The One-Man Telephone System (Mar, 1956)

I love this. Of course it might be tough to compete when you’re only offering 16/7 telephone service.

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Meet Bob Wilcox

The one-man telephone system for his town’s 370 party-line patrons.

BOB WILCOX, President of Inland Telephone Company of Caledonia, Mo., a tiny hamlet with only 370 party-line customers, can be found almost any day atop a pole fixing a wire. No deskbound executive, Wilcox is also business manager, maintenance man, installation and repair man and part-time switch-board operator. This one-man telephone system works 16 hours a day, seven days a week—and he likes his job. Maintaining 40 miles of line takes up most of his time. While he’s out during the day, his wife runs the switchboard. Wilcox takes over in evening while she catches up on her housework. Cranking a wall phone to get the Wilcox switchboard, a caller will simply say, “Bob, get me Aunt Mary.” Such a call is put through without delay. Most of Inland’s patrons pay $1.50 a month for party-line service.

  1. Tim Giachetti says: March 13, 20086:53 am

    Mom was an operator for the military Autovon systems. Basically a switch board on the 500% scale of the one in the pics. It took calls from over seas from military men to the bases at home as well as calls to home.
    My Dad met Mom by calling from Okinawa Japan and she would patch him through to northern Maine to talk to home. He married her upon coming back to the states about, I understand, a year later.

    I saw pictures of her sitting among this mess of wires and to this day can’t conceive how she\they were able to memorize which jack hole belonged to which peg on a wire.

  2. Orv says: March 14, 200811:04 am

    There was a time when, if you lived in a rural area, the only realistic option for getting phone service was for a group of farmers to get together and form their own telephone company.

  3. jayessell says: March 14, 20084:06 pm

    Charlie, do the Flying Saucer from the cover!
    I think the jet engine compressor and turbine is nearly the diameter of the saucer
    but really thin!
    (PS:Never flew.)

  4. Casandro says: March 15, 200812:22 am

    Hmm, recently I have seen a TV documentary about a single person TV-station. It’s the south-most FCC licensed station.

  5. Dennis says: March 15, 200810:34 am

    Do the math. What was Wilcox income for the year? Must of been some other charges to pay for all that equipment.

  6. Patrick says: March 16, 20085:47 pm

    $1.50/month * 370 customers * 12 months = $6,660

    Adjusted for inflation to 2008 dollars = $51,200

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