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August 12, 2003

Continuing with the story of the telephone in early day Perry, as reflected by The Perry Daily Journal's coverage of a Bell Telephone Company dinner in Perry on December 9, 1926. Here's some more of that story:

(John M. Noble, founder of Arkansas Valley Telephone Co. was the speaker at this point. Here's what The Journal had to say.) "Finally, Noble, who headed one group that applied for a charter here, took Westervelt, who headed a (competitive) group, into his business after Westervelt had bought out his friends for $25 to $35. Into this group came two other men, Bird McGuire and Ed Nimms, and the company was formed and Harry Shortman, who was in attendance (at the dinner), helped grant this franchise (to Southwestern Bell Telephone Co.)

"The first exchange was constructed in the Howendobler Drug Store (on the south side of the square) and there were something like 100 subscribers in the city who had signed contracts for service at $200 a month for business phones and $150 for residence phones. It took something over $500 apiece for each of the men interested to finance the company but it continued to grow from this time forward, later occupying the upper floor of what is now (in 1926) the Kirchner building (south side of square, now owned by Glen and Jill Zimmer). Some time afterwards the office occupied space over the building now (1926) occupied by the Townsend store, and in 1904 it was moved to its present location (presumably to the old Davis Furniture store, where the First Bank & Trust Co. is presently located).

"The first directory of the telephone company here was a mimeographed copy of names and Westervelt owns one of these lists and read the subscribers' names Thursday night. Arthur Wharton, the son of Lon Wharton, publisher of the first newspaper in Perry and the real founder of the present Perry Journal, became interested in the business after its organization and although he was only the bookkeeper he stated he spent much time over the books in the back office at night while the executive board was fighting over some serious matters relative to the phone business in their front office.

"Judge Sam Harris, present head of the legal department (in 1926) of the Southwestern Bell Telephone Company, became interested in the early phone company here by supplying the very badly needed $5 at a critical moment when the company's success depended on it. He marveled in his talk Thursday night (December 9, 1926) at the progress of Perry and of many changes here but declared that Perry would always be home to him."

More details on the establishment of the first phone company in Perry will follow.