisted of a section of the old Sumter board we had
removed from the Cornelia office and telephone instruments used
were those still in place in the homes and business establishments of
the community. Due to shortage of material, we were able to serve
less than half of the 65 pending requests for service.
In those days, the switchboard operating function in small
exchanges was often handled on a contract basis. Under such an
arrangement, the individual assumed full responsibility for manning
the switchboard around the clock. For this service the telephone
company agreed to pay the individual a stipulated cash sum plus
living accommodations, including heat, light and water. The
contractor then engaged such additional help as the traffic might
demand or which might suit his or her personal convenience. The
Hiawassee office was operated under this arrangement. Suitable
quarters were found in a two story residence building known as the
old Franks home located at the intersection of Bell and Wood Streets
in Hiawassee. Mrs. Howard (Lura) Sampson assumed the role of
contract agent, in which capacity she continued to serve until the
manual equipment was replaced by dial.
TELEPHONES COME TO TOWNS COUNTY
According to lifetime residents of Hiawassee, telephone service
arrived in Towns County about the year 1910 when Southern Bell
Telephone & Telegraph Company extended a toll line from Murphy,
N. C. to Hiawassee. This line served a single toll station located in
the Hooper Hotel, owned and operated by T. J. Hooper. Sometime
later, the owner of the telephone company in Hayesville, N. C., built
a line to serve three customers in the city of Hiawassee. By 1920,
residents of Towns County had begun to build their own mutually
owned telephone system (farmer lines). This consisted of individuals
or families who bought, installed, and maintained their own
telephones and contributed to the cost of constructing and
maintaining the connecting line. The connecting line usually consisted
of a single strand of iron wire supported by poles or trees. Since all
telephones connected to a single line rang at the same time, a code
system was used to determine which telephone was being called.
These systems usually became inoperable when more than 15 or 16
telephones were connected to the same line. So, new and additional
lines were constructed as the existing ones reached their limit.
It was natural that all of these lines would gravitate toward the
local trading center, which was the town of Hiawassee. The late W.
G. Burns, owner of the Burns Hotel, noted this and the further fact
that only those telephones connected to the same line could converse
with each other. It was clear to him that it would be a simple matter
to interconnect all of these lines so that any telephone in the county
could reach instruments served over the lines.
Acting on this observation, about 1922, Mr. Burns purchased a
small wall-mounted magneto switchboard which he installed at a
convenient location in the Burns Hotel. Mrs. Burns served as the
attendant for which she received $4.00 per year for each telephone in
the system. The capacity of this switchboard was soon reached, and it
was replaced by a larger, floor type model. Built by the Chicago
Telephone Manufacturing Company of Elkhart, Indiana, the new
switchboard was especially designed for systems like the one that
existed in Hiawassee. In addition to the usual drop and jack, a set of
bells was bridged across each line. These bells responded to the code
Original Hiawassee Switchboard now in Standards Museum.
rings, which permitted the attendant to go about other affairs and
ignore the call when it was for some other subscriber on the same
line. In other words, if she was in the kitchen or a bedroom, she
could tell whether a calling party was trying to reach her or someone
else on his or her own line. This switchboard is now a part of our
About 1933, Mr. Burns traded the switchboard to Mr. H. C.
Tinker for an electric refrigerator. Mr. Tinker then moved the
switchboard from the Hotel to the Masonic Building located at the
intersection of Wood with West Main Street where it remained until
he was disabled by failing health. A former resident of Ohio, it is said
that Mr. Tinker envisioned a group of local telephone exchanges
located in Blairsville, Hiawassee, Helen, and Cleveland with toll
outlet through Gainesville. This rumor finds credit in the fact that he
operated as the Georgia Telephone Company and acquired the
Cleveland exchange and a defunct system in Nacoochee Valley. If he
did entertain such a dream, it was thwarted by the depth and breadth
of the depression of the 1930s. Declining revenues due to a dwindling
number of customers, coupled with other factors, made it impossible
to obtain funds with which to restore dilapidated plant and facilities.
Overtaken by failing health, Mr. Tinker sold the Cleveland exchange,
turned the Hiawassee operation over to Homer Hunter, and returned
to Ohio where he died.
In 1939, the switchboard was moved to Homer Hunters grocery
store located on Main Street, a block west of the Masonic Building.
Noise created by radiation from newly constructed electric power
lines did in the few remaining single wire telephone lines. Switching
service discontinued, and telephone service in Hiawassee and Towns
County returned to the 1910 levela single toll station in Mr.
Hunters store. This condition continued until July, 1945.
I MOVE TO HABERSHAM COUNTY
By early 1945, it was evident that I should concentrate all of my
time and resources on my new venture in Georgia. The economic
situation in northeast Georgia was looking up, and demand for more
and better telephone service was on the rise. The broiler industry had
been introduced to northeast Georgia, and other industries were
eyeing the area as a site for plant locations. In addition to the new
Veneer Plant, Cornelia was virtually assured of two new industrial
plants that would employ upwards of 500 people as soon as materials
became available. J. R. Reeves, owner of Clarkesville Hardware
Store, had purchased the old Reeves Hotel property (no relation) on
the west side of the Square in Clarkesville and was planning to
replace it with a new masonry structure that would accommodate
several mercantile stores on the ground floor and professional office
space on the second floor. A number of Habersham County citizens
were employed in the newly established earth moving machinery
plant near Toccoa, Georgia. Newly constructed recreational facilities
at Unicoi State Park, Brasstown Bald Mountain, Lake Chatuge, Lake
Nottely, Lake Burton, and Lake Rabun were attracting an increasing
number of vacationers and summer residents.
The revenue base was moving towards better levels. Telephones in
service in Clarkesville and Cornelia exchanges had grown by 65%,
and gross annual revenue was up by 143% over 1939. Investment in
plant and facilities had multiplied 2Va times. This growth had been
temporarily financed by short term loans granted by Mr. F. M.
Reeves of the First National Bank of Cornelia.
Anticipating the move to Cornelia, I approached Mr. Reeves for
another loan to be used in further improvement and expansion. He
advised that the sum specified was beyond the amount his bank was
permitted to lend to a single borrower. He then volunteered to help
me obtain a loan in the desired amount from the Reconstruction
Finance Corporation. Through his influence and help, we soon
received a commitment from the RFC to the extent of $12,500. (This
would be the equivalent of approximately $100,000 in 1982 values.) I
then submitted my resignation to Telephone Services, Inc. of Ft.
Wayne, Indiana, to become effective August 31, 1945.
About mid-August, I put my wife, Helen, and our two children on
the train for Union Springs, Alabama, where she left the children
with her mother and sister-in-law while she continued on to
Habersham County in search of a place to live. She soon found a
suitable residence, and the movers were called in to our home on
North Clinton Street in Ft. Wayne to pack and move our household
and office furniture to Georgia. At 2:00 a.m. on Labor Day, 1945,
Bama (the dog) and I arrived to join the rest of our family in our new
Georgia home. Our first residence in Cornelia was the home now
occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Ben Simpson, which is located at the
intersection of Elberta with Clarkesville Street. For office quarters,
we continued to use the rooms we had leased from Mr. Sam Kimzey
in early 1943.
Soon after our arrival in Habersham County, Mr. Seidel submitted
his resignation as plant superintendent in order to assume a position
he had been offered by another telephone company in south Georgia.
To fill this vacancy we engaged the services of Roy Rice, then
employed by the Continental Telephone Company of Toccoa (a unit
of the Gary Group).
Grace Teague Operates New Dahlonega Switchboard.
NEW SWITCHBOARD FOR DAHLONEGA
Scarcity of material and supplies due to government restrictions set
us scouring the woods for anything that could be used in a telephone
plant. Many of the telephones used to meet the pregnant demand for
service came from rural homes that had once been served over farmer
lines similar to those that once existed in Towns County. These
forays led us to a storage room in Clermont which contained some
apparatus left over from a defunct telephone exchange that once
operated in that community. Among other things, this assortment
contained a Kellogg switchboard wired for 150 and equipped for 40
magneto type lines, wired for 15 and equipped with 6 cord circuits.
Manufactured for the Gainesville and Concord Telephone Company,
this switchboard had obviously seen very little use as it was almost as
good as new.
We purchased this switchboard and a beautiful 36 x 66 oak desk
for the sum of $50. This desk was used by me personally until we
moved into the new quarters at Main and Galloway Streets in 1960.
It is still in service in the Plant Department building on Elrod Street.
From the Buckeye Telephone Supply Company of Columbus,
Ohio, we purchased enough apparatus to fill out the full compliment
of 150 lines and 15 cord circuits in the switchboard. The cord circuits
were wired and equipped for double drop supervision, non-ring
through repeating coils, and revertive ringing tone. When completed,
it replaced the old 100 line (bullseye) type magneto switchboard the
Dahlonega office had outgrown. This gave Dahlonega the most
modern and efficient magneto switching device then available. By
adding a second position of like capacity, the Dahlonega office would
have a marginal growth capacity of 200%.
During the annual meeting at the Oglethorpe Hotel near Savannah
in November of 1945, I was elected secretary-treasurer of the Georgia
Telephone Association, for which I was to receive $75 per month.
(Translated into 1982 values, this equates at approximately $650.)
November, 1945, also brought an end to expansion by acquisition,
which had begun a year earlier. It was late in the month when I
purchased the Cleveland Telephone Company from Ellis Turner.
Lack of financial resources prevented me from picking up the Ellijay
Company for $10,000 and the Commerce system for $40,000. Some
years later, an agreement in principal to purchase the Clayton
exchange from the Western Carolina Telephone Company fell
through when that firm accepted an offer from Independent
Telephone to purchase the entire Western Carolina operation.
CLEVELAND (GA) TELEPHONE COMPANY
Thanks to Mrs. Rosamond Ashe Black, a long time Cleveland
switchboard operator, we have a detailed treatise on the Cleveland
Telephone Company from which I shall paraphrase some pertinent
paragraphs. According to Mrs. Black, telephone service was
introduced to Cleveland and White County in 1899 when Mr. John
Oliver, owner of the Gainesville Telephone Company, built a line
from his Gainesville office to Cleveland. The first two telephones
were installed in the office of the CLEVELAND COURIER and in
the Henderson Hotel. In early 1901, Mr. Oliver established local
telephone service in Cleveland, centered around a switchboard set up
in a room on the second floor of the Henderson Hotel. During the
following year, 1902, Mr. Oliver sold the Gainesville Telephone
Company to Southern Bell Telephone & Telegraph Company. He
continued to own and operate the Cleveland exchange until about
1904 when he sold it to Mr. James L. Glenn, owner of a small
telephone system in Nacoochee Valley.
The original line built by Mr. Olivers Gainesville operation must
have been abandoned following the sale of the Gainesville property to
Southern Bell. Mrs. Black reports that Mrs. Ella Quinn Stovall,
another former Cleveland switchboard operator, told her that the first
long distance connections out of Cleveland were made in 1913 or
1914. Mrs. Stovall says she handled the first long distance call placed
through the Cleveland office. This call was originated by Mr. J. H.
Telford of the White County Bank to a party in Birmingham,
Following the death of Mrs. Glenn in 1923, Mr. Glenn sold the
Cleveland property to Mr. J. B. R. Barrett. The business changed
ownership, and the switchboard was moved to new locations several
times during the ensuing 22 years. In 1931, it was purchased by Mr.
Herbert C. Tinker, formerly of Ohio, who also acquired the
Nacoochee property and the Hiawassee central office operation. In
1935, Mr. Tinker sold the business to Mr. Ernest Crane. Ownership
was to change hands at least three more times by 1945.
There seems to be no authentic information concerning the
approximate time development of the Cleveland exchange reached its
peak or the maximum number of telephones served at any given
time. It appears quite probable that a peak of some 80 or 90
telephones may have been reached during the early 1920s. At the
time we took over the system, there were 12 customers receiving
service over 14 working telephones. The switching equipment
consisted of a small magneto type switchboard said to have been the
first switchboard installed in the Clarkesville exchange. Only one of
the six cord circuits and very few of the line drops and jacks were
operable. Central office appointments consisted of the switchboard, a
small coal fired stove, a cot for the night operator, and an empty nail
keg which functioned as the switchboard operators chair. Long
distance service was furnished over a two wire circuit out of
Gainesville which also served several toll stations in Clermont and
Helen. Some major items contained in the inventory at the time of
our purchase included:
One 60 line used Western Electric magneto switchboard
One 50 line magneto switchboard (manufacturer unknown)
35 magneto telephones
3 creosoted pine poles
40 chestnut and locust poles
12 10-pin fir crossarms
3 miles of galvanized iron telephone wire
Two 20 pair banks of central office protectors and fanning strips
Yes, 1945 was a busy and interesting year. Among other things,
the Dahlonega Telephone system had been merged with Standard;
our program of company owned rural line construction had been
initiated; a long term cash loan had been successfully negotiated; a
local exchange had been established in Hiawassee; I and my family
had moved to Habersham County to take over active management of
the business; a larger and modern magneto type switchboard had
replaced the old outgrown job in Dahlonega; a new plant
superintendent to fill the vacancy created by a resignation had been
found and hired; I had been elected secretary treasurer of the Georgia
Telephone Association; and the Cleveland Telephone Company had
been purchased and merged with Standard. But more was yet to
About nightfall on Christmas Eve 1945, a heavy, wet snow began
falling on Habersham County. Freezing as it fell, a coating of ice
soon began to build up on telephone and electric power lines, limbs,
and other structures. Within a couple of hours, wires, limbs, and even
poles began to give way and break under the load. By midnight, the
storm had pretty well subsided and realizing that nothing could be
done until daylight, I decided to try to get some rest. About that
time, I heard an urgent knock at the front door, which I answered to
find Ruth Waddell, the Cornelia night switchboard operator, in a
high state of excitement. She had hired a taxi to bring her out to
report that Cornelia was without local exchange telephone service
due to a fire in the central office.
Inspection revealed that electric power lines falling across the
telephone lines had sent electric current into the central office where
it set the old and obsolete wall mounted central office protector banks
on fire. Ruth had managed to reach the Cornelia Fire Department,
Wayside Street Cornelia. 1945.
less than two blocks away, and they had done a fast and splendid job
of containing the blaze. Fire damage was limited to the destruction of
the protective equipment. However, the switchboard and other
apparatus was thoroughly soaked in water and coated with soot and
The next day being a holiday, little could be done beyond cleaning
up the office and equipment and assessing the damage. Trunk lines to
the long distance office were strapped through to paystations located
around town. This gave the community access to long distance
connections. Although damage to the switchboard was limited to
water and grime, it was realized that a lot of time would be required
to remove, dry, clean, rewire, and reinstall the working apparatus and
piece parts. Moreover, it was fearful that corrosive effects due to
moisture could produce trouble for some time. So, we set about
trying to locate a replacement.
None of the manufacturers or suppliers had anything in their stock
that could be used. Southern Bell came to our aid by calling all over
the country, and the best they could come up with was a small, used
100 line board somewhere in Tennessee and another one somewhere
out West. We called the Signal Corps Depot in Virginia, and they
replied that they had stockrooms full of switchboards, but they could
not release one without an act of Congress. Just about the time I was
ready to sit down and start crying, I remembered that the Western
Union Telegraph Company had recently absorbed the Postal
Telegraph system and that they might just have some old Postal
Telephone switchboards stashed away somewhere. I reported our
predicament to the Division Office of Western Union in Atlanta, and
after some checking on their part, they replied that they could find
no old switchboards but that they had an assortment of telephone
equipment and apparatus in their Atlanta stockroom. I jumped in a
pickup truck and hied myself down to their stockroom located in East
Point. There I found a quantity of unused switchboard cable, fused
type central office protectors, connecting blocks, and some used
telephones. I loaded the truck with an assortment of these items and
hurried back to Cornelia.
Two experienced men went to work dismantling the old
switchboard, cleaning, drying out, and refurbishing all of the piece
parts and apparatus. All old cabling was junked. The cabinet was
scrubbed down and revarnished. A section of the switchboard cable
was stripped of its jacketing and the wiring used to fabricate new key
and cord circuit cables. The remaining cable was used to connect line
drops and jacks with protective equipment on the main frame.
Meanwhile, painters were redoing the interior walls and woodwork of
the office. A few strips of angle iron were found in a local machine
shop and some Vi" x 5 maple strips appeared from nowhere. The
angle iron was fashioned into a crude, but substantial, floor type
main frame and the maple strips were drilled and fitted with
connecting blocks. To these were mounted the new protector banks
we had found in Atlanta.
Considerable time was required to accomplish all of this. Although
the war had ended five months earlier, very few men had been
released from service. Therefore, able and competent help was very
scarce. Such personnel as we could muster had to be divided between
restoring the central office and outside plant. Moreover, not more
than two men could function efficiently in the work area. However,
in about three weeks a completely refurbished switchboard was
thoroughly tested and cut into operation, returning local exchange
service to the community of Cornelia. This switchboard continued to
function adequately and well until replaced with a more modern
installation about 41/2 years later. Needless to say, the bottomline
figure of the operating income statement for 1946 was stated in red
This frustrating experience was not without its rewards. I derived a
lot of comfort and satisfaction from the devotion of all the men and
women that made up our little telephone family. They went far
beyond the call of duty in recognizing and responding to the
communitys need and welfare. The understanding, patience, and
tolerance of the customers compounded and redoubled our sense of
obligation to them and the community. Not the first intemperate
word or criticism was heard during the entire period. More than that,
several businessmen offered to pay their monthly local service charge
for a year in advance to help us over the financial hump. Having
suffered much less severely from the ice, the other exchanges
produced enough revenue, along with cash flow from depreciation
accruals, to meet minimum operating needs. The central office had
been covered with insurance, and this plus the RFC loan took care of
capital requirements. So, we were able to decline the customers
generous offer of help.
At the close of the year, there were 271 working telephones in
operation in the Clarkesville exchange, 420 in Cornelia, 152 in
Dahlonega, and 26 in Hiawassee for a total of 869.
EXPANSION PROGRAM RESUMED
The calendar year 1946 proved no less eventful than its immediate
predecessor. Although many items, particularly those requiring
substantial metal parts, continued in short supply throughout most of
the year, we were able to make substantial gains. During the 1930s,
the U. S. Forest Service had built several hundred miles of telephone
lines radiating from their Division Office in Suches, Georgia.
Composed of copperweld wire suspended on high grade creosoted
pine poles, these lines interconnected an assortment of lookout towers
and homes of Forest Service personnel scattered over eight northeast
Georgia counties. Connection with commercial telephone service was
obtained through a trunk line between the Suches switchboard and
the Dahlonega telephone office. By 1946, the Division Office of the
Forest Service had been moved to Gainesville and their telephone
lines were being replaced by two way radio, commercial telephone
service, and improved management. The abandoned lines and
telephones were sold to the highest bidders. Purchase of segments of
these lines and telephones helped us meet a spiraling demand for
service at relatively low cost.
By the time we had cleaned up from the December 24, 1945, ice
storm, the new 240 line switchboard for Clarkesville was on hand
and promptly installed. In addition to the 240 lines, this switchboard
included 16 universal, ten party, full selective, machine ringing cord
circuits. The convertible line circuits were easily changed to operate
with either a magneto or a central energy type telephone instrument
on an individual line basis. This permitted us to offer customers
optional service at a nominal difference in rate. With the installation
of this switchboard, the Clarkesville exchange had now been
completely rehabilitated and offered top quality manual type service.
In 1946 Standard Telephone Company issued the first telephone
directory circulated north of Atlanta that contained a classified
section (yellow pages). At that time the Atlanta book contained the
only yellow pages north of Macon.
On May 16, 1946, Standard cut into service its first private branch
exchange. Installed in the offices of the newly activated Lumite
Plant, owned and operated by Johnson and Johnson, this unit
consisted of a turret mounted, cordless type switchboard, wired and
equipped for ten local extensions and three trunks to the main
exchange. Within months, this unit was replaced by a 20 line, five
trunk, cordless job, which eventually gave way to an automatic, or
dial, type installation.
Magneto type telephones replaced by central energy instruments in
the Clarkesville exchange, coupled with magneto sets we were able to
Standard's First PBX Installation.
scrounge from Western Union Telegraph Company, the U. S. Forest
Service, and residents formerly served by now abandoned rural lines,
helped meet the growing demand for service in other exchanges.
Although we were unable to keep abreast of the spiraling demand for
new telephone service, the year 1946 recorded a net increase of 151,
or 18%, in working telephones.
The extremely critical condition of the Cleveland plant gave it a
AAA-1 priority rating. Local exchange service revenue was less than
$30 a month. Gross toll billing ranged from $70 to $80 per month, of
which approximately 25% accrued to the local exchange. I was very
fortunate in securing the services of a clean-cut, responsible young
man to serve as local contract agent for $75 per month on a
temporary basis. The unimproved dirt road between Cornelia and
Cleveland was impassable during wet weather. We often had to travel
via Gainesville to service the Cleveland customers. I tried to visit the
Cleveland office at least once a week, at which time I would stop by
the coal yard in Gainesville and pick up a sack of coal with which to
fire the little heater in the central office. So, I lost no time in
initiating improvements in the Cleveland system.
I was successful in leasing from Mrs. L. G. Neal a nice, little, four
room house facing the main highway some two blocks south of the
Courthouse Square. Since time was of the essence, I could not wait
for line cable deliveries, so I obtained a AA-1 priority rating from the
War Production Board for a sufficient quantity of No. 14 BW gauge
iron wire to meet immediate line needs. The 60 line, used Western
Electric switchboard that had been purchased by the prior owner to
replace the old 50 line board in the Cleveland office was set up in
one room of the little residence we had leased. Meanwhile, Mrs. Pearl
W. Carney, the night switchboard operator at Dahlonega, had applied
for the contract agents job at Cleveland. So it was that on June 8,
1946, 27 customers in Cleveland began receiving telephone service
over a completely new outside plant through a larger and refurbished
switchboard manned by one of the best operators that ever flipped a
plug and key.
PEARL WHELCHEL CARNEY
I first met Pearl Whelchel at Anniston, Alabama, when I was sent
there in July of 1917 as a plant student. Miss Pearl was then
employed by Southern Bell Telephone & Telegraph Company as chief
Miss Peart, Contract Agent in Cleveland.
operator in the Anniston exchange. A native of Lumpkin County,
Georgia, she had moved to Anniston with her parents while still a
She was later transferred to Selma as chief operator in that
exchange where she met and married the Selma wire chief, whose
name was Carney. Following Mr. Carneys death several years later,
she retired from Southern Bell and moved to Dahlonega to live with
a widowed sister and her son. She says she hadnt been there three
days before Mr. Meaders called and asked her if she would help him
out on a temporary basis while he searched for another operator.
When I purchased the Dahlonega exchange some five years later.
Miss Pearl was still serving as night switchboard operator in that
office. Following the purchase of the Cleveland exchange, she
immediately asked for the contract agents job in that office and was
promptly accepted. She continued in that position from June, 1946,
until she was forced to retire by ill health some 10 years later.
If there ever was a telephone switchboard operators operator, it
was Miss Pearl. She possessed a rare combination of inborn
characteristics that made her a natural for the job. She combined a
keen perception, a vivid imagination, an inquisitive mind, and a deep
and abiding love for people with a number of other invaluable traits
that set her apart as an exceptional personality. Her reputation as a
person and as a proficient telephone operator soon spread well
beyond the confines of Cleveland and White County. She was the
subject of a feature story by Wylly Folk St. John in the magazine
section of the ATLANTA CONSTITUTION-JOURNAL dated June
27, 1948. She was also featured in a human interest story carried by
the GAINESVILLE DAILY TIMES incidental to celebrating her
50th year as a telephone switchboard operator.
Among many other things, the Canadian Mounted Police were
never more proficient in hunting their man than was Pearl Carney
when she was put on the trail of an illusive individual by an urgent
caller; and all calls were urgent to her. Many pages could be written
concerning Miss Pearl and her work. Perhaps her personality can be
summed up in one of her own adages. She used to say, To do ones
duty should not bring satisfaction.lt is only when one does more than
his duty that he has the right to feel satisfied.
IN THE RED
In early 1946, an order was placed for enough line cable to finish
cabling the outside plant in Cornelia. Although we enjoyed a
substantial increase in local service revenue from the growing number
of instruments in place and an 80% jump in toll receipts, the bottom
line figure of the 1946 operating income statement had to be written
in red ink. Only a small portion of this was chargeable to the ice
storm of December 24, 1945. Much of it accrued from increasing
costs, particularly wage scales which had doubled over the past seven
years. So, we had no alternative to submitting our first request for a
nominal rate increase.
THE COMMISSION GETS THE BAD NEWS
As I have stated elsewhere, telephone service in Georgia in the
early 1940s was virtually bankrupt. Like most states of the Old
South, Georgia was still laboring under economic and political
bondage at the onset of the depression of the 1930s. Moreover, the
boll weevil had all but destroyed the chief money crop of the agrarian
economy on which the commerce of the state largely depended.
Consequently, the impact of the depression was devastating. In
addition to heavy losses suffered from dwindling customers and
eroding toll revenues, most telephone companies were required to
accept a 25% reduction in local service exchange rates in 1933. This
brought replacement and enlargement of obsolete and dilapidated
plant to a halt. Many small exchanges were closed and abandoned.
Suffering from 12 years of rigorous depression, the telephone industry
of Georgia entered World War II on crutches. Another five years of
inadequate revenue, coupled with a paucity of material and supplies,
had left the business on the verge of bankruptcy.
Meanwhile, an economy revitalized by the war effort had
generated a spiraling demand for service. Pressure from a mounting
reservoir of demand soon found its way to the chambers of the
Georgia Public Service Commission. Spurred by this pressure, the
Commission issued a rule nisi against 116 Georgia telephone
companies on September 21,1946, to lay their plans and problems
before the Commission. From the largest to the smallest, one after
another, as they took the stand, the echo was the same...a lack of
revenue, capital funds, and manpower. Although this marked the
turning point in the fortunes of the industry in Georgia, many years
of desperate effort would be required to overcome the deficits of
years standing. It was interesting to me to note that Standard had
made more progress than most of its contemporaries.
On November 6, 1946, the Georgia Public Service Commission
approved in full our request for a nominal increase in local exchange
service rates. Cabling of the Cornelia outside plant was all but
finished during 1947. Several small line extension projects were
completed during the year. 1947 also saw the onset of the frustrations
attached to trying to build an organization against unfavorable odds.
A booming economy was attracting the attention and services of the
more promising and experienced personnel. While our revenue base
was growing, it was still meager in comparison with that of other
institutions and firms whose activities were expanding at a rapid rate.
We had cx)me quite some distance in a short period of time, but we
were still regarded as a grapevine operation with a doubtful future.
Consequently, building an organization was a slow, tedious, and
disappointing process. 1947 also brought an interesting and surprising
BELL OFFERS US THE
TOLL OPERATING FUNCTION
As has been noted elsewhere, the Southern Bell Telephone &
Telegraph Company was at that time operating a toll switching
center in Cornelia, which handled business originating in Clarkesville,
Clayton, Cornelia, and Toccoa, Georgia, and Franklin and Highlands,
North Carolina A Bell representative from Atlanta called on me one
day to state that his company planned to abandon the Cornelia toll
switching center. He further stated that the Continental Company
was arranging to take over that function in Toccoa and that Western
Carolina was going to handle their Clayton, Franklin and Highlands
business through their Franklin office. He then asked if I would be
interested in taking over the Cornelia and Clarkesville toll traffic
function. This question left me between the proverbial rock and a
I was aware that adding this function to our operations would
increase our base and organizational structure. On the other hand,
development of territorial area promised much better returns over the
long run for my limited financial resources. However, I overrode my
better judgement and accepted the offer. I immediately set about
preparing for the transition. I arranged to lease the entire second
floor of the Little Building for housing the central office and business
office. Coincident with the purchase of the Bell switchboard, I
expected to add necessary equipment that would permit handling
both local and toll traffic through the same board.
Much to my surprise, the proposal was introduced on the floor of a
local service club at one of its regular weekly meetings. The club
voted unanimously to file a resolution with the Public Service
Commission protesting this move. Although the Commission had no
jurisdiction over the matter at that time, I elected to crawfish out of
the deal. I had no desire to risk offending citizens of the community
by ignoring their stated wishes. I was also concerned about
overstretching my credit. So, I turned down the offer and Southern
Bell continued to operate the center until they could provide suitable
switching facilities in Gainesville, at which time the function was
transferred to that office.
This experience did more than save me from my own folly. Among
other things, it revealed the fact that I had not gained the full
confidence of all of Standards customers. I was to face this problem
on at least two subsequent occasions.
ANOTHER TRYING YEAR
1948 was another trying, but fruitful, year. We entered the year
with 206 unfilled requests for service on hand. Line cable replaced
major open wire leads in Cleveland.
By this time, war surplus equipment and apparatus was coming on
the market. From this source, I obtained two 100 line, lamp signal,
central energy, manual type switchboards. One of these switchboards
was used to replace the magneto type in the Cleveland exchange,
bringing to that community an advanced quality of service. The
second unit was appropriated for use in Blairsville, scheduled to be
activated in early 1949.
At this point, I should digress to note that Helens love of people
had led her into social activities of the community. After months and
years of regular attendance at bridge parties, tea parties, and other
social activities, she decided to divert her time and energy to more
serious pursuits. The fledgling Cornelia Chamber of Commerce was
having difficulty finding someone to keep the office open at least a
few hours a week. Helen offered to fill this assignment 20 hours a
week on a temporary basis, for which she was to be paid 504: an
hour. The temporary lasted for 10 years.
Helen found the Chamber of Commerce work challenging and
rewarding. Working with forward-looking people in a positive
atmosphere was right down her alley. Furthermore, she recognized
that a healthy and vibrant community accrued to the benefit of the
telephone company. We were both mindful that her work in the
Chamber would help polish the companys image. So, it wasnt long
before the Chamber of Commerce office was relocated from the
second floor of the McCrackin building, facing North Main Street
between Hodges and Irvin Streets, to more comfortable and
convenient quarters at 142 North Main Street, and Helens hours
were increased to 50 hours per week and her salary to $40 per week.
Her engaging personality and enthusiasm for her work soon gained
recognition and applause among Chamber of Commerce managers
from Virginia to Louisiana. This didnt hurt Cornelias image within
Chamber of Commerce circles.
By mid-1948, the Cornelia outside plant was ready for central
energy operation. But new capital funds were still hard to come by. I
did have sufficient collateral leverage to increase my RFC loan
enough to cover the cost of a new manual switchboard. I would have
had to continue leasing undesirable quarters in which to house such
equipment. Furthermore, manual operation was definitely on the way
out. These and other factors, including my desire to provide high
quality service, led me to a rash decision.
I concluded that by selling a block of stock equal to two-thirds of
my equity the cash derived from such sale, plus the additional credit
leverage it would create, would underwrite the installation of dial
equipment in a new company owned building. Several leading
businessmen of the community indicated a willingness to participate
in such a project. I then obtained an option on the lot facing
Chattahoochee Street just west of North Main Street (now occupied
by the Lowe Insurance Agency) and submitted a petition for a
corporate charter. Before I was fully committed to any phase of this
plan, a series of developments began which were so diverse and
uncanny that they border on the mystical.
The first of these events was a letter I had from the general
manager of the Conestoga Telephone Company of Birdsboro,
Pennsylvania, in which he stated that his company was replacing a
good manual switchboard at their Boyertown office with dial
equipment and that he would give me first chance at the manual
switchboard if I could use it. About the same time, a residential
structure at 224 North Main Street came on the market at a good
price. Almost simultaneously, Mr. Sam Kimzey, a leading Cornelia
attorney, advised me that a client of his had some cash money he
wanted to place on some good loans.
Pursuing my original plan, my attorney, Herbert Griggs, and I
visited the secretary of the Georgia Public Service Commission to
establish a hearing date and to learn Commission requirements
incidental to the incorporation and stock sale procedure. Having
stated the purpose of our visit, Mr. Randall, the Commission
Secretary, reached into his desk and pulled out a file containing a
number of letters he had received from Cornelia residents. Some of
these letters caustically criticized the stock sale proposal as a scheme
designed to enrich the pockets of a few; to pay a few individuals
handsome salaries at the expense of telephone customers; a blue stock
selling scheme, and a move to sell out to northern capitalists. After
studying these comments, I realized that I was on the receiving end
of a message.
I told the Commission secretary to cancel our request for a
hearing, and Herbert and I returned to Cornelia. I surrendered the
option on the lot facing Chattahoochee Street and through Mr.
Kimzey obtained a loan equal to the full purchase price of the
residential structure at Main and Galloway Streets. I dropped the
stock selling idea and extended my loan with the RFC to $62,000,
which was sufficient to cover the cost of the used switchboard and
other items, including a quantity of new handset, common battery
type telephones. I notified Mr. Stoltzfus of the Conestoga Company
that I would like to purchase his switchboard when it became
available. So once again a series of unbelievable incidents converged
to save me from my own folly. Public criticism of my stock selling
plan, coupled with access to desirable quarters at a perfect location
and availability of manual equipment in excellent condition, enabled
me to retain 100% equity in the business.
So, the close of 1948 found our business offices comfortably
quartered in our own home. Meanwhile, we had moved our
warehouse and plant offices into more commodious and convenient
quarters at 115 Clarkesville Street.
Ice storm 1949, South Main Street, Cornelia.
From L to RJ. B. Barfield, H. M. Stewart, and Bob Sexton.
On January 30, 1949, Habersham, White, and Lumpkin Counties
were visited by another devastating ice storm. Few open wire leads
escaped extensive damage and destruction. Even a lead covered cable
was pulled in two when the strand gave way. An electric power line
fell across the lateral cable on Yonah Street doing extensive damage
as far back as Foreacre Street. Some 12 feet of lead sheathing was
completely melted off at the intersection of Moss and Banks Streets.
Current running up and down the feeder cable and its laterals left
individual open wires almost from one end to the other. Some of
these opens were never found during the entire life of the cable.
BLAIRSVILLE GETS LOCAL TELEPHONE SERVICE
As of March 1, 1949, Blairsville, Georgia, was introduced to its
first local telephone system. Service was rendered through a 100 line,
central energy, lamp signal switchboard set up in an apartment on
the second floor of the Terrell-Jones Building, just across the street
from the jail on Blue Ridge Street. The outside plant and all
telephones were, of course, brand new. Mrs. Carl (Ruth) Lord served
as contract agent. Long distance service was rendered over two
physical circuits out of Murphy, North Carolina. Coincident with
establishment of the Blairsville exchange, a work center was set up in
that community. Under the direction of local manager Carl Lord, this
work center served both Blairsville and Hiawassee. By the end of
1949, the Blairsville exchange was serving 145 telephones.
CORNELIA GETS UPDATED SERVICE
As soon as word was received that the Boyertown switchboard had
been released from service, two men and a truck were dispatched to
pick it up. A more perfect instrument for Cornelias immediate needs
could not have been devised. The unit consisted of four positions of
cabinet with a capacity of 1600 convertible lamp signal line terminals
/ g49Mr. and Mrs. H. M. Stewart. Sr. with operators.
and 80 non-convertible magneto drops and jacks. It was fully
equipped with 600 convertible and 40 magneto line terminals. Each
of the four positions was fully equipped with 16 universal cord
circuits with five frequency selective machine ringing.
The convertible type line circuits permitted us to place the
switchboard in operation immediately without changing out any of
the existing telephones. Lines could then be converted to central
energy individually at the customers option. The positional and line
equipment provided ample growth margin. In fact, it was not
necessary to make any additions before the board was replaced by
dial some 11 years later. All apparatus was in excellent working
condition and required very little refurbishing before being put into
service. When cut into full operation on September 15, 1949,
Cornelia was receiving service over a fine piece of equipment at very
nominal cost. Less than 100 feet of 400 pair cable was required to
connect the main feeder cables to the main distributing frame.
THE GENIE AGAIN COMES TO OUR AID
Inflationary pressure together with increasing capital expenditure
forced us to petition for a substantial increase in local service rate
schedules and charges. However, the fortunate combination of
circumstances that made it possible for us to make the transition to
central energy operation at a fraction of normal cost enabled us to
hold our proposed rate schedule below that of other exchanges of
similar size and character. In spite of these favorable conditions, our
proposal collided with extensive and vehement opposition, which
ultimately accrued to our distinct advantage and benefit. Following
the public announcement of our request, an avalanche of preprinted
postal cards and a large number of hand and typewritten letters
descended upon the Commission. Some of these messages praised the
service and endorsed the proposed new rate scales. But, most of them
were critical of both the service and charges. Four Habersham
County attorneys and two carloads of witnesses representing the
Protestants appeared at the formal hearing. It so happened that most
of the testimony submitted by the objectors paralleled portions of our
oral presentation to such an extent that we requested the Commission
to file and consider that testimony as evidence in support of the
petition. For example, attorneys for the protestors contended that
Standards rates and charges should be consistent with those applied
to neighboring communities of similar size and like character of
service. We concurred in this contention and submitted an exhibit
which contained a table showing the scale of rates then in effect in
such points as Clayton, Commerce, Jefferson, Toccoa, and Winder.
The table showed Standards proposed rates to be noticeably lower
than those in effect for similar class and type of service in
The quantity and character of complaints prompted the
Commission to send three of its top staff people to Habersham
County to examine and appraise our performance. Nothing could
have pleased us more. Such an investigation would permit the
Commission to see firsthand what had been done, what we were
doing, and what we planned for the immediate future. The
Commissions chief of staff, its chief auditor, and chief engineer spent
three days looking over the Habersham County plant, making traffic
flow surveys, checking out transmission levels, auditing our general
books, and visiting with Habersham County customers. As I had
expected, the new rate structure was eventually authorized.
While proceedings incidental to this case required the burning of
much midnight oil and consumed a lot of time and energy on my
part, it was well worth it. It gave the Public Service Commission
firsthand knowledge of our policies and practices, which materially
increased our standing with them. It gave our customers an insight
into regulatory procedures, authority, and control, plus a chance to
compare our rates and performance with other similar operations.
RURAL ELECTRIFICATION ACT AMENDED
What later proved to be a momentous milestone in the life of
Standard Telephone occurred in 1949 when the National Congress
amended the Rural Electrification Act to include telephone
companies. I lost very little time submitting a preliminary request for
a loan from the REA. However, several months were required for the
Administrator to set up an organization and establish rules and
regulations. Further delays occurred when it was found that the
original agreement prepared by the Rural Electrification
Administration was impracticable and unsuitable for commercial
telephone operation. A committee, appointed by the United States
Independent Telephone Association, to study and submit
recommended changes in the proposed loan agreement suggested 23
/ 950 Employee GatheringCommercial HotelL. Wheeler. B. Hill, R. Brock. Mrs. W. Moore,
Mrs. R. W. Sexton, C. Barfield, I. Robinson, B. Southerland, M. Carpenter. E. Arrendale, O.
Slayton, Mrs. G. White. Mrs. B. J. Barron, Mrs. P. Carney, C. Lord, M. Thurmond, Mrs. H. M.
Stewart, Sr.. Miss Turner, Mrs. D. W. T. Patton. G. White. W. Moore, B. J. Barron. D. W. T.
Patton. J. B. Barfield, H. M. Stewart. C. Lord. C. Wheeler, B. Sexton.
amendments, and the contract was revised accordingly. Setting up an
organization, developing and preparing engineering requirements and
operational functions, and preparing the original loan contract and
redrafting it, all took considerable time. So, several years elapsed
before the REA telephone loan program became effective and viable.
100% STATION GAIN IN FIVE YEARS
Momentum gained from the $30,000 extension to our RFC loan
carried us through 1950. During the calendar year 1950, we recorded
a net gain of 260, or 17%, in working telephones. This brought the
total number of telephones in service to 1,738, or more than double
the number on record at December 31, 1945. The old open wire plant
in Dahlonega was replaced with new lead covered line cable, and a
work center was established there. Mounting revenue derived from
the new rate scales plus a steadily increasing rate base made it
possible to enlarge and strengthen our organization during 1950. Our
legal advisor, J. Herbert Griggs, died of acute leukemia during the
summer of 1950, and F. Jack Adams was retained as the company
FINANCING PROBLEMS BEGIN TO EASE
By 1950, several institutions were showing interest in the capital
needs of small and medium size telephone companies. Among these
was the Stromberg-Carlson Telephone Manufacturing Company of
Rochester, New York. This firm created a wholly owned subsidiary,
known as Stromberg-Carlson Credit Corporation, for the purpose of
making long term loans to commercial telephone companies. Phil
Lucier, then serving as field sales representative for the Stromberg
Company out of Tallahassee, Florida, was drafted to head the new
organization. Having enjoyed a warm, personal relationship with Phil
and his dad, who was then president of the United Telephone
Company of Indiana, I applied to the Stromberg-Carlson Credit
Corporation for a loan. In mid-1951,1 received a commitment of
$140,000 to be used to convert the Clarkesville and Hiawassee offices
to dial operation, establish a local telephone exchange in Young
Harris, and convert Dahlonega to central energy operation. I revived
the request for a corporate charter, which was granted September 29,
1951. Incorporators were S. B. Green, owner of the Ellijay Telephone
Company, D. W. T. Patton, our plant superintendent, and myself.
The Commission order promulgating dial rates for Clarkesville set
off a chain of events which I shall not relate here but which worked
to our distinct advantage. I mention it as one of many such incidents
occurring over a period of several years.
As of August 1, 1951, we submitted a local general tariff to the
Georgia Public Service Commission for their consideration. This was
the first formal tariff to be filed with the Commission by a locally
owned telephone system in Georgia. It had been preceded by formal
tariffs filed by the Southern Bell Telephone and Telegraph Company
and the General Telephone Company of the Southeast. It was duly
accepted by the Commission and became effective September 1, 1951.
DEMOREST BECOMES OUR SEVENTH
EXCHANGE AND OUR FIRST DIAL OFFICE
Development of the town of Demorest, a sizable community, was
becoming something of a problem as demand for new service was
steadily increasing. Moreover, customers were becoming less happy
with eight party line facilities. On the other hand, it was principally a
bedroom community with sub-marginal revenue potential. Then came
an answer to a prayer. I spotted an advertisement in a trade journal
in which the telephone company at Mebane, North Carolina, was
advertising a small North Electric Company all relay, dial switching
unit for sale. This appealed to me as the most economical solution to
the Demorest problem.
The Mebane switchboard was purchased and installed in an old
abandoned calaboose located next to the Demorest Fire Station.
Thus, our seventh exchange and first dial office was activated in
Demorest, Georgia, as of July 1, 1952. Prior to that time, Demorest
was served over eight party rural lines out of the Clarkesville office.
STANDARD INSTALLS ITS FIRST TOLL LINES
Coincident to the establishment of the Demorest office. Standard
activated its first toll lines consisting of two physical trunks between
the Demorest office and the toll switching center in Cornelia. The
combined length of these two circuits was 8.3 miles. This marked the
beginning of a toll network that has grown to a total of 24,302
channel miles as of December 31, 1983.
DAWSONVILLE BECOMES OUR
EIGHTH LOCAL SYSTEM
The first inquiry concerning local telephone service in Dawsonville
came in mid-1951. Following a meeting with the Dawsonville Lions
Club in early 1952,1 began work on a local exchange in that
community. To expedite the cutover, hold down capital cost, and
reduce risk, I elected to use a manually operated, central energy
switchboard. A small, self-contained unit ideally suited to the
Dawsonville need was purchased from the War Surplus Depot in
Hampton, Virginia. The outside plant consisted primarily of new lead
covered line cable, and the telephones were of the handset, central
energy type. This office was cut into service in November, 1952, with
Mrs. Jessie Mae Anderson as contract agent. The office was located
in a residential building, which also included living quarters.
At the time the new office went into service, Dawsonville was
being served by a few toll stations attached to a single circuit out of
Southern Bells office at Gumming, Georgia. Information concerning
prior telephone service in Dawsonville and Dawson County is quite
sketchy. It has been noted that in 1899 R. C. Meaders of Dahlonega,
Georgia, undertook to extend a telephone line from Dahlonega to
Atlanta, Georgia. This project played out at Gumming. It is quite
possible, however, that it first introduced the telephone to the
Dawsonville area. It has been further stated that sometime after
1900, Mr. Meaders constructed a toll line for Southern Bell,
extending from Dahlonega to Dawsonville which Mr. Meaders later
purchased and subsequently abandoned. Among the material and
supply items we purchased with the Dahlonega Telephone Company
was a wall type switchboard which Margaret Meaders says her father
bought from a small telephone system in Dawsonville. Mr. Meaders
also mentioned such a system in a conversation with me, at which
New Central Energy Switchboard in Dahlonega.
time he stated he had purchased some of the apparatus formerly
owned by that operation. It seems reasonable to assume, therefore,
that Dawsonville may have been served by a small, mutually owned
and maintained system similar to the one that existed in Hiawassee
between 1920 and 1939.
I have been further told by Mr. Meaders that following the
abandonment of the line from Dahlonega to Dawsonville, the
community was without telephone service for sometime, Years later,
the Southern Bell Company was persuaded to extend a toll line to
Dawsonville. This is the line that was in operation at the time we
established a local exchange there.
As of February 14, 1953, the Dahlonega office was converted to
central energy manual operation. Housed in the Wimpy building,
facing Parks Street just south of the Courthouse Square, the two
position, central energy manual board was purchased from the War
Surplus Board. The cabinet had a capacity of 330 lamp signal line
terminals, of which 200 were fully equipped. New 500 type central
energy telephones replaced the old magneto sets.
Pr Charles Clegg making first telephone call from new Young Harris Exchange.
Hiawassee cut to dial 1953First call placed by Clarence L Young.
EXCHANGE NUMBER NINE
A month later, in March, 1953, our ninth exchange was cut into
service at Young Harris, Georgia. Lura Sampson, formerly contract
agent at Hiawassee, was transferred to Young Harris to assume the
same post in that office. Central office equipment included a new self-
contained, central energy manual type switchboard, manufactured by
Stromberg-Carlson and installed in the old Aunt Mary Johnson home
facing U. S. Highway 76 just off the intersection with State Route
66. According to the best information we can get, telephone service
first came to Young Harris about 1910 when the Southern Bell
Telephone & Telegraph Company extended a toll line to that
community out of Murphy, North Carolina. This seems to be the
only telephone facilities available in that area until Standard cut its
local exchange into service in 1953. At that time, there were eight
toll stations served over the line to Murphy.
Coincident with activating the new exchange in Young Harris, new
step-by-step dial switching equipment replaced the old magneto board
in Hiawassee. The open wire outside plant had been replaced with
new line cable and new common battery handsets had replaced the
old magneto telephones. The new switching equipment was housed in
a neat, little brick structure leased from Homer Hunter and located
just off of West Main Street two blocks from the City Square.
FOURTEEN YEARS OF PROGRESS
Yes, as the curtain dropped on the calendar year 1953, I could
look back on 14 years of prudent and frugal management with a
great deal of satisfaction.
My work week had ranged upwards of 80 hours. Evenings,
weekends, and holidays went into correspondence, book work,
planning, and other essential details that could be done by lamp light.
We were rendering a high grade of telephone service on rate scales
well below the state average which, in turn, was below the national
figure. Except for Demorest, all central offices had marginal
equipment sufficient for two to seven years growth. But, we were far
from being out of the woods. An accelerating economy was
leapfrogging our impressive gains. Residents of the area were finding
gainful employment in new industrial plants, the broiler growing
industry, and other commercial enterprises. Their employment
increased their need and improved and expanded service whetted
their appetite for telephones. Regular paychecks made it possible for
them to realize these needs and wants. Availability of steady jobs at
going wages added to our problems in other areas. Demand for
service was growing at a much faster rate than personnel could be
trained and qualified under the most favorable circumstances. Our
wage scales were comparable to those of other employers, but we had
not reached the point of matching them in marginal or side benefits.
Our limited resources did not offer the appearance of stability and job
security most enterprising people look for. These and other equally
negative factors made it difficult to attract and hold the kind of
people who build a viable and proficient organization.
In essence, we had come a long way, and the future was growing
more challenging daily. Our territorial rights had been secured and
most of the communities therein now had comparatively new and up-
to-date telephone service. Demand for facilities and service was
zooming at jet age speed, and the outlook for adequate financing was
more promising, but the most important adjunct to a viable
operation, a competent and enthusiastic organization, still confronted
EXCHANGE NUMBER TEN
The community of Helen, Georgia, may have been introduced to
the telephone around the turn of the century. In her historical sketch
of the Cleveland Telephone Company, Rosamond Ashe Black, a long
time switchboard operator at Cleveland, states that Mr. James L.
Glenn was operating a small telephone system in Nacoochee and
vicinity when he purchased the Cleveland exchange in 1904. Most
likely, Mr. Glenns lines extended into Helen and possibly
Robertstown. Mrs. Black further states that Mr. Glenns system in
Nacoochee was closed down about 1929 and some of the apparatus
was later sold to Mr. H. C. Tinker who bought the Cleveland
exchange in 1931.
When I arrived in Georgia, telephone service in Helen consisted of
a few toll stations connected to a toll line out of Gainesville that also
served toll stations in Clermont and the Cleveland central office. By
1950, the Cleveland office and the Clermont toll stations had been
removed from this circuit which then served the Helen community
exclusively. Improvement and expansion of facilities and service in
Cleveland brought inquiries about local telephone facilities from
An analytical survey weighed heavily in favor of a local switching
center in that community. In December, 1951, we placed in service a
local telephone exchange in the town of Helen, Georgia. The system
was served through a manual central energy switchboard installed in
a room on the ground floor of an old hotel building located at the
intersection of Main and River Streets. Floyd Caudell served as
contract agent with living quarters adjoining the central office.
For sentimental reasons, the system was operated as Helen S.
Stewart doing business as Helen Telephone Company. After a couple of
years it became evident the interests of all concerned would be better
served by merging the Helen Telephone system into the Standard
Telephone Corporation. This merger was effected in February, 1954, to
give Standard its tenth exchange and 80 additional customers.
ADEQUATE CAPITAL FUNDS
By 1954, the Rural Electrification telephone loan program was
shaping up and beginning to function. Satisfied with the revised loan
agreement, negotiations for an REA loan were reopened and
aggresively pursued. In August of that year, the REA granted our
request in an amount sufficient to retire all existing debt; provide
substantial reinforcement of backbone plant in several exchanges;
construct approximately 117 linear miles of new outside plant,
including approximately 40 miles of new and additional line cable;
erect company owned buildings in Cleveland, Dawsonville, and
Demorest; add 200 lines to the Clarkesville dial office; convert
Cleveland and Dawsonville to dial operation; and replace the small
dial units in Demorest and Hiawassee with larger, more flexible type
installations. A petition was immediately submitted to the Georgia
Public Service Commission seeking authority to execute this proposed
agreement. The Commission order granting this authority was issued
November 24, 1954, which marked the end of our worries about
capital resources for future growth and development. Considerable
time was required in which to complete feasibility studies, prepare
area coverage design maps, and other engineering detail.
Clarkesville Office, 1955.
CLARKESVILLE CUTOVER TO DIAL
March 27, 1955, marked the cutover to new dial switching
equipment in Clarkesville. Manufactured by the Stromberg-Carlson
Company, this new step-by-step equipment was housed in a new
building erected for the purpose at the intersection of Water with
Jefferson Streets. At the same time a commercial office and work
center were established in Clarkesville.
The 240 line, self-contained manual switchboard released in
Clarkesville by the switch to dial equipment was moved to Blairsville
and installed in new quarters on the east side of Haralson Street, just
off the Courthouse Square. This switchboard provided a growth
margin 100% over the one then in service in Blairsville. The original
Blairsville board was moved to Cleveland to double the lines and
operating capacity of that office.
WE MOVE INTO HIGH GEAR
On April 7, 1956, the first contract covering construction under
the REA loan was entered into with Bridges Construction Company
Blairsville Cutover. 1955J. Brown. J. Barfield. A. Garrett. Mrs. J. Brown. Mrs. J. Barfi^^^'
of Heath Springs, South Carolina. The next contract specified new
step-by-step dial switching equipment to be installed in Cleveland,
Dawsonville, Demorest, and Hiawassee. The order for this apparatus
was placed with Stromberg-Carlson Company of Rochester, New
York, on August 27, 1956. The third set of specifications covered
new buildings to be erected in Cleveland, Dawsonville, and Demorest.
Bowen and Watson, building contractors of Toccoa, Georgia, was
low bidder on these projects. We later negotiated with this firm to
construct a new building for us in Helen, Georgia.
Mechanically, we were picking up speed at a fast clip. Progress was
also noticeable in personnel and organizational structure. The law of
averages had brought to us a number of intelligent and high quality
persons v/ho had found the telephone business challenging and
rewarding. Their innate abilities combined with the experience they
had accrued was now being reflected in their daily performance.
1956 Christmas party.
NO REST FOR THE WEARY
We were now supplying high quality, dependable telephone service
to 3 /2 times as many working telephones as there were in service
when we arrived in Georgia ten years earlier. We had managed to
put together a larger, stronger, more efficient organization and now
had access to an adequate source of new capital. Yet, growing pains
were becoming agonizing. More than two years elapsed before the
new and additional facilities provided for under the REA loan could
be brought on line. During this interval, demand for service literally
snowballed. Growth margins built into plant during the late 40s and
early 50s absorbed a reasonable portion of such demand as came
from within or immediately adjacent to the municipalities in which
central offices were located. However, little or nothing could be done
about the mushrooming demand beyond these confines. By the time
work had actually begun on the added facilities provided for in the
original, or A REA loan, it was obvious that more funds would be
needed within the immediate future. So, a petition for a
supplemental, or B loan, in an amount sufficient to provide further
enlargement and extensions to outside plant; new company owned
buildings in Blairsville, Dahlonega, and Young Harris; and conversion
of those offices to dial switching was filed with the REA. This
established a pattern that was to continue for the next 20 years.
ITS THEM ELVES AGAIN
Elsewhere I have referred to a number of incidents so exceptional
and uncanny as to border on the extraterrestrial. The Commission
order promulgating rates designed to underwrite capital expenditures
embraced in the A and B loans contained two such clauses. As I
have indicated, pressure resulting from an exploding demand for
service was becoming excruciating and incessant. Both of the unusual
clauses inserted in the Commission order issued as of July 24, 1957,
relieved us of least two-thirds of this pressure.
One of these provisos also worked to our advantage in a way that
no one could have envisioned. Prohibiting reinvestment of internally
generated funds in new plant and facilities, it triggered the
accumulation of a substantial cash reserve. By the time we were able
to persuade the Commission to rescind this break with precedent,
REA loan requirements were outstripping appropriations by 12 to 14
months. By that time, we had accumulated sufficient cash reserve in
the bank to carry our construction program over the full length of
Cleveland cut to dialFirst call by Mr. Davidson of Cleveland Courier.
REA FINANCED FACILITIES ACTIVATED
The next major step came on October 9, 1957, when the new dial
switching equipment housed in a company owned building located on
West Kytle Street in Cleveland, Georgia, was cut into service. This
was followed in rapid succession by the switch to new dial equipment
in Dawsonville; to a larger, more flexible dial office in Hiawassee;
replacement of the small dial unit in Demorest with a larger, more
flexible dial switchboard housed in a company owned building; and
doubling EAS and toll trunking facilities between Clarkesville,
Cornelia, and Demorest. In early 1958, the small step-by-step dial
operated switchboard that had been removed from Hiawassee was
installed in a new company owned building in Helen to replace the
manual board in that exchange. At the time the Helen exchange was
cut to dial operation, extended area service was established between
that exchange and the Cleveland exchange. A line cable connecting
the two offices provided trunking facilities for the EAS service. In
addition, it also included loops dedicated to long distance use which
were spliced into the Bell toll circuits at Cleveland. These 10 mile
loops constituted Standards second step toward toll line ownership.
That segment of the Bell Companys open wire toll line between
Cleveland and Helen was purchased by Standard, dismantled, and the
wire sold for junk and the poles were used elsewhere.
5000 WORKING TELEPHONES
On October 24, 1958, the Standard family gathered to celebrate the
companys 5000th station. This constituted a growth of 600% over
the preceding 19 years.
TRANSITION TO DIAL OPERATION
By late 1959, all of the nine outlying central offices had been
converted to dial operation. Eight of these were housed in attractive
and comfortable company owned buildings. Adequately staffed and
well equipped business offices and work centers had been established
in Blairsville, Clarkesville, Cleveland, and Dahlonega. We were now
ready to concentrate attention on Cornelia. Once again, the fortune
cookie crumbled in our favor.
The residential structure then housing our office and equipment at
224 North Main Street in Cornelia was situated in the extreme
northwest corner of the 75 x 100 lot. This permitted the architect to
design an attractive L shaped building equal to our foreseeable
needs that could be erected around the old structure without
touching a shingle or a board. Designed to provide ample space for
new dial switching equipment, general, and local business office,
recreational and storage space, work on the new structure began in
1959 Christmas partyCornelia Community House.
By July, 1960, we were enjoying the comfort of a new and
beautifully appointed business office in our new home. On August
21, following, the last manually operated central office was retired
when the new dial equipment was cut into service in Cornelia.
The original general and local business office space is now occupied
by the Operator Service Department. A couple of years or so after
moving into the new building. Standard purhased another 75 x 100
lot immediately adjacent to the corner lot it chen occupied. This
space has been used for subsequent enlargement of the central office
About 1961 a commodious plant office and warehouse building
was erected on a large lot purchased for the purpose on the south
side of Elrod Street between First and Third Streets. This facility is
still being used for that purpose.
New modern facility replaces old residential structure at 224 North Main Street.
WEVE COME A LONG WAY, BABY
After 21 years of ownership and 15 years of personal management,
it would appear that we had arrived. Technically, we were rendering
the highest quality telephone service available at that time. Of
comparatively recent vintage, all apparatus, equipment, and material
embraced the most advanced engineering and scientific features then
known to the industry. Except for one small office, all indoor
facilities were housed in modern, new structures equal to foreseeable
Our organization had not reached the level I had envisioned, but it
was fully commensurate with those of surrounding enterprises, as
well as the rest of the telephone industry. The number of trained and
skilled, dedicated and enthusiastic staff people was steadily increasing.
Very few of my unorthodox notions had failed. A decided majority
of them had measured up to my most fanciful expectations. In short,
we were being recognized as industry and community leaders. I have
been involved in a wide range of church and community activities,
having served as president of Cornelias only civic club and lieutenant
governor of Kiwanis International. I had served as secretary-treasurer
of the Georgia Telephone Association for several years, followed by
two terms as president of that organization. Currently I was a
member of the United States Independent Telephone Association
Board of Directors. But, we still hadnt arrived.
We were literally trying to dig a hole in the sand. Promising
challenges excited us day and night. We were reeling toward the
10,000 station mark and requests for telephone service were pouring
in from all directions, including weather beaten cabins and dogtrot
houses that disputed and belied the character and economic status of
their occupants. Marginal facilities were being soaked up as fast, or
faster, than new ones could be planned, engineered, and brought into
service. Costly and unsatisfactory routing of toll service in and out of
Blairsville, Hiawassee, and Young Harris had yet to be dealt with.
Now approaching my 64th birthday, my work week was still upwards
of 80 hours, and one could have been happier in their work.
THREE EXCHANGES AND A TOLL LINE
NETWORK ADDED TO THE SYSTEM
Feasibility studies indicated that requests for telephone service in
the Batesville and Tallulah Falls communities of north Habersham
County and the Gaddistown-Suches section of Union County could
be more economically supplied through local offices situated in the
respective areas. At that time, telephone service into the Batesville
area consisted of a customer owned line serving a total of seven
establishments. The Suches community depended upon less than a
half dozen telephones, including a public paystation served over a
Forest Service line out of Dahlonega. Telephone service in Tallulah
Falls and vicinity was limited to a few toll stations served by the Bell
Company out of Gainesville.
In the early 1950s, Western Carolina Telephone Company of
N. C., purchased from Southern Bell the Murphy, North Carolina,
exchange and all toll lines west of Sylva, North Carolina, including
those serving Standards three exchanges in Towns and Union
Counties, Georgia. In the late 1950s, Standard purchased from
Western Carolina that portion of those toll lines lying within the state
of Georgia. It had long been evident that the flow of traffic in and
out of Blairsville, Hiawassee, and Young Harris should be diverted
from Murphy, North Carolina, to Gainesville, Georgia. Planning,
engineering, and financing were now concentrated on this toll
diversion project and constructing local exchange sytems in Batesville,
Suches, and Tallulah Falls.
In July, 1962, a new dial switching center in a company owned
building went into service at Suches, Georgia. In addition to
providing local telephone service among residents of the Suches-
Gaddistown areas, extended area service included all subscribers of
the Dahlonega exchange. At the same time, new toll circuits
connecting the Blairsville, Hiawassee, and Young Harris exchanges
with the Gainesville toll switchboard were activated. Standard owned
and maintained this system from Dahlonega to Hiawassee. In
addition to the trunks serving Towns and Union Counties, toll lines
connecting the Suches exchange with Gainesville were also included
in this network; which tapped into the Bell Companys toll cable in
our Dahlonega office.
As part of the toll traffic rehoming process, long distance calls in
and out of Dawsonville were redirected from Buford to Gainesville
via Dahlonega. From Dawsonville to Dahlonega, they were carried
through a new interexchange cable installed and maintained by
Standard. In Dahlonega, the Dawsonville toll circuits were linked to
Southern Bells toll cable out of Gainesville. Standard then purchased
Southern Bells toll line from Dawsonville to a point just north of the
Forsyth County line.
As part of the toll rerouting process in these four exchanges,
extended area service was established between the Blairsville,
Hiawassee, and Young Harris exchange areas and between the
Dahlonega and Dawsonville exchange areas. Standards toll network
had now climbed to more than 1000 channel miles.
CENTRAL OFFICES TWELVE AND THIRTEEN
In May, 1963, switching center number 12 was activated. Located
at the intersection of State Route 197 and State Route 255 in north
Habersham County, this switching center was designed to serve the
Batesville-Lake Burton communities of northwest Habersham and
southwest Rabun Counties. A trunk cable between that office and
the Clarkesville office provided extended area service between
Batesville customers and the Clarkesville-Demorest-Cornelia areas.
This cable also included long distance circuits that were spliced to
Southern Bell toll lines in the Clarkesville office, thus increasing
Standards toll network by some 70 channel miles.
In June, 1963, Standard replaced the toll stations in Tallulah Falls,
Georgia, with a modern step-by-step switching center. Designed to
serve establishments located in northeast Habersham and southeast
Rabun County, interexchange trunk facilities provided extended area
service between Tallulah Falls customers and those located in the
Clarkesville-Cornelia-Demorest areas. Long distance service was
rendered over toll trunks that had previously served toll stations
located in Tallulah Falls.
CHANGE OF PACE
At long last the initial step of realizing a life-long dream had been
accomplished. Territorial perimeters embracing some of the most
scenic and promising geographical area in the United States had been
well defined. Situated in one of the nations fastest growing
commercial and recreational corridors, the economic future of the
area was assured. An adequate and dependable source of new capital
financing had been tapped. The Rural Electrification telephone loan
program included much more than necessary capital funds. Among
other things, it provided equipment and structural specifications plus
administrative and control procedures that were ideally suited to the
needs of small telephone companies.
Ten thousand working telephones served through thirteen
strategically located modern dial switching centers, interconnected
with a network of extended area service trunks and more than a
thousand channel miles of company owned toll lines, provided a
satisfactory revenue base on which a competent and viable functional
organization could be supported. Such an organization was already in
the making. Standard Telephone Company was gaining an enviable
reputation as a desirable place in which to work. This enabled us to
be selective in choosing personnel. We had another lucky break when
our son Milton, Jr. and our son-in-law Dean Swanson elected to cast
their fortunes in our undertaking. Several years of practical
experience earned between school semesters, coupled with four years
of intensive study in the nations number three technical school,
made Milton a fine candidate for the top post in plant and network
engineering and management. Four years at the United States Naval
Academy plus six years in the United States Air Force, capped off
with a year of post graduate work in business management and
accounting at Emory University, ably equipped Dean for heading up
business management and operational control.
GOING ON TO PERFECTION
With satisfactorily established territorial boundaries now in effect,
ready access to an ample source of capital funds, a well planned
structural design now in place and in the hands of qualified and
enthusiastic personnel, we were in position to concentrate all of our
resources and energy on growth, improvement, and refinement.
THE GENIE CONTINUES TO HOVER
OVER OUR SHOULDER
Early in 1965 we initiated a program aimed at upgrading the
quality of ser\ ice to most of our customers. This project was designed
to reduce the maximum number of customers on one line within the
base rate area to two and limit rural lines to a total of four customers
per line. This called for an immediate enlargement of plant and
facilities by some 80%. A moderate rate increase was, of course,
necessary to underwrite the additional capital expenditure.
Over preceding months we had received a number of requests for
extended area service between the White County and Habersham
County exchanges. Eeasibility studies indicated that extended area
service between the five exchanges involved would likely be sub-
marginal from a cost/revenue standpoint. On the other hand, it was
recognized that toll free telephone service should be advantageous to
the professional and business people of the respective communities.
Yielding to this assumption, I included this project in the overall
service improvement design.
To my surprise, a large number of Habersham and White County
residents registered opposition to the proposed new local exchange
service rate schedules. No such objections were received from either
of the other four counties in which we operate exchanges. So once
again, the little genie was looking after our interests. We were
relieved of our commitment to provide extended area service between
the Habersham County and White County exchanges, and the
proposed new rate schedules were reduced accordingly. Funds
originally appropriated to extended area service trunks were diverted
to a much more profitable and desirable venture; the purchase of
Southern Bells toll lines from the Cleveland and Dahlonega offices to
the Hall County line. So, an unforeseen and uncanny turn of events
converted what was destined to be a sub-marginal operation into a
much more significant and profitable one.
HIAWASSEE ROUNDS OUT
COMPANY OWNED QUARTERS
In November, 1965, a completely new step-by-step dial switching
office, housed in an attractive, new, company owned building, located
on a large lot west of the Post Office on Main Street in Hiawassee,
was cut into service replacing the smaller unit that had served the
community for some 10 years. Pursuing my policy of maintaining a
close personal relationship with Standards customers and promptly
responding to their needs, business offices and work centers were
opened in both Dawsonville and Hiawassee during the calendar year
THE ECONOMIC BASE EXPANDS
By the mid-1960s, the economic base of Standards territory was
growing at a rapid pace. Most all of the primary state and county
roads within the area had been improved. Top quality telephone
service and an adequate quantity of dependable electric energy were
available throughout the area. These and other factors, including a
reservoir of high quality dependable labor, were attracting new
industry and enabling existing plants to enlarge their facilities.
Standard was fast accumulating a respectable assortment of key
systems and private branch exchange installations of advanced and
sophisticated design. Standards annual net station gain was running
well into the double digit column, often exceeding three times the
national average. Coupled with the regrading program, these growth
patterns kept us busy at the drawing board. Floor space was being
consumed at three times the rate of planned growth. By the late
1960s over half of our new buildings had been extended and
remodeled. This pregnant demand for new and additional facilities
kept the pressure on our organization. Moreover, time was closing in
By 1966, I was approaching the Biblical allotment of three score
and ten years. Mindful that I would soon be dependent upon
borrowed time, I issued a block of stock to my children, Kay and
Milton, and elected Milton and Dean to the Corporate Board. I spent
my 70th birthday in Washington, D. C., attending an Executive
Committee meeting of the United States Independent Telephone
Association. What started out to be just another day ended on a
warm and memorable note. While we were gathering at a popular
Washington restaurant for the evening meal, I casually remarked in
the presence of the executive vice president of USITA that it was my
birthday. Almost immediately, the affair was enveloped in a festive
and gala atmosphere as glasses were raised and cake complete with
candles appeared out of nowhere. Given the circumstances and the
roster of individuals participating in this event, it continues to rate
high among the treasures in my memory book. A few weeks later the
1967 corporate annual meeting elected Milton, vice president in
charge of network and facilities, and Dean was named vice president
in charge of operations.
In 1968 a group of Georgia telephone companies came together
and organized a computer service company designed to furnish
specialized computer service to small telephone companies. Located in
Atlanta and operating under the corporate name of Teledata, this
service proved valuable to a number of small telephone companies in
Georgia and neighboring states. By 1977 a number of the
participating companies were finding it feasible to install and
maintain their own computer systems. To insure that the service
would continue to be available to the remaining companies, while
providing adequate computer facilities for its own needs, Standard
purchased all of the remaining stock of Teledata, which institution it
continues to operate as a wholly owned subsidiary.
TIME AND TEMPERATURE SERVICE
COMES TO CORNELIA
In 1969 Standard became the second telephone company in the
United States to install and furnish time, temperature, and weather
forecasting service around the clock.
By dialing a prescribed number, a caller could obtain the time of
day, the outdoor temperature, and the current weather forecast
updated every six hours. This feature proved very popular until it
was replaced by other services, such as cable television.
Due largely to health problems, I resigned as a director of the
United States Independent Telephone Association at the 1970 annual
meeting. The five year period ending December 31, 1970, recorded a
net gain of 7370, or more than 60% in working telephones.
ANOTHER EXCITING YEAR
Early in 1971 I retired as president of the organization and Milton
was elected to fill that vacancy. Judge F. Jack Adams, who had
served consistently as our legal counsel for more than 20 years, was
elected to the Board of Directors. A change was also made in the
companys capital structure. Early in the month of March I
underwent extensive surgery that kept me hospitalized for some five
weeks and out of circulation for several additional weeks.
To provide urgently needed office and parking space, the two story
residential structure and the large lot on which it was situated at 223
Clarkesville Street was purchased from the W. B. Ellard estate. With
this acquisition, Standard now owned half of the city block extending
from Main Street to Clarkesville Street paralleling Galloway Street.
Labeled the Ellard House, the two story residential structure on this
lot became the companys general office building following extensive
renovation and redecorating.
By 1971 development along the western shore of Lake Burton in
Rabun County had moved the wire center of the Batesville exchange
several miles north. Cost studies clearly recommended relocating the
central office of that exchange. Consequently, a new building was
erected off State Route 197 north of the Rabun County line, and a
new step-by-step dial switching center was activated in that exchange.
Direct distance dialing on long distance calls was inaugurated
throughout Standards territory during 1971. It also saw Standard zip
by the 20,000 station mark; a 100% increase over a seven year
H. M. Stewart. Sr. introduces Direct Distance Dialing. 1971.
STANDARD MOVES TOWARD
The following year saw the company concentrate on designing,
engineering, acquiring, and installing new electronic switching
equipment in the Cornelia office. When this unit was cut into service
in July, 1973, it marked Standards first step toward computerized
switching machines. It also dropped the curtain on timed disconnect.
Virtually all of Standards step-by-step dial operated offices had been
equipped with timed disconnect, which automatically broke local
connections at the expiration of six minutes after a 60 second
warning. This feature was designed to serve two purposes. By
reducing long-winded conversations, it freed up lines for other callers
and reduced the number of line busy signals. It also freed up
expensive trunking trains and reduced no dial tone problems. These
conditions are not common to computerized switching. Timed
disconnect was abandoned in the remaining step offices when callers
neutralized its value by redialing.
H. M. STEWART, SR. PIONEER CLUB
In October, 1974, the men and women of Standard Telephone
Company organized and activated the first Independent Telephone
Pioneer Club in the state of Georgia. The Independent Telephone
Pioneer Association is made up of men and women across the United
States who have a history of 15 years or more in telephone service or
directly related activities. A three tier organization consists of clubs,
chapters, and the national level. Chapters embrace specified territorial
areas, usually states. Clubs are established on the local level, and their
memberships are confined to company or community perimeters.
Creation of this club triggered a warm glow of satisfaction in my
heart. For one thing, only one member of Standards family missed
the charter night celebration. She was unavoidably detained. What
more can be said about the character, dedication, enthusiasm, and
sense of personal responsibility of Standards family. It was also
deeply gratifying to note that more than a score of our people now
had more than 15 years of valued experience. This was remarkable in
view of the fact that the membership of the club was almost as large
as the entire Standard family was in 1959.
MICROWAVE TOLL FACILITIES INSTALLED
By 1974 it was becoming apparent that the Hiawassee, Blairsville,
Dahlonega toll route was going to require considerable additional
capital outlay. The stack limit of the carrier system had been reached.
Moreover, the type carrier we had initially used was now obsolete.
Furthermore, the land line physical circuits were subject to frequent
outages and extensive damage from lightning during the summer
months. Feasibility studies indicated that serious consideration should
be given to substituting microwave for land lines.
Microwave Dish mounted at Visitors Center on Brasstown Bald.
Engineering studies revealed that the most economical routing
would be land lines between Blairsville and Hiawassee. From
Hiawassee, microwave could be directed from a low mounted dish on
the companys lot to the top of Brasstown Bald, from that point it
could be beamed to a low mounted dish on our lot at Cleveland, at
which point the channels were fed into land lines between Cleveland
and Gainesville. In 1975 this system was placed in service and the old
land lines between Blairsville and Dahlonega were abandoned and the
cable pair converted to local customer loops. This has proven to be a
wise decision from everyones standpoint. Customers received more
dependable service, and the investment has proven to be cost
By the mid-1970s, technical advances and other factors had
materially extended the range of central offices. In other words, it
was becoming economically feasible and practical to locate switching
centers further apart. Standards first step in this direction was taken
in 1976 when the customers served through the Demorest exchange
were switched to Cornelia and Clarkesville and the Demorest office
The following year a switching center, or central office, was
activated in the Big Canoe community in western Dawson County.
Big Canoe was a residential and recreational community developed by
a large real estate firm out of Atlanta.
A CALL FOR HELP
By the mid 1970s Standard was sharing the expertise and skill of
its technical staff with other telephone companies unable to develop
and maintain such craftsmen within their own organization. One
such experience occurred in late 1976 following the national
presidential election. Telephone facilities in Plains, Georgia, the home
of President Carter, is supplied by the Citizens Telephone Company
of Leslie, Georgia. Immediately following Mr. Carters election to the
Presidency, the Citizens Company was swamped with exorbitant and
urgent demands for extensive and sophisticated telephone facilities
that exceeded the limitations of the small organization required to
service less than 4400 telephones in the four small exchanges owned
and operated by the Citizens Company and the capabilities of the
professional engineering firm that had been retained. Fortunately,
Standards organization was able to supply both the expertise and
equipment necessary to fill the gap. Our engineers and technicians
spent many weeks helping the Citizens Company emerge from the
avalanche that had suddenly befallen it. Rewards of this experience
were two-fold. In addition to the comfort to be derived from being
able to help a neighbor, this gesture provided valuable experience to
our staff people.
THE LAST FRONTIER
Tate City is the name given to a Militia District located in the
extreme eastern section of Towns County. Isolated from the rest of
the county by a high mountain range, most of the land area belongs
to the United States Forest Service. Until recently, its remote location
coupled with unimproved roads have protected its few residents from
the bedlam of civilization. In the mid-1970s the Blue Ridge Mountain
Electric Membership Corporation of Young Harris, Georgia,
extended commercial electric power into the small community. Now
enjoying good commercial electric power service, residents of the
settlement came to us for telephone service.
The shortest possible route distance between the Hiawassee
telephone office and Tate City is seventeen miles, several miles of
which is over almost inaccessible mountainous terrain. The alternate
route, which is over all weather roadway, is ten miles further. It is
recognized, of course, that providing acceptable standards of
telephone service to a handful of customers located seventeen miles
from the central office is a costly undertaking under the most
favorable conditions. The engineering problem and cost of getting
over the torturous mountain range were compounded by the fact that
we had to cross the Appalachian foot trail, which is rigidly protected
against any and all commercial encroachment or development.
Consequently, the most liberal revenue estimates bore very little
relationship to the most conservative installation and upkeep cost
Recognizing the full depth and scope of Standards commitment,
management appropriated the necessary funds and put engineers to
work searching for the most economical, yet dependable, means of
getting a good grade of telephone service to the residents of the Tate
City Militia District. After months of intensive study and laborious
effort, the good people of this remote community were put in
immediate touch with the outside world in December, 1979. It is
believed that with inauguration of this service, telephones were
extended to the most remote and isolated settlement in the state of
Georgia. As of mid-1984, 23 residents of the Tate City Militia
District now have telephone service. It is somewhat coincidental that
the Hiawassee office also furnishes local exchange telephone service
to the Visitors Center atop Brasstown Bald Mountain, whose
elevation of 4,784 feet makes it the highest point in the state of
A JUNIOR PIONEER CLUB IS ORGANIZED
In 1977 a group of Standard Telephone men and women came
together to organize a Future Pioneer Club. Membership in this club
is open to individuals with 2 to 15 years of service in the telephone
industry. This organization is known as the Bruce Williams Future
Pioneer Club, having been named in memory of a devoted and
popular member of Standards family who had died at an early age
from a heart attack.
OFFICIAL STAFF IS ENLARGED
By 1977 I had become an octogenarian and decided that it was
time I got out of the way of younger generations. Announcement of
this conclusion triggered several changes at top management levels.
By action of the official Board at the 1978 annual meeting, I was
moved to the newly created post of chairman emeritus and
consultant. Milton was moved up from president and treasurer to
chairman of the Board and chief executive officer. Dean was elected
president following which he resigned as a member of the Board of
Directors. Kay Swanson was named to the vacancy created by Deans
resignation and was subsequently elected treasurer and assistant
secretary. Also joining the official family were Carolyn Stewart as
corporate secretary and assistant treasurer and Fred C. Holbrooks as
assistant vice president. The top management structure was now
composed of a Board of five directors consisting of: F. Jack Adams;
Helen S. Stewart; H. Milton Stewart, Jr., Chairman of the Board and
Chief Executive Officer; Dean C. Swanson, President; Kay S.
Swanson, Treasurer; and Carolyn J. Stewart, Secretary. A year later
the bylaws were changed to authorize an increase in the number of
directors, and William J. Shortt was added to the official Board.
A longtime resident of Cornelia, Mr. Shortt had served for several
years as manager of the Cornelia Plant of the Lumite Division of the
Johnson & Johnson Corporation. He is now employed as director
Government and Trade Relations, S.E. Mr. Shortts background,
experience, knowledge, intelligence, and personality have made him a
valuable addition to the official family.
THE TOLL OPERATING EUNCTION
RETURNS TO CORNELIA
Eollowing conversion to mechanical switching. Standard had
elected to purchase such manual operations as directory information
and after hour trouble reports from the Gainesville office of Southern
Bell. By the mid-1970s it was becoming obvious that Standard should
seriously consider establishing its own directory information and
trouble report center. It was also becoming apparent that Standard
should seriously consider assuming responsibility for the toll operating
function within its territory. Eeasibility studies clearly sustained these
conclusions. This set in motion a series of developments that
culminated in what has to be one of the most important projects
undertaken in Standards history. After months and years of laborious
effort on the part of a lot of people, a new toll operating and
directory information center was put into service in Cornelia in 1978.
Space formerly used for general offices in the 224 North Main
Street building proved ideal for the apparatus and personnel required
for these new services. This venture also called for the addition of
thousands of miles to our toll network. Traffic from Dawsonville and
Suches was funneled into Dahlonega from which point a land line
trunk cable feeds traffic from all three exchanges to Cleveland. At
Cleveland a land line trunk cable picks up all toll channels from the
eight exchanges of Dawsonville, Dahlonega, Suches, Blairsville,
Young Harris, Hiawassee, Cleveland and Helen and delivers it to the
Cornelia toll center. It would be difficult to estimate the value of this
undertaking. The improvement in the quality of service to Standards
customers cannot be measured. I dont recall any other venture that
has proven as profitable from an investment standpoint.
While perceptive Milton Stewart, Jr. and imaginative Dean
Swanson may lay claim to initiating the idea and authorizing its
implementation, credit for nurturing the new toll center and
expanded toll line network through crucial and formative stages and
bringing the project to a successful conclusion should go to two
young men Milton had added to his staff. A second generation
telephone man, Tim T. Craven, then serving as chief engineer in
Toll Center cut. 1978from L to RArthur Lowery, Ross Martin. John Mulkey, and Tim
Standards organization, inspires the unqualified respect and
confidence of all who chance to know him. His eye for detail and
penchant for thoroughness were matched by a cordial and
trustworthy relationship with his counterparts in the Southern Bell
Company and REA. Tim laboriously and patiently developed the
volumes of data and information required by the three participating
institutions, namely Standard, Southern Bell and REA. Because of his
broad knowledge of all related components involved and his high
level relationship with his contemporaries, problems were minor and
far between. The few that did surface were soon resolved to the full
satisfaction of all concerned.
Once the intricate details of negotiation had been resolved, the
comprehensive design or layout completed, and engineering and
specifications finished, responsibility for implementing the project was
shouldered by Vaughn Colwell. While Vaughn had mastered the
technique of engineering and constructing local exchange plant
facilities, he had no previous experience in installing and activating
toll center equipment and sophisticated toll line networks. The ease
and perfection with which this project came into being under his
direction is indelible testimony to his ingenuity, judgement, and
So, Lady Luck had smiled upon us again. Timing of the idea was
just about perfect. It came at a time when it could be comfortably
and fully merged into our development and growth pattern. It also
meshed with Southern Bells needs and plans. Finally, we had in our
organization individuals ideally fitted for carrying the ball.
Along with the establishment of the toll center. Standard
substituted its own toll carrier terminals for those owned by Southern
Bell in the Cornelia office. This materially increased Standards
ownership and control of toll facilities within its certificated territory.
Cut into service November 4, 1978, the activation of the Cornelia
toll center and expanded toll line network has to be a top ranking
event in Standard Telephone Companys 80 year history. A staff of
23 operators plus four supervisory personnel now responds to more
than 11,500 calls per day. Direct supervision over information and
other operator services has produced marked improvements in the
quality of these services. Marginal revenue derived from this source
has enabled us to keep local exchange rates among the lowest in the
state while paying top wages and providing generous side benefits to
a group of the finest and most dedicated people to be found
ONE THING LEADS TO ANOTHER
We had long envisioned general office accommodations located in a
serene environment outside the congested areas of the community.
Installing the toll switching and directory information center triggered
such a move. We were already running short of office space and
relinquishing the quarters to the new traffic department tipped the
scales in favor of a new building. So, while Dean devoted preferred
attention to implementing the new toll center and network, Milton
turned his attention to the matter of new general office facilities.
After considerable searching and carefully weighing the pros and
cons of all plots then available, he purchased several acres fronting on
what is now Industrial Boulevard located in the previously established
Industrial Park west of the city limits of Cornelia and within the
northern perimeters of the city of Baldwin. After days, weeks, and
even months of concentrated study, he and the companys architect
came up with a design that has proven to be the envy of all who visit
the finished product. Situated on a large, beautifully landscaped plot
with a million dollar view, the eye catching building combines
arresting beauty- with an atmosphere of utility and functional
efficiency with a hint of sumptuousness. It would be most difficult to
find another structure which reflects more attention to essential and
desirable detail. It has already become a landmark in the community
and a symbol of pride to the men and women who compose the
Standard Telephone Company family.
1978 brought more than reorganization and expansion of top
management, activation of the new toll center and network, and the
beautiful new general office home. Labeled Telemark, a wholly
owned subsidary was created for the purpose of handling deregulated
equipment and services.
Late in the evening in the fall of 1978, smoke was discovered
oozing from the Dahlonega central office building. Upon opening the
door to the central office equipment room, district manager J.C. Moss
found it literally packed with acrid smoke. J.C. rightly suspected that
electric power was at the seat of the problem. At considerable risk to
himself, he covered his head and face as protection against the fumes
and crawled along the floor near the side wall to the power control
switch which he opened. After the smoke had cleared away
sufficiently, it was determined that all of it had come from a single
panel of equipment which had developed trouble and overheated.
There was no visible damage to any other apparatus and equipment.
Fortunately, a replacement unit was received within hours, and
service was fully restored with little interruption or delay. But as we
shall discover later, this did not end the story.
1978 also marked the closing of the Tallulah Falls central office.
Customers formerly served through this switching center were
diverted to the Clarkesville office.
KEEPING STEP WITH TECHNOLOGY
1979 marked Standards second step toward computerized
switching when a new digital switching machine replaced the step-by-
step apparatus in the Clarkesville office. Another unit scheduled for
the Cleveland office was diverted to Dahlonega when step equipment
in that office developed trouble due to chemical reactions caused by
residue from the smoke generated by the heat or fire referred to in a
previous paragraph. Trouble became so frequent and repetitious that
we had no choice but to replace the existing mechanical equipment.
This was completed in 1981.
Although the electronic switching machine in Cornelia had served
less than half of its expected life, fatigue of delicate components was
introducing frequent and protracted failures. In order to maintain
satisfactory service levels and reduce maintenance costs, this unit was
also replaced with a new digital switching machine in 1981. A digital
switching machine replaced the step-by-step dial operated office in
Cleveland in 1982. With this installation, four of our five largest
offices were now equipped with late model computerized switching
apparatus. The fifth installation of this type switching is scheduled to
go in at Blairsville in 1985.
ANOTHER CALL FOR HELP
Cutover to computerized (digital) switching in the Clarkesville
exchange was delayed several months while we responded to an
urgent call for help from a community in another state. Unique
planning on the part of our management enabled us to help a
thriving Arkansas community overcome a disaster.
In designing successive conversions of exchanges to digital
switching it was determined that a mobile unit could be used to
salvage costly floor space. Such a unit would consist of a complete
digital switching machine and associated apparatus set up in an all-
weather trailer that could be parked adjacent to existing quarters and
used as the exchange switching center while the step-by-step
apparatus was removed from existing space and replaced with new
digital equipment. The unit could then be moved to another office
and the process repeated until all but one of the scheduled
conversions had been completed. The apparatus in the trailer would
than be removed to replace step-by-step equipment in the final
conversion. Four offices were geared to this plan.
About the time the mobile unit was ready to be released by the
manufacturer, we received an urgent telephone call from the
management of the Allied Telephone Company of Little Rock,
Arkansas. We were informed that their Harrison, Arkansas, central
office had been completely destroyed by an explosion. In a frantic
search for apparatus with which to restore telephone service to the
community, they had contacted the manufacturer with whom we had
placed the order for our digital offices. Since the mobile unit built for
us was ideally suited to their need, the manufacturer suggested that
they contact us to see if we would release it provided the
manufacturer would immediately set to work to build another one for
As I have said, the mobile unit was a perfect solution to their
problem. The apparatus was already in place in a weather proof
container, ready to be placed in service immediately upon arrival at
the destination. No time or expense would be required in which to
provide housing or extensive links of feeder cable. No time would be
needed in which to set up wiring and test out switching apparatus.
Obviously, our management seized this golden opportunity to render
a notable and invaluable service to another member of the telephone
fraternity and a thriving community of several thousand citizens.
Release of Standards hold on the mobile unit was promptly granted,
and our management set about rescheduling its central office
A HALLMARK OF EXCELLENCE
High on the long list of innovations featured by Standard
Telephone Company management is the ubiquitous telephone
directory. Mindful that the directory is a hallmark of company
performance as well as an important adjunct to good telephone
service, management has given preferred attention to its appearance
and utility. Special emphasis has been placed on such items as the
quality of paper, the size and legibility of type, printing and cover
design. These disciplines have produced a book that is recognized and
applauded well beyond the perimeters of Standards territory.
Pictured here is a black and white montage of several recent
telephone directory covers. Published in full color, these covers reflect
native flowers, local scenes, views, and history. Taken from the 1976
edition, the collage seen in the lower right hand corner of this
montage depicts local historical events recorded during the nations
first 200 years of independence. Captured by a nature lover in a
neighboring community, the photograph of the monarch butterfly
shown in the upper right hand corner graces the current issue of our
directory. Yes, Standards management is highly pleased with the
dividends derived from the extra time and money invested in turning
out its annual directories.
OTHER RECENT DEVELOPMENTS
In 1981 Standard sold the Teledata building in suburban Atlanta
and moved the Teledata operation to the Cornelia general office
building. In 1982 Milton, Jr. was elected vice president of a trade
association known as the Organization for the Preservation and
Advancement of Small Telephone Companies (OPASTCO). In the
same year Dean was elected as a director of the United States
Independent Telephone Association (USITA), the oldest and largest
telephone trade association in the country. In October, 1984, Doris
Stephens, who heads up Standards customer service department, was
named first vice president of the Independent Telephone Pioneer
Association of America.
On the evening of April 21, 1983, thirteen members of the
Standard family and several guests gathered at the Hofbrauhaus in
Helen, Georgia, for a dinner and organization of an exclusive club.
Labeled the Quarter Century Club, one must have 25 years of service
with Standard Telephone to be eligible for membership. The thirteen
charter members included:
G. B. Ricketson
H. M. Stewart, Jr.
H.M. Stewart, Sr.
Henry Cameron and Charles Williams were inducted into this club
at its 1984 annual meeting to bring the total membership to 15. This
represents an extremely high percentage of the personnel that
constituted the Standard family in 1959. Since people are the heart
and life of any organization, I am personally very pleased with and
proud of this record.
In early 1984, Milton was elected first vice president of
OPASTCO. Also, during the early months of 1984 Standard let
contracts for extensive reinforcement of outside plant throughout
Habersham County. When this work is completed in early 1985,
private line telephone service should be available to any and all
establishments within the Clarkesville and Cornelia exchange areas.
New toll lines, jointly owned by Standard and General Telephone
Company, went into service between the Cornelia and Toccoa central
As of July 1, 1984, Standard was serving approximately 43,000
telephones in a geographical area that mustered less than 600 as of
July 1, 1939. Meanwhile Standards toll network had grown from
zero miles to 24,301 channel miles plus 1238 toll carrier terminals
operated in conjunction with Bell owned physical circuits and
terminals plus a modern and highly efficient toll operating center.
For a relatively small company we have assembled a respectable
collection of antique telephones and apparatus. These relics are on
public display in a museum currently being maintained in the 224
North Main Street building in Cornelia. Among other things these
artifacts graphically define the distance the company has covered in
On April 7, 1984,1 celebrated 68 years in the telephone business
and as of July 1, 1984,1 registered 45 continuous years with
Standard Telephone Company.
As a benediction, it can be rightfully said that God in his
extravagant love and bountiful mercy has done much more than turn
a compelling dream into a fabulous reality. He has conclusively
proven the merits of some unconventional and unorthodox precepts
and principals. More than that he has given me a number of happy
years in which to enjoy and relish the fruits of His work. Pyramid
these rich rewards on such additional gifts as a beautiful and
wonderful family, reasonably good health, residence in Americas
Shangrila, a close and inspiring relationship with some of the finest
people He ever created, and it soon becomes patent that few people
are as deeply indebt to their Creator as I am.
Lest it be inferred from the foregoing that all storms have now
passed and that the good ship Standard Telephone Company is
embarked on calm and peaceful waters, let me hasten to say, not
so. Standard is already being caught up in the back-wash of
cataclysmic changes taking place across the telephone industry.
Drastically affecting both structure and function of the industry,
these changes introduce challenges that stagger the imagination.
Unquestionably, the prime instigator of these problems is the
laboratory. The constant stream of innovative ideas and technical
improvements in electronic communication apparatus and equipment
that flows from the laboratories has whipped up an explosive demand
for such facilities and service. With these new devices and their
increased usage have come economically feasible alternates to the
long time structure of commercial electronic communication systems.
That is to say, many large national institutions are now finding it
economically feasible to install and maintain their own
communication networks. Proliferation of this practice will, of course,
shrink the market and revenue potential available to commercial
companies. Furthermore, these so-called privately owned facilities can
compete with commercial companies by offering the use of their
facilities to others.
Another momentos and far-reaching change in which the industry
is now entangled had its inception in the laboratory. During the
formative years of telephony it became evident that if the telephone
company was to be responsible for the quality of service rendered it
should have full control over all apparatus and equipment used in
transmitting the communication. Consequently, virtually all contracts
and tariffs prohibited the attachment of any apparatus or
appurtenance to the telephone companys lines and facilities which
the management of that company had not approved. This practice
was rigidly followed and successfully defended until ruptured by the
renowned Carterfone decision in June 1968.
The so-called Carterfone was a coupling device designed to connect
mobile telephones to the local telephone network. Manufacturers of
the Carterfone appealed the Bell systems refusal to permit the
attachment to be used in their network. In June 1968, the Federal
Communications Division overruled the telephone company and
ordered it to permit the use of the Carterfone within its systems. This
decision literally opened a Pandoras box to entrepeneurs and
manufacturers who had been hungrily eyeing the fast growing
telephone market. Within months telephone management had been
relieved of responsibility for virtually all apparatus and equipment
located on the customers premise. By the same token regulatory
authorities had surrendered their control over all rates and charges
applicable to such apparatus and equipment.
The Carterfone decision has also led to indiscriminate competition
for the point-to-point or long distance telephone traffic. Long
established postage stamp pricing has made high density toll traffic
corridors vulnerable and attractive to would-be competitors. While
opening the gates to unrestrained competition on the part of other
would-be purveyors of long distance telephone service, regulators
continued to exercise control over point-to-point tariff of old line
telephone companies. Moreover, no marked deviations from
established rate schedules have been authorized. Consequently, a
horde of speculators are now vying for a slice of this pie. Most, if
not all, of them have gained entrance by leasing channels on a bulk
or full-time basis from established telephone companies and resaling
such facilities on a basis at rates and charges well under established
tariffs. Some of these concerns are constructing or expect to build
their own network using fiber optic cables, microwaves, and satellites.
Some fourteen years have now elapsed since the Carterfone
decision, but it is not likely that repercussions generated by this
action will have subsided by the end of another fourteen year
interval. The changes it has and will effect are too numerous to
pronounce and too far-reaching to be readily resolved. In essence,
challenges evolving from the Carterfone decision alone should be
sufficient to keep the most imaginative and resourceful telephone
management entertained for many years yet to come.
Exploitation of recent developments in electrical characteristics
should have a revolutionary impact on the transmission of
intelligence. Computerized switching in telephone central offices,
coupled with fiber optic cabling, promises much more than a
reduction in the cost of providing electronic communication facilities.
They extend the horizons of intercommunication far beyond the
limits of older and more conventional methods. An example is the
ability of office computers to converse with each other during idle
time periods such as those between 11 PM and 6 AM. Computer
(digital) switching should also introduce a radical change in pricing
and billing for local exchange service. Usage-sensitive pricing under
old methods was not economically feasible. Therefore, local exchange
telephone service had to be sold on a postage stamp, or flat monthly
rate, basis regardless of the extent to which it was used.
Another development that has set off shock waves throughout the
entire industry is the dissolution of the American Telephone &
Telegraph Company (Bell system). As of January 1982, management
of the Bell Company resolved an age old antitrust suit by agreeing to
dissolve its administrative and corporate structure. As of January
1984, the Bell systems holdings were divided up and sold to eight
new holding companies. One new company known as AT&T
acquired most of the point-to-point network, all company owned
instrumentalities on the customers premises, the Western Electric
Manufacturing Company, and the Bell Laboratories. Local exchange
networks were sold to seven regional companies scattered across the
continent. So it was, as that of January 1, 1984, the venerable
institution, which was the bulwark of corporate America for more
than three quarters of a century, became history. Intercorporate
agreements, relationships, financial holdings, and administrative
functions no longer exist. That the sharp line of demarkation between
the two segments of the industry has been wiped out was confirmed
October 18, 1983, when the United States Independent Telephone
Association, in convention assembled in Boston, Massachusetts,
removed the word Independent from its corporate name and became
the United States Telephone Association. Coincident with that action,
applications for membership from the seven holding companies were
accepted and approved. As a matter of convenience, or for
sentimental reasons, some of the regional companies and their
subsidiaries have retained the name Bell in their corporate titles. But
the use of the word Bell has no meaning or significance beyond that
of convenience and sentiment. Obviously, no old line telephone
company can expect to escape the shock waves set off by the
dissolution of the worlds largest corporation,
opportunities likely to emanate from the foregoing and other
scientific and social trends. It does appear that the volume of
electronic communication is destined to escalate at a rapid pace. In
an atmosphere of unbridled competition, the mounting volume and
changing character of intercommunication can be expected to
promote specialization. The extent to which customers assume full
responsibility for apparatus and equipment located on their premises
and administrative functions will affect telephone managerial
functions and reduce capital requirements and expenditure. I am
persuaded that public and regulatory resistance to usage-sensitive
pricing of local exchange telephone facilities is destined to recede.
Patently, markets will ebb and flow under the pressure of competitive
pricing and elimination of cross subsidies. Pyramid these and a host
of other foreseeable changes, on top of the demographic growth
patterns that now prevail within Standards territory, which embraces
Americas Shangrila, and the opportunities open to the disciplined,
persevering, self-starter defy calculation.
Briefly, successfully leading Standard Telephone through the
briarpatch of the past and nurturing it to its present state of maturity
has been a most satisfying and rewarding experience. But, the future
holds out even more promising and richer rewards to the prudently
1940 ..................................................... 459
1950 ................................................... 1,738
1960 ................................................... 6,369
1904 M. C. York and associates founded Standard Telephone
Company. Clarkesville exchange activated.
1905 Cornelia exchange activated. Clarkesville and Cornelia
exchanges linked by trunk line establishing first extended
area service (HAS) in the state of Georgia.
1930 M. C. York became sole owner of Standard Telephone
1939 H. M. Stewart purchased the company from M. C. York.
1943 Business office moved from Clarkesville to Cornelia.
1944 H. M. Stewart purchased Dahlonega Telephone Company
from R. C. Meaders.
1945 Defunct Hiawassee system purchased by H. M. Stewart
from the Tinker estate and reactivated.
First long term loan obtained from the Reconstruction
H. M. Stewart moved to Cornelia.
Cleveland Telephone Company purchased from Ellis C.
Standards entire system suffered extensive damage from
ice storm and Cornelia central office equipment severely
damaged by fire.
1946 Standard published first directory north of Atlanta
containing classified section (yellow pages).
Clarkesville exchange converted to central energy
Standard installed its first private branch exchange system.
Cleveland system completely rebuilt.
1947 Cornelia cable project completed.
1948 General offices moved to new company owned quarters at
224 North Main Street, Cornelia.
1949 New local exchange system activated in Blairsville (first
local telephone service for that community).
Work center established in Blairsville which embraced both
Blairsville and Hiawassee exchange areas.
Cornelia converted to central energy operation.
1951 Long term loan obtained from the Stromberg Carlson
Articles of incorporation applied for and approved.
Helen Telephone Company established by Helen S.
1952 Local dial switching center installed and activated in
Demorest, which marked Standards first dial office and its
first toll lines.
Local exchange telephone system installed and activated in
1953 Dahlonega converted to central energy operation.
Hiawassee converted to step-by-step dial switchboard.
Local exchange system installed and activated in Young
Extended area service (EAS) established between
Hiawassee and Young Harris offices.
1954 Helen Telephone Company acquired and merged with
Standard Telephone Company.
Eirst REA loan.
1955 Installation of first key system.
Clarkesville converted to dial operated switchboard.
Mid-50s Purchased toll lines from Western Carolina Telephone
1957 Cleveland converted to dial operation in new company
1958 Dawsonville and Helen converted to dial operation in new
company owned quarters.
5,000 stations mark.
1959 Blairsville, Dahlonega, and Young Harris converted to dial
operation in new company owned quarters.
1960 Cornelia converted to dial switching in new company
owned quarters at 224 North Main Street and general
offices relocated to these quarters.
New company owned toll lines between Hiawassee, Young
Harris, Blairsville and Dahlonega activated. Toll traffic to
and from Blairsville, Hiawassee, and Young Harris
rerouted from Murphy, North Carolina, to Gainesville,
Georgia. Extended area service established between
Blairsville, Hiawassee, and Young Harris.
A new local exchange system centered in Suches activated.
1963 Clarkesville central office moved into new company owned
New local exchange systems activated in Batesville and
1964 10,000 stations mark.
1965 New business offices and work centers established in
Dawsonville and Hiawassee.
1969 Time/temperature service activated in Cornelia.
1971 Direct distance dialing inaugurated.
20.000 stations mark.
Ellard House property purchased and converted to general
1973 New electronic switching equipment replaced step-by-step
dial in Cornelia.
1974 H. M. Stewart, Sr. Pioneer Club organized.
25.000 stations mark.
1976 Demorest exchange discontinued.
30.000 stations mark.
Local exchange activated in Big Canoe.
Bruce Williams Future Pioneer Club organized.
Standard Telephone Company purchased Teledata.
1978 General offices of company moved into new building
located at 2000 Industrial Boulevard, Cornelia, Georgia.
Telemark, a wholly owned subsidiary, organized.
Dahlonega central office fire.
Tallulah Falls exchange discontinued.
Company owned toll switching center activated in the 224
North Main Street building.
1979 Standards first computerized (digital) switching center
installed and activated in Clarkesville.
1981 Dahlonega, Cleveland, and Cornelia converted to
Teledata moved to Cornelia.
40,000 stations mark.
1983 Quarter Century Club established.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
The first child of William Franklin and Ada Lawley Stewart,
Howard Milton Stewart was born in the Sandy Creek Community of
Bibb County, Alabama, January 31, 1897. While a student in high
school, he entered the telephone business, April 7, 1916, as night
switchboard operator in Centreville, Alabama. Following graduation
from high school, he filled various assignments with Southern Bell
Telephone & Telegraph Company in such points as Anniston,
Gadsden, Mobile, Montgomery, and Tuscaloosa, Alabama. His
telephone career was briefly interrupted when he enlisted in the
military service in September 1918. He was assigned to a Signal
Corps detachment in Camp Pike, Arkansas, from which he was
discharged four months later.
In September 1923, he resigned from the post of business office
manager at Gadsden to accept as assignment as field sales
representative for the Kellogg Switchboard and Supply Company. His
employment with the Kellogg Company was broad and educational.
In August 1930, he was promoted to the post of southwestern district
sales manager with offices in Dallas, Texas.
On November 3, 1931, he married the stunning and vivacious
Helen Stroud of Union Springs, Alabama. From this union came two
fine children and five wonderful grandchildren. A son, Milton, Jr.,
and a daughter, Helen Kay, are officers of Standard Telephone
In September 1933, he left the Kellogg Switchboard and Supply
Company to become business manager of the Texas Telephone
Association with offices in Austin, which post he resigned in August
1937, to assume a similar position with the Pennsylvania Independent
Telephone Association and Toll Clearing House located in
Harrisburg. As of July 1, 1939, he purchased the assets of the
Standard Telephone Company of Clarkesville, Georgia. In May 1944,
he gave up the job with the Pennsylvania Association to become vice
president of Telephone Services, Inc. in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. As of
September 1, 1945, he moved his family from Ft. Wayne to Cornelia
where he took over management of the Standard Telephone system.
He has always maintained an enthusiastic and perceptive interest in
telephony. While serving as switchboard sales engineer with the
Kellogg Company he initiated the design of the Masterbuilt line of
switchboards. While in association work, he conceived the idea that
materialized as the Telephone Advertising Institute. He was featured
on a number of symposiums, district state and national telephone
conventions. He has written a number of articles for trade journals
and drafted, edited, and published numerous periodicals and tracts of
concern and interest to the industry. After several years as secretary,
he served two terms as president of the Georgia Telephone
Association. He served several terms on the Board of Directors of the
United States Independent Telephone Association, as a member of
the Executive Committee and the Legislative Committee of that
organization. He served several years as a director of the Independent
Telephone Pioneer Association and organized the Peach State
(Georgia) Chapter of that institution.
Church and community affairs have always held a high priority in
his meaningful life. Among other things, he was a two term president
of his high school class, a member of a state wide high school
championship debating team, a leading man in amateur theatrics, and
with a female schoolmate was elected to head a community wide
celebration. He was the first person to appear in character on the
stage of the Mobile Little Theatre. In Austin, Texas, he served as
secretary of the Lions Club, as a member of the Official Board and
Linance Committee of the Lirst Methodist Church and as general
superintendent of the Lirst Methodist Church School. In Harrisburg,
he was a member of the Official Board and Linance Committee of
the Grace Methodist Church and served as district convention
secretary of Rotary International. Lor several years, he served on the
Industrial Committee of the Georgia State Chamber of Commerce, as
a director of the Georgia State Planning and Development
Commission, as an officer in the Upper Chattahoochee Development
Association, and as an officer in the Cornelia Chamber of Commerce.
As charter chairman, he served several terms as chairman of the
Georgia Mountains Planning and Development Commission and as a
member of the Unicoi Park Commission. As a longtime member of
the Cornelia United Methodist Church, he has served that institution
in several capacities including chairman of the Official Board,
chairman of the Linance Committee, lay speaker, Sunday school
teacher, district lay leader, district trustee, and lay delegate to the
Annual Conference. He is a past lieutenant governor of Kiwanis
International, a past president of the Cornelia Kiwanis Club and has
chaired several committees in that organization. Since its beginning,
he has been an active leader in the Habersham Chapter 2040 of the
American Association of Retired Persons in which he continues to
He is the recipient of many awards and citations. He holds the
United States Independent Telephone Associations Distinguished
Service Medallion, the Key Club International Key of Honor, and an
Honorary Doctor of Business Administration Degree from Piedmont
College, of which he is a trustee emeritus. He has been singled out
for special recognition by the General Assembly of the State of
Georgia, the First Methodist Church of Austin, the Cornelia United
Methodist Church, and the Texas Telephone Association. He has
been elected to a lifetime membership on the Official Board of the
Cornelia United Methodist Church and to a lifetime membership of
the Cornelia Kiwanis Club. Landscaping around the Habersham
Christian Learning Center and the Habersham Nursing Home have
been dedicated to the honor of Mr. and Mrs. Stewart. The Cornelia
Garden Club has conferred on him an honorary membership. He is
one of three local citizens to be honored by a memorial featuring
sugar maple trees planted at the Cornelia Community Center by the
Habersham Chapter 2040 of the American Association of Retired
Persons. He and Mrs. Stewart are joint recipients of the Habersham
County Chamber of Commerce Distinguished Service Award. The
H. M. Stewart, Sr. Pioneer Club was named in his honor and that
organization has subsequently honored him by establishing a college
scholarship fund in his name. The entire Standard Telephone family
donated a whirlpool bath facility to the Habersham County Nursing
Home which they dedicated to the honor of Mr. and Mrs. Stewart.
He was the subject of a This Is Your Life" feature presented at one
of its annual conventions by the Georgia Telephone Association.
Compiling this volume during his 88th year evidences an abiding
interest in, an enthusiasm and love for. life, people, and the
profession to which he has devoted more than 68 years.