By early March of 1964, TCT had two employees, Office Manager and Secretary, Mary K. Campbell and General Manager, Carroll Schraeder. Mr. Schraeder’s actual first day of work was to be May 1st. Ms. Campbell was busy getting the office in order, and the Board continued to work to finalize the formal structure of the cooperative, as well as work with additional local exchanges that wanted to join the organization. In a 2012 interview with writer Douglas G. Schema, for a book on the history of TCT, Mr. Schraeder recalled driving around the area after his initial interview for the position. “I wanted to get an idea of what kind of shape the system was in.”, said Mr. Schraeder. “It was in dire shape. There were wires hanging from fence posts, and things like that.”, however, Mr. Schraeder embraced the challenge and agreed to take the position.
Soon, lines were being buried and systems were being upgraded. In October 1965, the Board voted to purchase ground from Clifford Brockelman. The half-acre lot, west of Council Grove at 1568 S 1000 Road, was designated to be the permanent headquarters of Tri-County Telephone, Association. “It was a tough decision for the Board to settle in Council Grove because the City of Hope offered to give them land to build there.”, recalled Mr. Schraeder. “The deciding factor was that the Morris County Development Corporation offered to give them tax abatement on the building for 10 years, which would save them money in the long run.”
During 1965 and 1966 TCT bought many more small telephone companies including Lost Springs Mutual Telephone Company, Woodbine Telephone Company, Hope Mutual Telephone Company, the Acme Mutual Telephone Company near Navarre, the Farmers Mutual Switchboard Association in Tampa, and the South Dickinson County Mutual Telephone Company in Navarre. Mr. Schaeder visited each exchange and talked to each one multiple times, explaining the benefits of switching over to Tri-County Telephone from their current company. According to Mr. Schraeder, the competition came from a Junction City company for customers north of Abilene and a Hutchinson company for customers in the Carlton, Hope and Ramona areas. Even with all his advocating, Talmage and Upland decided to go with United Telephone Company, out of Junction City.
In 1967 TCT bought the Buckeye Telephone Company Exchange and the Burdick Mutual Telephone Company. During this time, they also entered into an agreement with the Lincolnville Mutual Switchboard Association and the Ramona Switchboard Company Inc. They then purchased the Woodbine Co-operative Telephone Company, the Pilsen Mutual Switchboard Association, and the Lost Springs Mutual Telephone Company Inc. On October 11th, 1967, TCT entered into an agreement with Southwestern Bell Telephone Company to purchase the existing toll lines in the exchanges of Hope, Carlton, Navarre, Lost Springs, and Ramona for the purchase price of $31,276 plus an annual settlement of $7,600 for extended area service in Abilene and Herington.
After the purchase of so many companies, the Board decided to establish four districts in order to have equal representation on the Board of Directors. In November of 1968 it was designated that the first district would be Delavan, White City and Dwight; the second Dunlap, Wilsey, Lost Springs and Lincolnville; the third Carlton, Hope and Ramona and the fourth Navarre, Woodbine, and Buckeye. “It was a lot of work, especially those first few years when we were getting people to join the cooperative.”, Schraeder said. “I loved my job though and had a lot of fun with it.”