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Phrembah (a potato-like mystery)

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Ward Blazzard . . . [Nov. 14th, 2015|06:02 pm]
Phrembah (a potato-like mystery)

. . . had a telephone company in his living room.  The telephone company in Kamas, Utah to be exact.  He and his wife owned a sawmill and the phone company.  Ward was pretty much deaf from working in the sawmill all his life and he had the old-timey hearing aid with a transistor radio-sized box in his shirt pocket and "period correct" earbuds.

They put the old-timey telephone switchboard with 1/4-inch "phone plugs" and jacks in their living room so that his wife could cook and sew and take care of the kids and connect people's calls when the ringer rang and a light lit up on the console.  By the sixties, they had added "modern" automatic crossbar switches which stood in the garage against the other side of the wall that the switchboard was against in the living room.  The crossbar switches clacked loudly all day as the good people of Kamas placed unassisted automatically switched calls, but it would die down as it got later and people went to bed.  The garage was a good place for the switch racks.

The operator (Ward's wife) could still place calls manually for the customers who hadn't yet upgraded to dial telephones and to handle emergencies.  In an emergency in those days, you dialed 0 and an operator answered and connected you to the sherriff or the fire department.  She'd probably just call them for you.  It worked just like 911.  That was another advantage to having the switchboard in the living room: if there was an emergency call in the middle of the night or somebody was calling long distance from a peculiar time zone, Mrs. Blazzard could throw on her housecoat and walk a couple dozen steps to the living room.  In those days, if you called outside of your exchange or received a call from the relatives in Poughkeepsie, the operator had to be involved.

Getting these tiny phone companies updated and connected to the national network for DDD (direct distance dialing) was my dad's job.  That's why we stopped at the Blazzards whenever we were in the area just to say Hi and see how things were going.