Service Before TCT:
The post war boom took place in the years prior to the formation of Tri-County Telephone Association. America was growing and modes of communications were changing quickly. At the time, rural Americans had limited access to telephone service and folks who had access often had party lines that went through an operator to place a call. A call might have as many as four people listening in before it was patched through. A call’s destination was determined by a process called “selective ringing”. One could tell if the call was for them or their neighbor by how the phone rang. While one person might have two short rings, another might have two long rings.
Delavan Telephone Exchange President, G.D. Miller, wished to help start Tri-County Telephone because he realized telephone service in rural areas was antiquated. He had experienced the new dial system during his travels and believed his rural community and neighboring towns deserved access to better service. Mr. Miller, together with Wilber Pritchard of Dunlap Telephone, Howard Gant of Wilsey Telephone, Bill Hallmark of White City Telephone, and Robert Oleen of Dwight Telephone, had a vision of uniting smaller phone companies in the tri-county area into one company.
To achieve their goal of uniting the area’s smaller phone companies and improving service, the group looked to the Rural Electrification model that had brought electricity to rural America in the late 1930’s. This meant they had to gain the support and cooperation of surrounding small telephone companies. So, in the spring of 1961 they hosted a meeting in Wilsey. A notice was printed in local newspapers announcing the meeting. Thirty-seven people, from the exchanges of Dunlap, Dwight, Delevan, Parkerville, White City, and Wilsey attended the meeting. The formation of a steering committee was the result of that meeting.
The steering committee was then tasked with researching solutions and determining the best approach for combining the various exchanges in a mutually agreeable way. It was decided the next meeting would take place on May 5th of that same year and the steering committee would then share the results of their research, as well as their proposed plan to merge into one company. A representative from the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) would also be invited to attend the May 5th meeting. At the time, the REA provided financial loans, and engineering assistance to rural telephone companies.
(Check-out the December 2022 issue of the Teletalk to follow what happened next in TCT’s story!)