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August 5, 2003

Today we continue the interesting story of telephone service in the era just after the opening of the Cherokee Outlet to settlers in 1893. The telephone was an important instrument then, as now, in the growth and development of this, part of Oklahoma. The syntax may seem a little rambling, but conversational styles were different then. What follows is from the Perry Daily Journal's coverage of a dinner in the local Presbyterian Church on December 9, 1926, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the existence of the Bell Telephone Company, parent of Southwestern Bell. This picks up the story of the dinner following that introductory portion in a previous Northwest Corner. Now, to continue that account, here are some of the things touched on by the newspaper's reporter:

"It (the dinner) was probably one of the few times, if not the only time, that these old settlers have gathered together in one group and discussed the early history of Perry and particularly the early history of the telephone. It was strictly an old settlers party in one sense of the word for the youngsters were not there. And as the various speakers, those who had been instrumental in first organizing the telephone company here, told the early experiences of their organization and the history of their trials and cares, it recalled to those familiar with these circumstances and brought forth much laughter."

"E.E. Westervelt, vice president of the Southwestern Bell Telephone Company, apparently had less to embarrass him or evidently told the truth in a larger measure than any of the speakers of the evening for he disclosed all the secrets that he possibly could and gave the most complete account of the formation of the early telephone company here. John M. Noble was really the founder of the Arkansas Valley Telephone Co. in Perry for it was his genius and his business forethought which caused the construction of the first telephone line in this section of the state, from Perry to Pawnee.

"This was crudely built, the line being fastened to trees along the way, but it was finally completed. On the day of its completion it had been agreed by Noble and his young assistant at the Howendobler Drug Store in Perry that if the phone did not work, then each would start walking, from Perry and the other to Morrison, and they would meet half-way and in this manner locate the trouble.

"Noble walked the entire distance back to Morrison, rang the phone very vigorously and sure enough the phone worked. The young man answered the phone and could hear Mr. Noble's voice very clearly but Mr. Noble could not hear his. Following their agreement, Noble started walking the half-way distance but was surprised to learn that his companion did not meet him so he walked the remainder of the distance into Perry.

"But the line did work and in this manner took a step forward for before this time it had required two days to make the trip from Perry to Pawnee, later by the use of the two Broncho teams, the trip could be made in one day. But the phone line made it possible to carry on a conversation between Perry and Pawnee and did away with many long trips. Well, so the story goes, the community was so well impressed with the idea of the line between Perry and Pawnee that the first talk of an exchange for Perry started and two factions started after a franchise but both were refused by the city council, which took little stock in their talking apparatuses."

More of this story will follow in a day or two.