Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Acme Telephone Company

A little while ago, I wrote a blog post on the Volkmann family and their cabin, which is one of the buildings visitors can tour while at the Dickinson County Heritage Center.  For today’s post, I thought it would be nice to highlight another building at the Heritage Center, the Acme Telephone Company office.

The Acme Telephone Company was organized in 1905 so that the rural residents of the Acme community could have telephone service.  Acme was a small community located southwest of Abilene in Dickinson County, Kansas.  A man named Jack Musser was actually the person to start it all.  He started out by installing a switchboard in his kitchen so that his family could work as operators for their neighbors.  His daughter worked as an operator for quite some time until she married and moved out of the home.  In those days, telephone operators were rather interesting folks.  Since they spoke to everyone in the community, and presumably heard many conversations, they would know just about everything there was to know in their communities.

Two years after Musser began the company, in 1907, the office (which today stands at the Heritage Center) was built.  Inside the building, there are three rooms.  The first room served as an office and a place for the switchboard to stand.  The other two rooms in the building served as a bedroom and a kitchen.  These amenities were necessary to have for operators since many worked twenty-four shifts.  The company had great success, and by 1908, the business had 165 stockholders.

In the winter of 1937, a terrible ice storm struck Acme.  All but one of the Acme Telephone Company’s thirty lines was knocked down.  The repairmen (many of which were also farmers in the Acme area) cautiously worked in the cold weather and repaired the lines so that service could resume.  While they had fixed the lines to be in working order, it actually took close to a year for all of the broken telephone poles to be fixed or replaced.

The Acme Telephone Company served their area for sixty-four years.  In 1969, the company was sold to Tri-County Telephone.  Automatic exchange technology had reached the Acme community, and all of the customers received dial telephones.  Telephone exchange operators and small rural companies like the Acme Telephone Company were no longer needed.

1 comment:

  1. Our number was 1910 - two longs and a short (or was it two shorts and a long?).